Introducing Uncover: The Cat Lady Case
If you're looking for another fascinating true crime case we have it the latest season of uncover from C._B._C. podcasts the Cat lady case in Nineteen Ninety Eight seventy seven year old Joan Loris vanished without a trace. All police could find wind were her thirty cats all shot dead. The case remains unsolved but new witnesses unsealed documents and fresh promises from law enforcement are now shedding light on one of Ontario's darcus crimes. This is episode one silhouettes. You can bench listen to the entire investigation right now at C._B._C. Dot C._a.. Slash uncover or wherever you get your podcasts <music> awful awful foggy. I always got up five in the morning. I was hotter I seven even in the morning there was two shots but when I looked in the binoculars it was like to Sela wets and then I couldn't see from over knowing look doc like another silhouette okay that was very very foggy like like white just whatever and then there was two shots and then a couple of hours later that's when the shed down followed by the water burns yet in November nineteen ninety eight seventy seven year old woman went missing from Muskoka Ontario. Her name was Joan Lawrence but everyone called her the Cat Lady I. That's why I'm proving myself to one am talking about is is truthful because I'm not a bullshit never been bullshitted L._A.. I'm scared I'm scared docker. Now you guys you guys see that and I'm scared. I know what's going to happen. This is Bob Earl a twitchy lumberjack with bloodshot eyes and then I couldn't see at all all were sitting in my car on the side of Muddy Lake West of Huntsville through the windshield is an old dumping site where he says the silhouettes disposed of something couple hours later does shed was burned down by the water and then burnt and then they started <hes> cleaning up the Bockel and this is why they dunked one load here and one Lord up around the corner and then I think one load out the road Kebab used to live beside the dumpsite across the lake from where John went missing. He says he washed this whole scene. Play out gunshots fire backhoe and then what happens do you go to the police <music> but says a little less than a year later. He was arrested for being drunk in public and tried to tell them then they basically said earlier. Just you're just a drunk sleep it off. I said I'm drunk. What I'm not a drunk and all I know order do a key? I have eight or nine employees. Keep paychecks going referring them so that's I'm not a drunk. The next Martin they went dass may say just a drunk. I said you guys figure it. May Take Twenty year old. Hello figured out for twenty years as well all right here we are. I'm Sanders Sherman. If this is uncovered uncover the cat lady case <music>. There's a story I like to tell about Muskoka. It's better guy who goes into the woods and never comes out. Police suspect suicide but can't find his body thirty years later some hundreds come across a pile of bones and an old rope and the spot where they find signed him is just a few feet from his house. He was right there the whole time but that's Muskoka for you so woods will swallow you. <hes> Muskoka is Canada's cottage country. A hamptons of the north one of national geographics geographics top ten places to visit in the summer as I'm working on this podcast homework comes to film a movie here Look Amazing that lifts to the color is perfect another reminder to the outside world. This place is greeting card perfect coming up with whipped cream. You got it but I live in Muskoka. Ca I was born here and I see the other side the side where people live in poverty commit crimes decide. I started investigating in two thousand fourteen when I first heard at this story in two thousand seventeen I brought my research to C._B._C.'s the fifth estate which made a documentary now. I'm using new tips and information. Take the story even further starting with the cat lady she was visibly homeless woman who lived in Huntsville Muskoka. 's largest town into the only town in the area to have both the men's and women's shelter she was in the background of people's lives for twenty years a blur on the side of the road a face. You passed on the street aw yeah just had a very <hes> very distinctive silhouette and very recognizable when you'd see you're walking into town with a skirt and usually carrying bags scarf and her hair was a nice shade of Brown she she always wore it in a page boy. She looked a lot older. I think for her age like weathered. She always wore a scarf. In the summer. It was the Rayon type Kerchief and in the winter it was kind of a woolen one. She wore tied Loyd uncapped dirty. Just looked like somebody that lived on the street. Sometimes people called her the bag lady because she always had bags from in. I said I noticed you've got quite a bit of cat food in your bag and she said yes. I have a few cats and I lost track of how many there were but there was never a lot of groceries. He's it was mostly cat food in her bags. She carry them to time. Walk ahead a little put them down. Go back for the rest. I felt bad. I felt like I needed to do something. I just couldn't go by and watch her with all those groceries and hitchhiking. I casually said Joan. Do you have any family and she immediately looked at me and she says do you have any siblings. Wchs just wouldn't answer me and I said do you have any children no answer no one knew where Jonet come from and a lot of people couldn't remember time. She hadn't been there. It was like she had always belonged to the landscape this little old lady standing by the side of the road there was just you know never anything. If you ask her anything personal. She would shut down on you. She would change the subject immediately. She wouldn't answer my question for years. The Cat lady lived in a derelict house with no heat or running water after it burned down in one thousand ninety four she drifted between boarding houses and the Salvation Army in the hallmark version of Huntsville