DNA Technology Cracks 1976 Cold Case, Alberta Man Charged

The RCMP logo is seen outside the force's 'E' division headquarters in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. The RCMP have charged an Alberta man with murder in the death of a young mother 47 years ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

In a remarkable breakthrough, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have charged an Alberta man in the decades-old murder of a young mother, thanks to advancements in DNA technology. After 47 years, the family of Pauline Brazeau, a 16-year-old Métis single mother, may finally see justice for her untimely death.

Pauline Brazeau, originally from Saskatchewan, had moved to Calgary in the fall of 1975 with her infant daughter. Her life was cut tragically short when she was last seen leaving a Calgary restaurant in the early hours of January 1976. A few hours later, her body was discovered west of the city, in a rural area under the Cochrane RCMP jurisdiction.

The death of Brazeau was declared a homicide, contributing to a series of unsolved murders in the Calgary area during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Despite a 1995 RCMP task force’s re-examination of these cases, the murder remained unsolved.

In January 1976, Pauline Brazeau was seen leaving a Calgary restaurant early in the morning. RCMP say her body was found west of the city a few hours later. (RCMP)p

Calgary police Supt. Ryan Ayliffe highlighted the enduring efforts to solve this case: “For the last 47 years, Pauline’s connection to Calgary has been at the forefront of our investigators’ minds, and they worked closely with the RCMP to ensure her case remained a priority.”

The case saw renewed vigor in 2021 with a reanalysis of historical homicide investigations from the 1970s, utilizing the latest in DNA technology. The Alberta RCMP employed investigative genetic genealogy, a process that had previously helped solve another historical case.

In 2022, the RCMP historical homicide unit enlisted the services of Othram Inc., a private lab in the U.S., and worked with two genealogists from Convergence Investigative Genetic Genealogy to advance the investigation. This collaborative effort led to the identification and arrest of Ronald James Edwards, 73, of Sundre, Alta., on a charge of non-capital murder, which aligns with the definition in the Criminal Code at the time of Brazeau’s death.

Calgary police Supt. Ryan Ayliffe spoke to the media in Cochrane, Alta., on Wednesday.

Insp. Breanne Brown, officer in charge of the Alberta RCMP’s Serious Crimes Branch, stated: “The Alberta RCMP historical homicide unit investigators are committed to speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. The search for Pauline’s killer has never ended over the past 47 years. I truly hope that Pauline’s surviving family find some closure as they receive answers.”

Supt. David Hall of the Calgary police expressed that based on the evidence, there is no indication that Brazeau’s murder is connected to other murders from that time.

This case underscores the enduring dedication of law enforcement to solve cold cases and the powerful impact of technological advancements in forensic science. As Supt. Ryan Ayliffe noted, “It’s never too late for new information to emerge, especially as advancements in technology are made.”