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The Unsolved Murder of Jacqueline Dunleavy

The Unsolved Murder of Jacqueline Dunleavy

 

Case File Overview

 

On January 9th, 1968, 16-year-old Jacqueline Dunleavy finished her shift at the Stanley Variety Store located on Stanley Street at Wharncliffe Road in London, Ontario.

At approximately 6:35PM, Jacqueline locked up the store and headed into the cold, dark evening to make her way home. She walked two blocks south to her usual bus stop.

Witnesses reported seeing Jacqueline waiting at the bus stop, and at least one individual saw her enter a white four-door sedan, most likely a Chrysler.

At around 7:00PM, Jacqueline’s parents became concerned and began to search for their usually prompt daughter. Her mother called the store, London Transit Commission, and reached out to Jacqueline’s friends. With a growing sense of dread, Jacqueline’s father, Constable John Dunleavy,  started driving her route home, looking for any trace of his daughter.

At approximately 8:10PM, three teenaged boys stumbled upon Jacqueline’s body while parking in the lot at the then (horrifyingly) named Katherine Harley School for Retrainable Retarded Children (today Matthew’s Hall); before their discovery, the trio had been keen to go tobogganing at the London Hunt and Country Club.

The autopsy later revealed that the left side of Jacqueline’s face and head had been severely beaten, her body had been scratched repeatedly by what appeared to be the murderer’s fingernails, there was no indication of sexual penetration, and she had been strangled with her scarf. It has been suggested that the injuries that occurred to Jacqueline’s left side may have happened while she was in the passenger seat of the vehicle that picked her up from the bus stop.

The tire-tread impressions found in the snow at the crime scene are some of the best evidence in Jacqueline’s case. The authorities brought in special lighting, took multiple photographs, and made plaster casts of the impressions. Vehicle experts determined that the prime suspect in Jacqueline’s murder drove a unique vehicle with “four completely different tires in terms of make, model, and tread depth, in addition to the worst alignment problems they had ever seen in a vehicle still operating and on the road in the wintertime.”

A tremendous amount of forensic evidence was found at the crime scene, including blood, semen, and the tire-tread impressions mentioned above; however, both this treasure trove of evidence and a police investigation that has spanned decades have yet to identify Jacqueline’s killer.

 

Case File Theories

 

Stranger abduction/murder

Could Jacqueline have been abducted by someone who just happened to drive by her at the bus stop that night? I suppose this is possible. However, crimes of this nature are exceptionally rare, and even though it was a different time I find it hard to believe that Jacqueline would have willingly entered the vehicle of a total stranger. In my opinion, this makes it much more likely that her killer was at least an acquaintance. It is important to note, though, that eye-witness testimony is notoriously unreliable; if Jacqueline did not willingly enter the vehicle as the witness claims, then it becomes more probable that her murder could have been committed by a stranger.

Someone Jacqueline knew

Was Jacqueline murdered by someone she knew? This is, by far, the most likely explanation. Most women are murdered by an individual at least known to them, if not by someone within their inner circle. In the months leading up to her death, Jacqueline had a pretty set routine. Two to three days a week, she headed to the Stanley Variety Store after school, worked until 6:30PM, and then took the bus home from the same bus stop. It would have been easy for someone to learn of Jacqueline’s routine and plan their attack.

Joe Clarke

The owner of the store where Jacqueline worked, Joe Clarke, employed pretty teenaged girls to work the front counter, no doubt in hopes to drum up business. Not only did the store sell an eclectic mix of groceries, housewares, and to-go beverages, but also it offered its “special” customers access to illegal cosmetics, stolen goods, and porn films on a pay-per-view basis. Shortly after Jacqueline’s murder, Clarke sold the store and left town. This could be read as an indication that he was involved in her murder. But I am more leaning towards him getting out of Dodge due to the fact that the investigation shone a light on his illegal activities. Although I think it is doubtful Clarke was Jacqueline’s killer, his culpability for putting her in a vulnerable position at his business is hard to overlook.

