Holly Jones: How 10-year-old’s murder a decade ago brought a Toronto community together


Killer of Holly Jones pleads guilty

CBC News Posted: Jun 17, 2004 2:55 PM ET Last Updated: Jun 17, 2004 2:55 PM ET

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The man charged with killing a 10-year-old girl in Toronto pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Thursday.

Michael Briere, 36, who was charged with the murder of Holly Jones last year, showed no emotion as he loudly said "Guilty" when asked in court how he pleaded.

Holly disappeared just steps from her west-end Toronto home on May 12, 2003. Her dismembered body was found a day later.

Briere, a software programmer who lived a few blocks from Holly's home, was arrested on June 20, 2003.

A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life with no chance of parole for 25 years.

A guilty plea in this type of case is considered extremely rare.

A statement of facts filed with the court gave previously unreleased details about Holly's killing.

It confirmed that the girl was sexually assaulted before she was murdered, and revealed that she was strangled to death within an hour of her abduction.

Briere then dismembered Holly, putting her body parts in two gym bags before dumping them in Lake Ontario.

There had been rumours that Briere would plead guilty after he waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the case. Briere's lawyer had said his client wanted to spare Holly's family the pain of hearing detailed evidence in the girl's murder.



Police chief Julian Fantino holds a photo of Holly Jones' murderer Michael Briere during a press conference on June 23, 2003. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Rogues Gallery

Kingston Penitentiary's notorious inmates

Tu Thanh Ha

The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 10:25PM EDT

Last updated Thursday, Sep. 06, 2012 12:53PM EDT

Paul Bernardo

The serial rapist was sent to Kingston after getting two life sentences for torturing, raping and murdering Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14.

He is locked in a 2.5-by-3-metre cell and is only allowed outside to exercise alone for one hour a day.


In 2001, the Toronto Sun reported that a guard was suspended for allegedly giving him a copy of Maxim magazine.


Kingston Penitentiary, home to Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams, is closing. The public safety minister says there has not been the expected spike in the prison population from Ottawa's tougher crime laws. The Canadian Press

Justice

Video: Prison housing Bernardo and Williams to close

His former wife and accomplice, Karla Homolka was once held at the Kingston Penitentiary’s prison for women. She was later in a penitentiary in Quebec and was released in 2005.

Russell Williams

The one-time commander of the Trenton air base was sent to Kingston Penitentiary after four days of shocking testimony in a Belleville, Ont., court where he pleaded guilty to a series of burglaries, sex assaults and the brutal sex slayings of Marie-France Comeau, 37, who served under his command, and Jessica Lloyd, 27.

Like Paul Bernardo, the former air force colonel is held in the Lower H segregated range, away from the rest of the prison population.

Clifford Olson

The British Columbia serial child killer spent 10 years in isolation at the Kingston Penitentiary before his transfer in 1992 to the Special Handling Unit of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, Sask.

He once filed a legal complaint that the installation in front of his cell of a Plexiglas pane to shield him from other inmates, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Michael Briere

In 2004 he was driven directly to Kingston Penitentiary by Toronto homicide detectives after he pleaded guilty to abducting 14-year-old Holly Jones, sexually assaulting her, strangling her and dismembering the body.

He is also held in protective custody in the Lower H segregated range away from the general prison population.

Mohammad Shafia and his son Hamed,

The Afghan-Canadian businessman, along with his second wife and his eldest son, were the defendants in a sensational “honour killings” trial last year at Kingston’s Frontenac County Courthouse.

Convicted in the murder of his first wife and three of his daughters, the family patriarch and his son were sent to the Kingston Penitentiary, five minutes away from the courthouse.

Helmuth Buxbaum

A former millionaire nursing-home owner sentenced to a life sentence for arranging his wife's murder. After being attacked by other inmates at Millhaven Institution, he was placed into protective custody in Kingston Penitentiary in 1987. He was transferred seven years later and died behind bars in 2007.

The Great Escape

Bank robber Ty Conn was the last prisoner to escape from the Kingston Penitentiary when he scaled over the walls in May 1999, the first successful breakout in four decades.

The 32-year-old placed a dummy in his cell so his absence wouldn’t be noticed. He hid in the prison shop that repaired Canada Post canvas bags then used a makeshift ladder to scale down the prison wall. Outside, he sprinkled cayenne pepper on the ground to thwart tracking dogs.

Two weeks later, on May 20, police surrounded him in a Toronto basement. He was on the phone with a friend when his shotgun blasted into his chest, either a suicide or an accidental shot.