where everyone's young pretty and rich. She was remarkable just for for being different. She didn't seem to be a non happy person. You know most people they chew about something if it's not the weather or whatever but she never did not about anything but the thing is because because she had all her faculties like if if she had a seend delayed or something I coulda went to the police and advocated on her behalf but it was her right to live how she wanted even though I disagreed read with how she was living because I feel it was safe for her but she seemed like a smart woman she had made her choices and we talked about them on a regular basis in the year leading up to her disappearance. The Cat lady seemed to be living west of Huntsville near an old paper factory. She asked people who gave a rides to drop her off before they actually saw where then she just wasn't around anymore. I think like everybody else Tom. It was a concern as to how could something like this happen in small town material being a small town. That's I guess that's not how we think I I never thought ah I always knew something had happened to her to vanish like that. Small towns go the there was a rumble abode it. Oh I heard that maybe you know she was risk. Gone to parry sound or she moved away or she then she died or was a murder <music> on November twenty Fifth Nineteen Ninety eight a twenty eight year old detective named Ehrenberg Eric was assigned to locate Joan Erin had joined the Ontario Provincial Police the O. P. P. Six years earlier quickly rising to the rank of a plainclothes investigator Aaron wouldn't talk to. Me For this podcast but I have her I._T._O.'s or information to obtain along with other police documents I t os are what police used to get search warrants. They contain allegations not facts that have been proven in court. Most I._T._O.'s have names dates details. They're like diaries. This is how errands starts. We've asked someone else to read beat them for us. On Wednesday November Twenty Fifth Sandra Gordon from probation and parole services in Margaret Pigeon from adult protective services attended the residents of a male person by the name of Alan Al Marshall Marshall Show is on probation in Gordon is Probation Officer Gordon and pigeon attended his residents to check on his wellbeing during their visit Marshal informed them that an elderly woman by the name of Joan Lawrence lived on the property as well in that he was concerned -cerned because he had not seen her for at least three weeks which was highly unusual. This guy I'll marshall was a fifty seven year old former limo driver in nineteen ninety-seven he moved from Toronto to Muskoka and lived on the same property as joan to picture this property imagined fifty football fields covered in trees. The driveway cuts down the middle and over a bump of railroad track on either side. What are piles of junk abandoned vehicles old hot water heaters are also cabins and outbuildings? All Marshall lives in a cabin by the road and Joan lives in another by the lake. John Passes him on are way down the driveway and back again she stops and says hi and brings him care milk bars from town so I'll houses probation officer. He hasn't Seen Joan Awhile to probation officer. Reports parts are missing now. This detective Ehrenberg is looking into things I posted her photograph at the <unk> detachment and requested that observation be kept for Joan. I also contacted all of the motels embrace bridge and graven hearst in an an effort to try and locate Jones. One of the first things Erin did was call the motels in the area. Maybe Joan had moved off. The property just got tired of living there and that's why I'll hadn't seen her but no one had any any of the motels matched Jones description then Erin writes that she got in touch with the clerk at Huntsville Law Firm. I think she needed to do this because her bosses wife was Al Marshals Probation Officer so John must have mentioned out that she was seeing this law clerk than Al Houses Peo- The Peo- tells her husband and the husband tells Erin just one of those small town things anyway. Erin says the law clerk told her that yes ask the Cat lady used to come in here all the time. She was helping out with something helping rent with what Aaron wanted to know then the clerk apparently dropped this bomb the first real piece of the puzzle also she told Erin that she was helping Joan file a report to take the OH P P the John was anxiously stopping by every couple of days to quote see how the paperwork was coming. Uh the last time this law clerk says she saw Joan. She told her the paperwork was finally ready and she could come in and pick it up. The clerk hadn't seen her since hey nice to see it to you looking very yes to day at work. This is Linda Charbonneau on this particular day. We're meeting at my house and she's wearing a flannel onesie. I like to think of it as a metaphor for how unpretentious how straight straight up Linda is. There's nothing superficial about her coffee or tea. Oh you got a cop ready. We'll take a coffee. Linda works at the daycare now but in nine hundred ninety eight she was the Deli manager at the N. P.. That was how she met Joan. I used to make coffee for customers. We used to have free coffee. So of course I'm out on the floor <hes> and <hes> so she just came up to the coffee pot and I said good morning and we just chatted <hes> window likes cats too and at first that was how they bonded you know me noticing the canned cat food and the in a cart and we talked talked about cats but as Linda got to know Joan better she began to see another side. Everyone called her the Cat lady and I guess when someone mentioned Cat Lady as courses like who's the Cat lady but <hes> it didn't take G- long for me once. I got to know where that I didn't <hes> I didn't refer to her as a Cat lady I I referred to her as Joan. You described her eyes as being kind. Yes yes yes. She did have kind. It is yes because when I would talk to her I I would look into her eyes. What did