On this week’s episode of the Dark Poutine podcast, we hear of the disappearance of Julie Ann Stanton.
In April 1990, 14-year-old Stanton disappeared near her Pickering, Ont., home. Neighbours reported seeing her get into a grey Monte Carlo on the day she disappeared, and the teen was never seen alive again. Her body was not found until many years later.
Investigators quickly suspected Peter John Stark, the 47-year-old father of one of Stanton’s friends, Kim. He had apparently arranged to meet Stanton for lunch that day in Pickering to talk about Kim.
The reason for the suspicion was because a year earlier, Stanton had met Stark at a marina where he had a boat, and the teen was offered an alcoholic drink. She appeared hours later at a friend’s house looking dishevelled and confused.
On the day Stanton went missing, Stark arrived late to pick up his wife. He explained his lateness — as well as the scratches on his back and the dirt on his clothes — as having been caused by his attempts to fix the catalytic converter on his car after it had fallen off. The Crown later stated that his car did not have a catalytic converter.
Stark had a history of violence against women, which included him picking up a female hitchhiker in the 1960s, pulling off the road and demanding sex at knifepoint. When the hitchhiker fought him off, he stabbed her multiple times, but she managed to escape. He was charged with attempted murder, but those charges were eventually reduced to assault, and Stark only served six months in jail.
Stark maintained his innocence, yet on Dec. 1, 1994, he was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Stanton. There was no forensic evidence establishing a connection between Stark and Stanton. The case against him was entirely circumstantial except for the statements he had allegedly made to Gerald Udall, a jailhouse informant. The primary pieces of evidence connecting him to the disappearance of Stanton were his admission that he had picked her up, his lies about his activities on the day in question and his subsequent conduct.
The prosecution alleged that Stark met with Stanton under the pretext of discussing his daughter and then sexually assaulted the girl and killed her with an axe. The remains of Stanton were found on June 27, 1996, about a year and a half after the appellant’s conviction.
In 2000, Stark’s lawyer unsuccessfully argued for a new trial, citing the prosecution’s reliance on a jailhouse confession and inconsistencies between the state of the remains and the narrative that the girl had been killed with an axe.
Stark had died at age 71 on Aug. 27, 2016 in Bath Institution near Kingston. He had been allowed out of prison to receive medical treatment in recent years, but his condition was not specified.
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