Follow Tu Thanh Ha on Twitter: @TuThanhHa






Big items moved out of Briere's apartment

Colin Freeze AND Ingrid Peritz

TORONTO, MONTREAL — From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, Jun. 28, 2003 12:00AM EDT

Last updated Friday, Mar. 20, 2009 9:13PM EDT

The probe into the murder of 10-year-old Holly Jones took a new turn yesterday as police moved large items out of the accused's apartment in a bid to uncover new forensic evidence.

An elaborate system of tarpaulins was set up around a white cube van police parked in an alley behind Michael Briere's Bloor Street West apartment, shielding their work from the media.

Criminal-justice experts suggest that furniture, sinks, bathtubs, plumbing fixures, carpets and clothing would likely be of interest to investigators in the case. Police are also interested in the data on Mr. Briere's personal computer.

The Globe and Mail has learned that Mr. Briere recently made a variety of on-line purchases including books, movies, and, on one occasion in May, more than $100 worth of pornography from a U.S. Web site.

Police expect to spend at least one more week going through Mr. Briere's apartment, seeking evidence to confirm their allegation that he is responsible for the premeditated murder of Holly Jones.

While police have made their version of events known -- they allege Mr. Briere killed Holly in his apartment and quickly dumped her body parts in Lake Ontario -- Mr. Briere has yet to reveal his version.

He is expected to choose a lawyer soon -- possibly criminal lawyer Leo Adler, who has expertise in defending suspects in cases in which DNA evidence figures prominently. Asked yesterday whether he would be representing Mr. Briere, Mr. Adler said he couldn't comment.

As far as the major players in the criminal-justice system are concerned, the Holly Jones case is shaping up to be much like one a decade earlier.

In 1990, a six-year-old named Andrea Atkinson told her mother she was going to visit a friend in her apartment building. She was discovered raped and strangled in a boiler room.

Julian Fantino, then a staff inspector with the homicide squad, announced the arrest of a maintenance worker. Crown attorney Paul Culver successfully prosecuted the case. Mr. Adler failed to convince a jury that DNA evidence was too speculative a science to convict his client.

Last week, Chief Fantino announced that his detectives had arrested Mr. Briere for the Holly Jones murder. Mr. Culver has since signalled that he would like to prosecute the case.

In Montreal, a picture is emerging of Mr. Briere's tormented relationship with his mother, Marie-Ange.

She was an ailing and emotionally unstable woman who moved constantly with her son into a series of cheap apartments in working-class Montreal. She raised him alone, the boy's father having vanished from the scene before his son was born.

The mother-son relationship was a topsy-turvy one, according to an old classmate of Mr. Briere's. Because of the mother's fragile state, the young Michel played grownup to his childlike parent.

"It was a bit bizarre. He was the adult. He was the one who made the decisions, instead of her," recalled Daniel Crevier, a former high-school classmate and one of the rare friends of Michel's invited into the family home.

"I can't understand how she was allowed to have custody of him. Now that I'm an adult, I realize he shouldn't have been under her care."

His mother's behaviour embarrassed the teenager, he said. A huge woman, she used to pedal around the neighborhood on a child's bicycle, while her son tried to pretend he didn't know her.

"He wouldn't tell anyone that it was his mother. He told me he was a bit ashamed of her," Mr. Crevier said. "I never saw him go out with her anywhere."

By the time Mr. Briere's mother died two years ago, her son had already moved to Toronto and transformed himself into Michael.

John Barber's column will return on Monday




Briere pleads guilty to Holly Jones's murder

Globe and Mail Update

Published Thursday, Jun. 17, 2004 5:11PM EDT

Last updated Wednesday, Apr. 08, 2009 8:44AM EDT

The man who pleaded guilty to murdering 10-year-old Holly Jones at a Toronto court Thursday morning fulfilled his "dark secret" when he abducted, sexually assaulted, and dismembered her shortly after viewing and becoming aroused by child pornography.

Michael Briere, a software developer who lived only blocks away from Holly's home in the west end of the city, received an automatic life sentence and won't be eligible for parole for 25 years.

"A man who commits this type of crime - you put him away, you put him away for good," Mr. Briere told Ontario Superior Court as Holly's mother, Maria Jones, sat nearby, rocking back and forth in her seat, and sobbing at times. "I have failed as a human being."

