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The Unsolved Murder of Christina Kettlewell

Case File Overview 

Christina Cecelia Mocon was born in Toronto, Ontario on August 7, 1925, to Kazmier and Mary Mocon – Polish immigrants and devout Roman Catholics.

By the time Christina was 22 years old she was working at a bank and had been dating 26-year-old Army Veteran John Ray Kettlewell, nicknamed “Jack,” for around three years. 

Christina’s family did not approve of Jack. Not only was he not Roman Catholic, but also they had a bad feeling about his roommate and lifelong best friend: 28-year-old Ronald Barrie. 

Ronald immigrated to Canada from northern Italy. He had an eclectic career path, having worked in construction and insurance before becoming a hairdresser and ballroom dancer.  

But it was much more than Ronald’s conversation-worthy work history that sparked concern in Christina’s parents. The Mocons thought Jack’s best friend was “overbearing” and spent far too much time with the young couple… so much so they wondered if Ronald himself was infatuated with Christina. They did not want the strange man anywhere near their daughter. 

Ronald Barrie and Jack Kettlewell

Image of Ronald Barrie and Jack Kettlewell
Source: Mysterious Universe

However, their plans to keep Christina away from Jack and Ronald failed. Instead, love-struck Christina just stopped going home. When Christina’s sister Helen showed up at Jack and Ronald’s apartment in Mimico, Ontario to try to convince Christina to come home a huge argument ensued. It only ended when police arrived after they received a call from worried neighbours.  

And just a couple of days later, on May 12,1947, Christina and Jack eloped. 

Christina and Jack Kettlewell

Image of Christina and Jack Kettlewell
Source: Mysterious Universe

After they were married, the newlyweds spent a few days in Jack and Ronald’s apartment. Then, on May 17, they headed to a cottage Ronald owned in Severn Falls, Ontario. The cottage was only a two-hour trip from the apartment, but it felt quite isolated as it was only reachable by boat. 

Surprisingly, Ronald joined the newlyweds on their cottage honeymoon. 

On May 20, just a few days into the honeymoon, Ronald left Christina and Jack at the cottage and went sunbathing by the Severn River. When he returned at 6:30PM he was greeted by a horrifying scene – his cottage was ablaze. 

Ronald raced into the burning cottage and frantically searched for Jack and Christina, calling their names and running from room to room. He finally found Jack in the living room. He was barely conscious and was bleeding profusely from a gash on his forehead. 

Worried for Christina, Ronald shook Jack and asked him where she was. But Jack was in a “disoriented stupor” and could not reply. After Ronald got Jack to safety he ran back into the cottage to find Christina, but he eventually left the building empty-handed. 

Ronald asked his neighbours to put out the fire while he took Jack to the hospital. But not even an hour passed before the cottage had burned to the ground. 

Destroyed Honeymoon Cottage

Image of Ronald Barrie's Cottage Destroyed by Fire
Source: Toronto Star

A short while later, Christina was found by a neighbour face down on the riverbank in only nine inches of water, roughly 150 feet from the cottage. The new bride was barefoot and still in her pajamas.  

Jack was treated at the hospital for a head injury, burns, and shock. Blood test results showed a large amount of codeine in his system. Upon his release, Jack was questioned by police for over three hours, but he was not able to remember anything past 11:00AM the morning of the fire. 

An autopsy later determined Christina had not been physically assaulted, and there was no sign of burns on her body or smoke damage to her lungs. Blood tests revealed trace amounts of codeine in her system, the same drug found during Jack’s tests. The autopsy concluded Christina’s death was caused by drowning.  

On June 19, 1947 an inquest began in a packed courtroom in Bracebridge, Ontario to uncover the truth about what happened to Christina. But to this day her death has yet to be fully explained.

Case File Theories 

Did Christina die by suicide? 

This is a popular theory. 

At the inquest into Christina’s death, Ronald said not long after the trio arrived at the cottage she became “moody and emotional.” Christina apparently vacillated between weeping uncontrollably and being uncommunicative. Ronald reported she repeatedly asked him if he thought Jack really loved her, showing she was unsure about where she stood with her new husband. 

Jack Kettlewell Signing Autographs During the Inquest

Image of Jack Kettlewell in the Media Spotlight
Source: Toronto Star

If all this is true, it could be an indication Christina was experiencing mental health issues. But it is important to note we only have Ronald’s word Christina was acting erratically. Ronald claimed he kept her odd behaviour from Jack because he did not want to ruin their honeymoon. 

Also during the inquest, Ronald presented three letters as evidence Christina was both suicidal and murderous. 

The first letter was addressed to Ronald and dated April 6, Easter Sunday, around five weeks before the wedding. Christina wrote she had attempted suicide by poison, explaining, “This will be the best way out as I cannot bear the thought of another girl having him.”

The second letter, also written to Ronald, was penned shortly before Jack proposed. In this letter, Christina said she had tried to kill herself and Jack by poisoning their food. She wrote, “When you love someone, you really love him. And I know there is no one for me but Jack. And if I cannot have him, I don’t intend anyone else to. As you might say, I waited in the hope that Jack would ask me to marry him. But I now realize that I might just be a passing fancy.” Interestingly, at the inquest Jack recalled feeling ill around the time this letter was written. 