you see <hes> some days? I would see <hes> desperation. <hes> 'cause she taught you know. She told me a about her living arrangements so when we had conversations about that she always her eyes were just like <hes> she was just like living on the edge the place John was living to play. She didn't want anyone to see was a small garden. Shed I've been thinking about this shed and the best way to describe it and I'm. I'm just GONNA say it's exactly what it sounds like. It's just a shed. There's no electricity running water no bathroom it's not even insulated and when Jones renting because Oh yeah she was renting in the heat source was a portable heater that was plugged into an extension cord according to Linda by the fall of nineteen ninety eight. Even that was gone. There was no heat or the heater was broken in the landlord didn't fix said she was freezing to death. She's unfreezing today she goes. I'm freezing to death when does so. She kept an eye on Joan at the N.. P. Not just at the coffee stand but around the store then uh one day I saw joan approached this man up by the front cashes at the front of the store had this cowboy hat on kind of skinny Guy Kinda creepy look into me he had his hand out put and she was putting like bills like money into his hand. Just counting it out and I just remember her. Just keep handing it and piling in handing it and Unhandy Net and I I knew it was a large amount of money from the fact that she just kept dishing out in addition it out and I saw after she finished putting the last dollar or whatever amount of money it wasn't his hand he just looked at it looked at her put it in his pocket walked right away from her walked out the door and she just stood there. Kinda slumped on a way like like I don't know know how to describe it just like feeling of defeat again. I think just I mean he coulda drove her home but he just left her standing there. He got what he wanted and <hes> Jones rent was six hundred dollars a month. I've known this detail for a while now but I still take every opportunity to tell people six hundred dollars in nineteen ninety eight. That's almost nine hundred dollars today. Everyone I tell this who says it's deplorable. Which of course it is but I'm looking for something more like who would take advantage of someone like that? What kind of person would allow someone to live in an eight by ten? Shed much less charged. Urge them rent. Some people ask were Joan came up with the money between her pension and her old age security. She got about nine hundred dollars a month. That left her about three hundred dollars to spend on her cats which everyone said she would feed before feeding herself. In Fact Joan got her own food from the food bank so any extra money coming in was important life changing even and in one thousand nine hundred ninety eight that was her income tax check <hes> she was in the store and of course always said Hi. We're talking a bit and she asked me questions she goes Linda. Did you get your income tax back yet and I said Oh Yeah Joan. I got that months ago. I said why she goes. I haven't gone mine went really well. You should've got it because I don't know why didn't get it and I said well. You should look into that. You know she was kind of saying that she might have thought that our landlord cashed it or whatever and I said well. That's that's not right. I said you you better look into that so she said you know I'm GonNa look into that. S Okay good. I was waiting for her to come back and tell me what what happened with her money because <hes> she she was waiting for that money and depending on that money and that's <hes> that's the last time that's our last conversation. Never sorry detective Erin Burke believed she had just learned something. Big Joe was about to report the theft of her income tax. Check just does that was sinking in Erin got another call. It was from L.. Marshall The ten and two I notice Joan was missing. Aaron generally wrote Lawrence for Joan Lawrence but we'll be using Joan when reading from Errands I._T._O.'s and in some spots for clarity. We've changed the wording of errands statements slightly in this part Aaron describes an individual who wis concerned because he observes someone operating abaco dark around the same time that he recalls last seen Joan. He stated that around the same time that he observed the backhoe being operated. He heard gunshots. Shots for twenty years. I'll marshall has been a crucial ED problematic part of the police investigation into Jones disappearance. He died a few years ago and I don't know anyone else who saw or heard what he did. which could be one of the reasons? No charges have ever been laid then just as I started working on this podcast I heard from lumberjack Bob Earl. I didn't call because I don't a hater. Theresa is bots access ax in case you were wondering this is something he does talks as if you've known him for years it's best she stays outside of the town. Stay on this side of down because she did a lot. She would've been honest with their dad. My Dad wouldn't wouldn't hold his leg. It was Corrigo. Get equipment like a lot of people I I heard about Bob Earl in two thousand five Toronto Life Story called the other Muskoka. The story is about a shootout between Bob's family he and his in laws it was a big deal and in Muskoka made bob famous or maybe infamous. I can't really tell just like L.. Marshall Bob says he heard gunshots and witnessed at Baco coping operated around the time John's disappearance. I'll says he heard about a fire but Bob claims he actually saw it that the silhouette burned a shed which according to the I._T._O.'s they may have been a previous shutdown was living in but there's one thing about says he saw that I'll never reported someone dumping something on a nearby property. A spot locals treated like an unofficial dumping camping grounds and I think I hold it that Qui. Do you want to show me where they bob and I are out of my car now walking through the old dumpsite across the road from