Family lawyer Tim Danson told reporters that Holly's father had chosen not accompany her mother because "he was unsure whether or not he would be able to control himself in the courtroom, and, quite frankly, he was more than certain that when his eyes would fall upon the murderer of his daughter he would not be able to control himself."

As an agreed statement of facts was read out to the court about how Mr. Briere grabbed Holly by the neck, sexually assaulted her on his bed, killed and dismembered the schoolgirl after downloading and viewing child pornography off of the Internet.

Holly disappeared May 12 of last year while walking home from a friend's house. Stuffed into two bags, her body was found near Lake Ontario the next day.

In his confession to police, Mr. Briere said he was surprised by how easy it was to access child pornography.

"The simplicity of getting material ... it's close to mind-boggling," he says in the 61-page document. "I have never understood how come the whole thing wasn't shut down, just because of the nature of it. You search for the word 'baby' and it will find stuff there ... it's easy ... you don't need a degree."

"I don't know how it is for other people, but for myself, I would say that, yes, viewing the material does motivate you to do other things ... the more I saw it, the more I long for it in my heart."

Inside, Mr. Briere disrobed both himself and Holly, sexually assaulted her on his bed - "I never actually completed the act" - and then strangled her, all in about an hour, before dismembering her.

"I always had the fantasy of having sexual relations with a little girl," Mr. Briere is quoted as telling police in the statement. "So I just got carried away, and I walked outside, and Holly was . . . I didn't know her, I'd never seen her before . . . If she wouldn't have been on the street corner, I probably would have just walked the street and just gone back home."

Panicking after he killed her, he stuffed Holly's body in his fridge. Figuring he couldn't dispose of it in full, he used a small handsaw from his toolbox to dismember her.

He then frantically disposed of her remains over three days: the night of her murder, he carried her torso in a gym bag on the subway, panicking when some blood seeped onto the floor, and then dumped it into the Toronto harbour.

The next day, he rode the subway again with a travel bag containing more body parts, dumping them in another part of Lake Ontario.

On the third day after her murder, he stuffed more remains into garbage bags and put them on the curb outside his apartment for trash pickup, staying awake all night until they were gone.

Police matched Mr. Briere's DNA to the blood found under Holly's fingernails, Mr. Culver said, adding, "as remorseful as he appeared in court today, he didn't turn himself in, this wasn't a situation where he said sorry, until ... the police nailed him with overwhelming DNA odds.

"Mr. Briere, whatever else motivated him, was spurred on by images of child pornography downloaded from the Internet.

"If this isn't a case that brings home to society, to government, to legislatures and to those involved in the prosecution and resolution of child pornography cases that this cancer on our society must be stopped and stamped out, then I can't think of one."

Mr. Danson read a statement written by Holly's parents when Maria Jones was too distraught to read it herself.

"This cannot be the end. The truth is that Holly's spirit, her compassion, her gentleness, her sense of humour and her love of life will never die," he said.

He called on legislators to strengthen Canada's child pornography laws.

"While some argue that child pornography is constitutionally protected free speech, Parliament must tighten up its child-pornography legislation by giving full constitutional weight to children's equality and privacy rights by adopting zero-tolerance for child pornography," he said.

Maria Jones spoke briefly to thank the public for its support and to add, "I know Holly will make a difference," she said.

Mr. Briere was arrested June 20th and has been in prison since, under protective custody. On Thursday, he was escorted in court under heightened security. He was wearing a suit, clean-shaven and with his black hair pulled back.

He told Ontario Superior Court Judge David Watt that he had decided to plead guilty to the crime.

"Your crime profoundly shocked this community and city and it is a community that is no longer easily shocked by crimes of violence," Judge Watt told Mr. Briere, "A random abduction on a quiet city street, a sexual assault, a murder, dismemberment, a young active life, like others full of promise, snuffed out.

"There seems no bottom in the depravity pool nor any limits to the vulnerability of our children."

Police visited Holly's parents in "Holly's Garden" before Thursday's court appearance to help prepare them for the evidence they would hear.

With reports from Oliver Moore, Mary Nersessian and Canadian Press






Briere pleads guilty to Holly Jones's murder

Thursday, Jun 17, 2004



The man who pleaded guilty to murdering 10-year-old Holly Jones at a Toronto court Thursday morning fulfilled his “dark secret” when he abducted, sexually assaulted, and dismembered her shortly after viewing and becoming aroused by child pornography.

Michael Briere, a software developer who lived only blocks away from Holly's home in the west end of the city, received an automatic life sentence and won't be eligible for parole for 25 years.

