Teague's killer was 'sexually motivated'

Investigators release sketch of man seen by hiking trail where teen's body was found

Andrew Seymour, with files from Ian MacLeod, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Friday, April 07, 2006

Ottawa police have information to suggest Jennifer Teague's killing was most likely a sexually motivated crime, Ottawa police Chief Vince Bevan revealed yesterday.

"I think there are a number of possible motives in this particular case, but I think the most obvious is that this was a sexually motivated crime and we continue to pursue it on that basis," he said after police released a composite sketch of a "person of interest" they want to question in connection with the killing.

The chief's comments raise for the first time the possibility that the Barrhaven teen could have been killed by a sexual predator. Homicide detectives have compared the sketch to photographs of known sexual offenders who live in the area and other high-risk offenders, said Chief Bevan.

He said the police theory that it was a sex crime is based on "information that has been gleaned from the investigation," but he wouldn't comment specifically on whether Ms. Teague, 18, was sexually assaulted. He also wouldn't say whether police know Ms. Teague's cause of death or reveal what forensic evidence was collected from her body.

The chief hinted at the possible motive yesterday after releasing the sketch of a suspicious man spotted standing near the secluded Moodie Drive trail, where Ms. Teague's body was eventually found, only hours after she vanished in the early morning of Sept. 8.

Chief Bevan said a "credible" witness briefly saw the man -- who police described as a white male, 18 to 30 years old with a tall, thin build and a young, thin face -- standing off to the side of Moodie Drive near the parking lot for the Lime Kiln Trail "well after midnight" the morning she went missing.

Ms. Teague disappeared while walking home along Jockvale Road at about 1 a.m. after meeting friends following a late-shift at a nearby Wendy's restaurant. An off-duty police officer found her concealed body on Sept. 18 off the walking trail not far from the parking lot where the man in the sketch was spotted.

"Because of the location and the fact that there was no vehicle around it drew the driver's attention. He took a particular good look at this individual," said Chief Bevan, adding police are confident in the accuracy of the sketch despite the fact the witness was recalling something he only saw for a few moments several months ago.

"The individual described in the composite was caught fully in the headlights at very close distance," he said.

However, Chief Bevan did say that police only found the witness three weeks ago after an unrelated second person called investigators to tell them the man may have critical information that could help the case. The sketch, drawn by an Ottawa police identification officer, wasn't completed until March 20.

Friends who have seen the drawing told the Citizen they didn't recognize the man in the sketch.

Chief Bevan couldn't explain why the witness didn't call police himself given the intense media coverage of both the disappearance and the discovery of her body, except to say that the witness "did not think that the observation from that evening was significant."

"I think we all wish that this person would have come forward at that time," said Chief Bevan, who admitted he had "no idea" why the witness was on the road himself at that time of the morning. "You take your witnesses as they come."

Chief Bevan was joined at the press conference by Ms. Teague's parents, Ed and Jean, who issued an emotional plea, imploring the man pictured in the sketch to come forward to police before "someone else provides your name and whereabouts."

Frequently stopping mid-sentence to collect his thoughts, regain his composure or wipe a runny nose, Mr. Teague lamented the loss of a "loving and carefree daughter and sister" who was violently taken away.

"What happened that night or why it happened we will never know until the person or persons responsible are brought to justice," he said. "Out there within the sound of my voice there are parents, or a friend, or classmate, or a co-worker, or girlfriend who will recognize the picture that will be in the media."

Ms. Teague's mother thanked the public and police and begged for anyone with information that could help solve her daughter's slaying to call investigators.

"I'm the mother of slain Barrhaven teen Jennifer Teague. That's the way my life is defined these days," Mrs. Teague said, her arms crossed firmly in front of her stomach as she read from her prepared statement.

"Not Jen's mom, not her soccer coach, not her shop 'til you drop buddy, not the someday grandmother to the two kids she wanted to have," she said, trying to fight back tears. "All that changed in September."

Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Teague answered journalists' questions.

Also yesterday, Ms. Teague's employer Wendy's offered a $50,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for her death.

Chief Bevan said he will ask the Ottawa Police Services Board to match the amount to bring the total reward to $100,000 for information.

"Jennifer Teague was a valued member of the Wendy's family and her tragic death has had a pronounced effect on her co-workers as well as the Wendy's franchisees in the country," Wendy's Canada spokesman Don Gallant said in a brief statement.

Mr. Gallant then refused to answer questions, including his position with the corporation. In fact, as he left the press conference, he was shielded from reporters by plainclothes police officers, who later escorted him to another part of the building.

Chief Bevan again urged the public to help with the case, pointing to the new witness as an example of how something one person may perceive as unimportant can help solve a case.

"At this point we need to reinforce with the public at large how important it is to come forward because if you did see something that evening, even if you've discounted it in your own mind, the information may be critical to providing a break in the case," he said.

In particular, police are looking to talk to anyone who was in the area of Moodie Drive between Fallowfield and Hunt Club roads on Sept. 8 between midnight and 6 a.m. They also want to talk to a few customers who visited a Mac's convenience store the night Ms. Teague disappeared, said Chief Bevan.

To date, police have investigated 800 of the 1,170 tips provided from the public and have 1,706 names, including witnesses, tipsters and persons of interest, indexed in their case database.

Chief Bevan added it was not the investigators' plan to release the sketch of the man publicly, but news of its existence leaked to the media forcing their hand.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 236-1222, ext. 5477, or e-mail infojennifer@ottawapolice.ca.

aseymour@thecitizen.canwest.com

 The Ottawa Citizen 2006

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