The third letter was addressed to a Mrs. Thomas, the landlady of the apartment Christina stayed in for a short while with Jack and Ronald before heading to the cottage. Ronald said Christina gave him the letter to mail the day before she died. A section of the letter reads: “Ronnie is in the boat outside somewhere. By the time he gets back, everything will be all over with. He must be afraid something would happen because he is staying an extra day to make sure we go back to Toronto with him.”

If authentic, these letters could indicate Christina was indeed suicidal as well as capable of murder. But were the letters authentic? 

At the inquest a handwriting expert confirmed the letters were written by Christina. This, however, is not ironclad evidence. The reliability of forensic handwriting analysis has been recently called into question, with some experts even considering it pseudoscience. In 2019 researchers looked into forensic handwriting analysis and found, “Although this form of evidence has been used in courts for a long time, its standing as evidence is relatively weak. Although it is based on expert opinion in practice, it is less reliable than other forms of evidence based on scientific knowledge.” 

Case Makes the Front Page

Image of Toronto Daily Star Article
Source: Toronto Star

Acknowledging this, can we be sure Ronald did not mimic Christina’s handwriting and write all three letters himself? Two of the letters were purportedly given to Ronald by Christina, making it plausible he wrote them himself and then just said they were from Christina. Perhaps he even took advantage of Jack falling ill and weaved it into a poisoning plot. And the third letter… how bizarre is it Christina confessed her plan to murder her new husband to a landlady she barely knew, and then conveniently asked Ronald to mail the letter? 

Overall, Christina writing the letters is a difficult story to buy. But it all comes down to Ronald’s credibility. Should we trust him that Christina was coming unhinged and that she authored the letters? …Maybe not. 

During the inquest Ronald’s credibility was called into question when his story changed substantially. He initially told police he had found Jack alone in the cottage, got him to safety, and searched for Christina but failed to find her. In his revised statement, Ronald claimed when he entered the burning cottage he found Christina beside Jack; she was crying and “completely taciturn.” When she refused to respond or to leave the cottage, Ronald dragged Jack outside. Around fifteen minutes later when smoke started billowing from the kitchen door Ronald said he re-entered the cottage to save Christina, but she was gone. 

This account conveniently makes Christina look guilty, but it drastically differs from every other report Ronald gave of the incident. C. P. Hope, the Special Crown Counsel at the inquest into Christina’s death, left little doubt as to how he felt about Ronald’s truthfulness. He called Ronald “a liar of the most blatant kind whose sinister figure permeates the whole of this tragedy, but whose purpose and design are shrouded in mystery.”

The more that comes to light about this mysterious case the less likely it is Christina died by suicide. But then how did she end up dead in a river a mere eight days after saying, “I do”? 

Was Christina murdered?

During the inquest it rapidly became clear the Crown thought Ronald had carried out premediated murder. But why would Ronald want his best friend’s wife dead? 

Well, he had two strong motives: love and money. 

First, love. 

Unlike what Christina’s family later admitted to suspecting, I am not suggesting Ronald had a secret love for Christina that drove him to kill her. Rather, shortly after Christina’s death, Jack confessed to the police he had been having “an intimate relationship” with Ronald for years. Later, during the inquest, Jack said he was coerced into saying his relationship with Ronald extended beyond friendship, denying the two men ever had a sexual relationship. But after repeated questioning, Jack finally broke down at the inquest and confirmed his earlier statement: he and Ronald were lovers. 

In support of this, during one of Ronald’s many police statements he admitted to “being a party to unnatural sexual acts” with Jack, although he insisted the “improper relations lasted only a short time and had terminated a long time ago.” 

Locals in Severn Falls who knew both men confirmed the “close relationship” they had as it was witnessed during their many trips to the cottage. And they said there was a lot of gossip about why Jack ever got married when he was clearly “with” Ronald. Even Jack’s own family reportedly found the marriage surprising because of his relationship with his best friend. 

Most people involved in this case believe the story of Jack and Ronald’s love affair to be factual, which points to a motive Ronald may have had to kill Christina. It is possible the jealousy and uncertainty Ronald claimed Christina was feeling about Jack’s love was actually a projection of the fear he felt over losing Jack to his new bride. Perhaps Jack’s love was a love Ronald was willing to kill to keep. 

Second, money. 

Ronald was having money troubles and killing Christina benefited him financially in several surprising ways. 

First, just before he married Christina, Jack took out two $5000 life insurance policies on himself and Christina, and Ronald was the beneficiary of both. There was also a double indemnity clause that stated the beneficiary would get “twice the sum in case of accidental death of either spouse.” This means Ronald would have raked in around $260,000 in today’s money if both Jack and Christina had died that day at the cottage. 

Second, Ronald also took out a $5,000 insurance policy (or roughly $65,000 today) on the cottage that mysteriously burned down, and this policy named Jack as his beneficiary. But it also came to light Ronald was Jack’s primary beneficiary in his will – Jack’s family was left with nothing; everything would go to Ronald if Jack died. 