“A man who commits this type of crime — you put him away, you put him away for good,” Mr. Briere told Ontario Superior Court as Holly's mother, Maria Jones, sat nearby, rocking back and forth in her seat, and sobbing at times. “I have failed as a human being.”

Family lawyer Tim Danson told reporters that Holly's father had chosen not accompany her mother because “he was unsure whether or not he would be able to control himself in the courtroom, and, quite frankly, he was more than certain that when his eyes would fall upon the murderer of his daughter he would not be able to control himself.”

As an agreed statement of facts was read out to the court about how Mr. Briere grabbed Holly by the neck, sexually assaulted her on his bed, killed and dismembered the schoolgirl after downloading and viewing child pornography off of the Internet.

Holly disappeared May 12 of last year while walking home from a friend's house. Stuffed into two bags, her body was found near Lake Ontario the next day.

In his confession to police, Mr. Briere said he was surprised by how easy it was to access child pornography.

“The simplicity of getting material ... it's close to mind-boggling,” he says in the 61-page document. “I have never understood how come the whole thing wasn't shut down, just because of the nature of it. You search for the word ‘baby' and it will find stuff there ... it's easy ... you don't need a degree.”

“I don't know how it is for other people, but for myself, I would say that, yes, viewing the material does motivate you to do other things ... the more I saw it, the more I long for it in my heart.”

Inside, Mr. Briere disrobed both himself and Holly, sexually assaulted her on his bed — “I never actually completed the act” — and then strangled her, all in about an hour, before dismembering her.

“I always had the fantasy of having sexual relations with a little girl,” Mr. Briere is quoted as telling police in the statement. “So I just got carried away, and I walked outside, and Holly was . . . I didn't know her, I'd never seen her before . . . If she wouldn't have been on the street corner, I probably would have just walked the street and just gone back home.”

Panicking after he killed her, he stuffed Holly's body in his fridge. Figuring he couldn't dispose of it in full, he used a small handsaw from his toolbox to dismember her.

He then frantically disposed of her remains over three days: the night of her murder, he carried her torso in a gym bag on the subway, panicking when some blood seeped onto the floor, and then dumped it into the Toronto harbour.

The next day, he rode the subway again with a travel bag containing more body parts, dumping them in another part of Lake Ontario.

On the third day after her murder, he stuffed more remains into garbage bags and put them on the curb outside his apartment for trash pickup, staying awake all night until they were gone.

Police matched Mr. Briere's DNA to the blood found under Holly's fingernails, Mr. Culver said, adding, “as remorseful as he appeared in court today, he didn't turn himself in, this wasn't a situation where he said sorry, until ... the police nailed him with overwhelming DNA odds.

“Mr. Briere, whatever else motivated him, was spurred on by images of child pornography downloaded from the Internet.

“If this isn't a case that brings home to society, to government, to legislatures and to those involved in the prosecution and resolution of child pornography cases that this cancer on our society must be stopped and stamped out, then I can't think of one.”

Mr. Danson read a statement written by Holly's parents when Maria Jones was too distraught to read it herself.

“This cannot be the end. The truth is that Holly's spirit, her compassion, her gentleness, her sense of humour and her love of life will never die,” he said.

He called on legislators to strengthen Canada's child pornography laws.

“While some argue that child pornography is constitutionally protected free speech, Parliament must tighten up its child-pornography legislation by giving full constitutional weight to children's equality and privacy rights by adopting zero-tolerance for child pornography,” he said.

Maria Jones spoke briefly to thank the public for its support and to add, “I know Holly will make a difference,” she said.

Mr. Briere was arrested June 20th and has been in prison since, under protective custody. On Thursday, he was escorted in court under heightened security. He was wearing a suit, clean-shaven and with his black hair pulled back.

He told Ontario Superior Court Judge David Watt that he had decided to plead guilty to the crime.

“Your crime profoundly shocked this community and city and it is a community that is no longer easily shocked by crimes of violence,” Judge Watt told Mr. Briere, “A random abduction on a quiet city street, a sexual assault, a murder, dismemberment, a young active life, like others full of promise, snuffed out.

“There seems no bottom in the depravity pool nor any limits to the vulnerability of our children.”

Police visited Holly's parents in “Holly's Garden” before Thursday's court appearance to help prepare them for the evidence they would hear.

