HALIFAX — Nov. 12, 1995: Brenda Way — known as “Pitt Bull” — was murdered and her body left in a parking lot behind a Dartmouth apartment building sometime in the early morning hours. Glen Assoun, with whom Way had been in a volatile romantic relationship for over two years, told police he had spent the night before with a friend, Isabel Morse, at her apartment. Morse and two others corroborated this. No physical evidence linked Assoun to the murder.
Summer 1996: Assoun moved to British Columbia.
Late 1996: Margaret Hartrick, a Dartmouth prostitute, told authorities she saw and spoke to Assoun near the crime scene during the early morning hours of Nov. 12, 1995.
February 1997: Assoun’s nephew, Wayne Wise, a cocaine addict, told police that he received a confession from him in a telephone call from British Columbia.
March 1997: A witness told police she had heard Assoun confess in the weeks after the murder that he had killed Way, using a knife to cut her “ear to ear.”
April 5, 1998: Assoun was arrested in British Columbia and returned to Halifax for trial. A jailhouse informant, David Carvery, approached police claiming that Assoun had admitted to cutting his former girlfriend’s throat and dropping her body near a dumpster.
Sept. 17, 1998: A teenage prostitute went to police after seeing a TV news report on the Assoun case. She said she was abducted and sexually assaulted at knife point by a customer she identified as Assoun. The customer had told her that he was the killer of “Pitt Bull.”
April 1999: At his trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Assoun conducted his own defence after being denied legal aid and was unable to retain a lawyer. Justice Suzanne Hood allowed into evidence the videotaped statement and transcribed preliminary inquiry testimony of Hartrick, who had herself been murdered before the trial began.
Sept. 17, 1999: After almost three days of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict.
Dec. 17, 1999: Hood sentenced Assoun to life in prison without eligibility for parole for 18 1/2 years.
2004: Assoun obtained Jerome Kennedy as appeal counsel, and an investigator hired to review the case recommended further investigation of a serial killer, Michael McGray. Defence asked Crown for disclosure of information relating to McGray and any police investigation of him.
January 2006: Kennedy advanced several legal grounds in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, including the trial judge’s failure to warn the jury of the danger of relying on the testimony of witnesses such as Wise, Hartrick and Carvery. Kennedy also attempted to introduce as fresh evidence the affidavit of the private investigator. In 1998, McGray had been arrested in the Maritimes for two murders with some similar traits to the Way killing.
April 20, 2006: The Court of Appeal found no error on the handling of witness evidence, and found information submitted about McGray did not meet the test for considering him an alternative suspect.
2007 to 2013: Innocence Canada launched an investigation. The group said it had evidence from two informants that McGray told them he had killed Way.
March 1, 2019: Assoun’s wrongful conviction overturned.
The Canadian Press