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Canadian Killer Taunts Police, Threatens to Strike Again

February 26, 1996 GMT

ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia (AP) _ Tanya Smith’s killer is playing a chilling game of catch-me-if-you-can, and his taunting calls to police are the least of it.

The teen-ager’s tombstone _ covered with profanities and threats toward a second girl who survived the attack _ was dug up and left on the hood of a car earlier this month.

Then last week, a threatening note wrapped around a wrench was thrown through a window six blocks from the police station.

The threats include undisclosed details that only the killer would know, and police believe the calls, the tombstone theft and the broken window were all done by the man who raped and murdered 16-year-old Tanya last fall.

``He’s doing this because he gets pleasure out of it, I’m sure, making us look silly and incompetent,″ said police spokesman Cpl. John Skorupa. ``We’ll get to the bottom of this one way or another. If he persists in this, he’ll be the author of his own demise. Then the shoe will be on the other foot because our troubles will be over and his will just be starting. He’s got a lot to answer for.″

Smith and her friend Misty Cockerill, also 16, had been dropped off on a busy Abbotsford street a few blocks from Cockerill’s home after midnight on Oct. 14 after attending a party. A neighbor saw what she thought were two drunken teens struggling with a man, but since they didn’t seem to be protesting much, she told police she thought they were kidding around.

Later that morning, Smith’s naked body was found by a fisherman in the Vedder River 10 miles away. She had been severely beaten and drowned.

Cockerill wandered into a hospital a couple of blocks from the attack, with injuries including a fist-sized hole in the back of her skull.

The slaying and its macabre aftermath in the Raspberry Capital of Canada have sent a chill through this community of 105,000 near the U.S. border.

On Oct. 18, at 3:12 p.m., the killer made his first call to police, using a pay phone four blocks from where the attack took place.

``I’m the killer,″ he said. Police have made edited tapes of his calls available to the public to try to identify the caller, who speaks softly and quickly, enunciating with chilling precision.

``Are you having trouble finding the killer? ... I’m the one ... giving you the chance to try and find me. I’ll be scurrying around looking for someone else.″

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He was gone when police arrived moments after the call to 911 was placed.

Twenty minutes later, he called back. Police were unable to trace the call.

``Do you think I would be stupid enough to leave fingerprints behind when I make a phone call?″ the killer asked.

A third call at 6:18 p.m. included similar taunts as well as threats to strike again.

On Oct. 31, he called police again from outside GG’s Sports Bar. Police arrived within minutes and asked whether anyone had been looking for a pay phone.

A waitress remembered a man who stuck his head in the door and asked for a telephone, but when offered a courtesy phone at the bar, shook his head and said he needed a pay phone. She directed him to the very obvious phone in the parking lot.

Police arrested a man Dec. 1 who matched a composite drawing based on a description by Cockerill, who remains in a safe house somewhere in Abbotsford with her parents. The man was released Jan. 26 when DNA evidence cleared him.

``I feel sorry for every guy with a receding hairline who’s 6 feet tall in this town,″ said Smith’s aunt, Heather Fougere. ``They’ve all been questioned.″

On Feb. 6, police issued a press release saying they believed the killer was out of the area. If, as some people here theorize, it was an attempt to draw the killer back into the spotlight, it worked.

Smith’s gravestone was stolen Feb. 17 and left in the middle of the afternoon on a car parked within sight of Abbotsford’s main street. Mike Ciccone, a producer at CKMA-AM, received a call on the radio station’s request line telling him to check the station’s car in the parking lot.

``My first thought was that someone had hit our car and didn’t have the nerve to tell us,″ Ciccone said.

He found the gray tombstone on the hood. Over Smith’s engraved picture, the killer had used a ball point pen to scrape threats onto the tombstone.

``It was mostly threats, like `I’m still out there. I’m the one. I’m looking for more,‴ Ciccone said.

Police received another call from the killer Feb. 19 from a pay phone at Rotary Stadium, a couple of blocks from the police station. A teen-ager said she caught a glimpse of the man and described someone who matched the composite drawing.

Then, on Wednesday, a note wrapped around a wrench was thrown through the window of a house belonging to a family with no connection to the case.

The note, whose contents have not been released, ``is of such a threatening nature that the task force truly believes the suspect will strike again,″ Skorupa said.

Smith’s parents, Gail and Terry Smith, have gone into seclusion.

``This latest stuff just scared them back into the closet,″ said Bonnie Beaudet, a close friend of the family. ``I feel so sorry for them. It’s like smashing their hearts all over again.″

Family and friends maintain a memorial near where the attack took place, and each Saturday afternoon walk through the area. The memorial, around an evergreen tree, includes silk flowers, notes, a stuffed bunny and photographs of Smith.

``I’m afraid for my children,″ said Fougere, who takes part in the walks. ``He’s going to strike again. He is, and that really scares me.″

And she worries about teen-agers she sees walking alone or in pairs at night.

``I still see them out at night and I know they think they’re invincible,″ she said, ``but so did Tanya and Misty.″