With reports from Oliver Moore, Mary Nersessian and Canadian Press


Holly Jones murder suspect charged

'Forty days of investigative work: That's what did it': Police to take days to search home of Michael Briere; investigation 'far from over'

Saturday, June 21, 2003

TORONTO - City police have charged a Toronto man with the first-degree murder of a 10-year-old girl, a case that sent a shiver of fear through families across Canada's largest city.

Michael Briere, 35, a software developer originally from Montreal, was arrested early yesterday at his apartment, just steps from the spot where Holly Jones was last seen on May 12. Her dismembered body was found in Lake Ontario hours after she was abducted from her west-end Toronto neighbourhood.

"There's a great relief and there's a great deal of satisfaction," Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino said at a news conference announcing the arrest. "But everything is sort of dulled by the obvious loss of a young, defenceless child in most horrific circumstances."

The Holly Jones murder led to new calls for a national sex offender registry after police said about 200 sex offenders on Ontario's registry lived in or near Holly's Bloor and Dundas neighbourhood.

Chief Fantino said investigators do not believe Michael Briere knew the dead girl, but would give only the barest details of how the case unfolded. "Forty days of intensive investigative work: that's what did it," he said.

He urged the media not to release any photographs of the suspect, saying there were witnesses yet to be interviewed and clues still being followed up.

"While a trail of evidence led investigators to the accused ... this particular investigation is far from over," he said.

Chief Fantino would not rule out the possibility that Holly Jones' killer had an accomplice. "We are focussed on this individual right now, but certainly the investigation is continuing. We'll have to wait and see how that develops."

Police have never said whether the child was sexually assaulted before she was killed and have yet to recover all of her remains.

Holly was last seen about a block from her house, walking home in broad daylight from a friend's house on Perth Avenue.

When she went missing, police and neighbourhood volunteers quickly launched an all-out search of the area.

Police issued a province wide alert for the girl, but the next morning a man walking his dog found her remains in a gym bag on Ward's Island in Lake Ontario.

More body parts were later found washed up on another beach, near the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition.

"Holly became everyone's child the moment she went missing," Chief Fantino said.

"We cannot return her to her family, nor can we account for a crime beyond comprehension, but hopefully this arrest will bring some closure to Holly's family, friends and to the community as a whole."

Michael Briere was arrested at a grey three-storey building almost exactly halfway between Holly's home on Sterling Road and the friend's house.

A neighbour said police took two men into custody early yesterday morning, including Mr. Briere.

Police returned to the house on Bloor Street West later in the day with a warrant and sealed it off for a search that spokesmen said would likely take "several days."

Neighbours gathered in small groups watching from the edges of police barricades surrounding the nondescript rowhouse.

"You feel guilty because you feel like you should have done something," said Ryan Oakley, who lives next door to Mr. Briere. "I feel better now that there's been an arrest, but I wish it hadn't happened here."

Mr. Oakley said police knocked on his door shortly after Holly's disappearance requesting a DNA sample and asking to see his bathroom. "They wanted to know where I kept my cleaning supplies," he said. "It was spooky."

He had not seen Mr. Briere for some time but said the man was quiet and generally kept to himself. "All the clichés are true," he said.

Kim Turmbull, who lives just a few doors down from where Mr. Briere was arrested, said she had often walked past him on the way to the convenience store, accompanied by one or more of her four children.

"I've only seen him in passing," she said, leaning against a police barricade and staring up at the house. "There are some people you just keep walking past."

Mr. Briere is expected to appear in court today.

Vicky Lee Bolduc, his former wife, told the National Post yesterday that he was brilliant, but became obsessed with video games and horror movies.

She said her ex-husband was a former bodybuilder, describing him as: "Not a huge guy, but very strong."

His employer, the lab-testing company MDS Inc., issued a statement yesterday to extend their sympathies to the Jones family. "The metro Toronto police informed us this morning that as a result of their investigations, one of our employees has been placed under arrest," the company said. "We are co-operating fully with the authorities in their investigation."

Chief Fantino and lead investigators in the case delivered the news to Holly's family immediately after the arrest.

He said the 300-strong task force investigating the Holly Jones murder case "worked tirelessly around the clock, running down the more than 2,300 tips that poured in from the public as well as investigative leads."

The day before the arrest, Holly's elementary school dedicated a small garden to her memory in an emotional ceremony.

Her father, George Stonehouse, sat ashen-faced and her mother, Marie Jones, watched silently as their daughter's friends cried and her brother and sisters quietly wiped tears from their eyes.

© Copyright 2003 National Post










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