his former house wasn't here wasn't here a couple of hours after seeing the fire. Bob Says he was working in the yard when the truck doc pull up right across from him. Bob says the people driving the truck were using their own property as a kind of landfill but chose this spot to get rid of whatever they had burned. All the man nerd adopt wider the Dow over here. I'll be coming back to the dump site leader for now. I ask Bob why he's telling me any of this. I mean after the Tron of life article after allegedly being ignored by the cops my trust me why trust anyone you know I know I went missing my brother much as we don't have would never said we love each other my brothers or whole family but we do we we protect each other eight so I know vice went missing and my brother ten years later. Somebody told him something. I'm sure he'd go his power to <hes> put closer to it right. I think that's what I'm doing. It is I want you know what Sir sedition brother or sister Blerta or family member wants closer to this and then if it is if it does come out and lie facts rate on. I'm sure it's it's authorities did to punish the people that did it and I think I hold that that key. I guess what I'm saying. Is I know what it's going to bring the heat on me and sometimes it's best just to look the other way but then I'm the guy that's got to carry it and that's what I've done of carrying it for twenty years by the fall of nineteen ninety eight. Joan was getting desperate. She feared for her safety and told the social worker to call nine one on one if anything happened as Linda remembers. John seemed especially concerned about her landlord. She told me that the landlord did offer that you know she could come in and take a bath and use the toilet which I'm thinking to myself like she didn't have toilet and have running water. Shouldn't have you know a bath shower or anything so I immediately said we'll shown like why don't you go in there and use the toilet and and have a shower our and stuff because her hygiene was not very good so I just like I was kind of like saying. Why don't you use the shower go in there? She goes no she goes. I never go in there now and went. Why like I was puzzled? I didn't understand it. She Goes No. I'd never go in there she goes. You just never know what he's GonNa do. Joan had always rejected people's offers of help but now she turned them sought them out. Even this is a retired officer who used to give rides one day when I picked her up we were. I had to stop my parents place on the rug into town down in aren't in the backyard there were people in my place and she wanted us to read that live there no because search no heat no electricity. Everyone said Nota Joan own that didn't know where to put her didn't know what to do with her cats. John refused to put them in a shelter or give them up for adoption with no one else to turn to. She asked her friend Linda if she could come and stay with her when she did you know when she did reach out to ask me for help which was probably extremely hard for her to do and that she had trusted me enough to even ask me and then when I refused her then that must have like that probably was made her feel like like like I have. Nobody I just I don't know I feel bad. Sorry Joan seven weeks after Joan went. Missing Detective Ehrenberg got enough evidence together for a search warrant at dawn on December seventeenth. She and a convoy of police vehicles descended the long driveway of Jones last known address. Now I remember <hes> you know driving in there. I remember this is someone who was there that day. She's asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. I remember the date it's almost like at first you think rich people live been here because it's a big private looking state kind of thing you know and then I remember the long dry way up to live house was and along along the driveway on on the left all these vans and vehicles. Oh I mean horrific. It was all like you know. Oh my Gosh I mean this is disgusting. That was my feeling and and certainly you know the feeling I got that <hes> anybody with leave a person to live in in and those kinds of conditions and I never saw but I did hear that you know they found some that around the shed police searched the property combed the blitz dug up the earth eventually dredge the lake. They didn't find Jones Body but to everyone knew her. They had found all the evidence they needed. If the cat ladies cats were dead so was she oh God I'm just like I just dirty thing <music>. She loved her cats. I mean what's wrong with that. I can't believe this <music>. There's one thing I haven't told them yet. I know who detective Aaron Burke believed killed the cats police found some of the cats. Let's when they went and searched the property and they found bullet fragments in the cats one of the the weapons. That's missing that we can see that's missing in these documents as a rifle. Okay who knows what else fat rifle might have been used for. Oh God coming up on uncover mean stepping on the cat and taunting her is different from getting gotten a gun and just like she had over thirty cats authorities ever came to ever any questions about it'll be like an execution links that you heard or something of that. She Says No. I think it sounded like a human human being. Oh God I mean if he can do that to her cats. He has no regard for life. No wonder she was terrified of him. uncovered the Cat Lady case is hosted written and reported by me Zander fishermen. The podcast is produced by Graham McDonald in Beka Anderson who is also our audio producer special. Thanks to the fifth estates Lisa Mare and Timothy Saola for additional research and reporting our executive producer is Arab Noorani and the senior producer of C._B._C.. podcasts is Tanya Springer original music for the series by Larch and the Voice of Ehrenberg Randburg Lauren Donald <music>. If you're liking this season of uncovered check out our first season uncover escaping nexium taking you inside the bizarre self help.