Third, Christina’s expensive wedding ring was never found, leading some to believe Ronald may have stolen it from the crime scene.

And fourth, Ronald told the inquest Christina had been raped by five men in April 1946 who then blackmailed her about the incident. Ronald told the police he borrowed money from several friends and gave Christina $12,000 (around $155,000 today) to pay the men off. But questions remained about if Ronald expected to be paid back. The murder plot could have been his way of recouping the money he felt he was owed. 

As an aside, if this incredible story is true then it might also explain why Jack decided to marry Christina even if he was in love with Ronald. Perhaps he felt he had to step up in some gallant attempt to save Christina’s honour after she had been “defiled” against her will – it was 1947 after all. 

After their affair and the details about how both men profited from Christina’s death were made public, it was suspected Ronald and Jack were in on her murder together. This may be true, but by all accounts Jack did not have the personality for it. He actively avoided confrontation and was easily manipulated by others. Therefore, it is possible Jack was dominated by Ronald and tricked into doing things… actions he did not realize the ramifications of until it was far too late. 

Ultimately, citing a lack of concrete evidence, the inquest was unable to determine if Christina’s death resulted from foul play. The matter was dropped, and Jack and Ronald were free men. 

What do you think happened to Christina? 

On May 26, 1947, Christina’s funeral was held in the very same church she had been married in only two weeks prior. A young life tragically cut short, and her family never fully recovered from their loss. 

Three years after Christina’s death Jack remarried. Jack never mentioned his first marriage or Christina’s death to his new wife. They had a family together before separating in 1969, and the couple never officially divorced. 

Jack’s son Richard married a woman named Sharon who was an avid archivist and loved researching family history. You can guess what happened next. In 1992 she stumbled upon microfilm articles that covered Christina’s unexplained death. Sharon was stunned, but her and Richard never mentioned the discovery to Jack. He was in poor health, and he died in 1998 never knowing his secret was out. 

Richard and Sharon Kettlewell

Image of Richard and Sharon Kettlewell
Source: Toronto Star

And what about Ronald? Well, in 1956 he gifted his Pekingese dog Ling to Jack’s then two-year-old son Richard. Afterwards he moved to New York where he abruptly vanished without a trace. 

If you have any information on the unexplained death of Christina Kettlewell please contact the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). 

Interested in unsolved cold cases? Check out our audio file on the murder of Henry Bedard Jr. and our article on the murder of Susan Shearin Clary.

Sources and Related Reading 

“Murder or Suicide? Mystery of the 8-day Bride.” Medium, September 12, 2021. 

“The Strange Unsolved Mystery of the 8-Day Bride.” Mysterious Universe, December 18, 2020. 

“Case #4: The Mysterious Death of the Eight-Day Bride.” Mystery Unsolved, October 18, 2020. 

“The 8 Day Bride.” Not a Monster, Not a Boogeyman, December 8, 2019. 

“16 Mysterious Unsolved Deaths Throughout History.” History Collection, August 30, 2019. 

“Handwriting Expertise Reliability: A Review.” Journal of Forensic Science and Medicine, 2019.

“The Mysterious Death of the Eight Day Bride.” Buzzfeed Unsolved, July 27, 2018. 

“What Happened to Toronto’s ‘Eight-Day Bride’?” Toronto Star, July 4, 2017. 

“Loan Details Sought.” Winnipeg Free Press, June 21, 1947. 

“Inquest Into Girl’s Death Adjourned.” Lethbridge Herald, June 21, 1947. 

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6 Comments

  1. JM JM

    Hmmm .. Was the house checked for traces of codien? That could help, and was Ronald checked as well? Could Ronald have intended to kill them both, jealous or angry, or greedy? Was anyone else living in the proximity of the cottage? Did they have any enemies?

    • Christine Christine

      Hi JM! Thanks for reading! No codeine was found in the cottage, but to be fair it was very damaged by fire. I never saw anything about Ronald getting a blood test. No mention of other enemies and I wouldn’t be shocked if Ronald intended to kill them both! What a bizarre case…

  2. Chrystal Chrystal

    Soo I believe it was definately murder, now jack he wasn’t gay it was something he tried and Ronald became obsessed with Jack and as jack was quiet and timid he aloud Ronald to lord it over him to an extent, that’s why he married, Ronald was much older and more forceful, he was inlove with Jack, yes Christina did get moody because Ronald was everywhere they went she would have been pissed majorly that he ended up there on their honey moon, Ronald mimicked the letters, as you could see her and jack were happy together, and you could see the ultimate sadness in Jack’s face when he was signing the autographs and the huge smile on Ronald’s face, he drugged jack as bad as he did so jack could stand the sexual stuff between them and he drugged Christina so she would sleep through it that day of the murder was also so he could make money that’s why for the fire this is how see it.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Chrystal! Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts on the case. Your narration is making a lot of assumptions but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. This is such a strange case I think anything might be possible!

  3. Chrystal Chrystal

    Your right definately bizarre and that’s right anything could be pissing 😊

  4. Kaylee Kaylee

    What a strange story! I honestly don’t know what to think. Suited and murder both kind of make sense. Weird

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