Variety store clientele

The clientele at the variety store where Jacqueline worked offers numerous potential suspects. Michael Arntfield, author of Murder City, explained, “the Stanley Variety was a magnet for some of the shadiest characters inhabiting [London].” Many of the customers were considered persons of interest, including a regular porn customer with a fixation on Jacqueline who was a violent drunk and already married to a 16-year-old, a morgue worker who had recently been accused of trying to force a teenaged girl into his vehicle at the very same bus stop that Jacqueline had been abducted from, and a youth from the neighbourhood that had spent years in reform school for hanging a 7-year-old girl and pleasuring himself while he watched the life drain from her body. Although in my mind all three of these variety store customers are ideal suspects, none have ever been charged with Jacqueline’s murder.

Serial killer

Criminologist Michael Arntfield suggests that the forensic evidence in this case indicates that Jacqueline was murdered by someone who was either already a serial killer or well on their way to becoming one. Jacqueline was on her back in the snow, with her arms straight down along her sides and her legs closed and placed perfectly straight, as though “positioned in a casket for burial.” The care taken to display her body in this “ceremonial, mortuary position” seems to indicate remorse and the need to restore order. However, even though Jacqueline had not been sexually penetrated, semen was found on her winter coat that had been left strewn by her remains, and Jacqueline’s skirt had been pulled up and her blouse torn open. Leaving Jacqueline exposed in this manner diminishes whatever dignity her careful body placement was meant to denote. Regardless, Jacqueline’s body was left out in the open in a relatively busy area; no doubt the killer wanted her body found and “his work” admired.

Arntfield argues that this specific staging of Jacqueline’s body suggests that her murder was about power and control, and that her killer may have even taken photographs of Jacqueline’s remains before fleeing the scene. During the autopsy, a small pack of pink facial tissue was found lodged in the back of Jacqueline’s throat. Although it could have been used as a gag during the murder, it more likely was inserted as some kind of symbolic gesture—the murderer’s signature. Evidence of this nature is often held back by the police to eliminate copycats, as well as to determine the validity of any confessions. However, the police decided instead to share this detail with the press, and before you knew it, copycat crimes took place and fear of the “Tissue Slayer” spread.

You might be wondering how Jacqueline’s killer has not yet been identified given the extensive forensic evidence found at the crime scene, especially if they are a serial killer. Even though the limitations of the technology available at the time only enabled authorities to determine that Jacqueline’s killer was a secretor with type O blood, it is hard to understand why there has not been a hit on the killer’s blood or semen samples in the DNA databanks in the decades since the crime. Arntfield contends that the common theories for a lack of DNA match proposed by the authorities—the perpetrator had not been arrested since 2001, left the country, died, or stopped killing—do not hold water in this case. Instead, the criminologist points to Canada’s strict regulations on the use of familial DNA, which is determined on a case-by-case basis and rarely approved. In other countries, such as the US, familial DNA matches have helped to catch notorious serial killers, like the Golden State Killer. Additionally, the samples from Jacqueline’s crime scene could have been stored improperly and degraded, making the match impossible.

The theory about the failure to find a DNA match to Jacqueline’s killer that I think is the most intriguing, though, is that relatively recent research has found that DNA methylation, “the evolving biochemical composition of cells, changes as people age … [This] could theoretically mean … a crime scene sample left in the 1960s wouldn’t look the same to the system for comparison purposes as that same suspect’s DNA would today, especially under high stringency standards.” In other words, Jacqueline’s killer might very well have killed again, and his DNA could be in the databases, but it might appear just different enough that it does not result in a DNA match. The ramifications of this for countless other cold cases gives me the chills.

Who do you think murdered Jacqueline?

Jacqueline was a beloved 16-year-old grade 10 student, and her brutal murder rocked the community. The crime has haunted London Police Service, and it is still prominently featured on the department’s unsolved murders page.

Photo of murder victim Jacqueline Dunleavy
Source: London Police Service

If you have any information about Jacqueline’s murder, please contact London Police Service at 519-661-5670.

Related Reading

Jacqueline Dunleavy – London Police Service cold case overview

Murder City – book by Michael Arntfield

Interested in unsolved murders? Check out the mysterious murder of Lisa Leckie and bizarre slaying of Samuel Lottery.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Russell Osmianski Russell Osmianski

    My guess also is that she was at least acquainted with her killer. Hope DNA eventually bring the perp to justice. BTW, just discovered you site and I love it. Keep up the great work.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Russell – Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I sure hope that DNA can help close this case. With the sudden barrage of DNA-solved cases out there, this might just happen! I really appreciate your kind words. Thanks again for reading!

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