National Post (Latest Edition)

Man facing murder charge tied to four other deaths

75-year-old arrested at nursing home

- Andrew duffy

OTTAWA • A man with a decadeslon­g history of involvemen­t with the Ontario Provincial Police was arrested at a nursing home Thursday and charged with murder in a cold case that has been linked to four other unsolved slayings.

James Henry “Jimmy” Wise, 75, will appear in a Cornwall courtroom Friday to face a single charge of first-degree murder in the death of Raymond Collison.

“I didn’t think we’d ever get answers in Raymond’s murder,” said Collison’s sister, Daryl Kennedy, of Spencervil­le, after being informed of the arrest Thursday. “I’m really surprised.”

Collison, 59, was reported missing in September 2009, three weeks after he was last seen getting on his bicycle outside the McCloskey Hotel in Chestervil­le. His body wasn’t discovered until April 2014 when two people out for an evening walk came across a human skull in a drainage ditch.

DNA testing was required to identify the body.

OPP investigat­ors have never revealed Collison’s cause of death, but their findings triggered a detailed re-examinatio­n of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry’s large archive of cold cases.

Two OPP officers, led by Det. Insp. Jim Gorry, a 36-year police veteran, have worked on that investigat­ion full-time for more than four years.

Wise was taken into custody Thursday at a long-term care home in Winchester, where he has lived since suffering a stroke.

The retired mechanic has a long, bizarre history with the OPP.

As a young man, Wise lived in Chestervil­le, where he compiled a modest criminal record for robbery, theft and weapons possession. But his life changed dramatical­ly in 1987 when he became the subject of an OPP probe into several macabre homicides.

The OPP followed him constantly for more than a year, during which time he became known publicly as a murder suspect — an allegation he repeatedly denied.

“I haven’t done nothing,” he told one reporter at the time.

He was never charged with murder, but he did go to trial after being arrested for mischief in the toppling of a $2.3-million communicat­ions tower.

He stood trial twice but both verdicts were vacated on appeal, and in February 1996 the case against him was stayed on the eve of a third trial.

The province’s solicitor-general apologized to Wise for having his name made public as a murder suspect, and he sued the OPP for defamation and civil rights abuses. Wise agreed to an undisclose­d out-of-court settlement in 2002.

He stayed in the area despite his fractious relationsh­ip with the OPP and the gossip that attached to him. “They had 15 years to come up with something. They came up with nothing,” he said at the time.

Then, in November 2016, the OPP again knocked on his door: this time it was at a low-rent apartment in downtown Winchester.

Backed by members of the tactical squad, the OPP executed a search warrant obtained pursuant to informatio­n collected during the Collison homicide investigat­ion. Wise was subsequent­ly charged with a series of minor offences, including break and enter, mischief and possession of stolen property, but those charges were stayed last October.

It appeared then that Wise’s epic legal saga had finally come to an end, but Thursday’s surprise arrest means a new chapter is still to be written.

“I thought that was it. I didn’t know they were doing anything more,” Kennedy said. “I’m happy something has finally been done. It would be nice to get some closure.”

Her brother lived with mental illness — schizophre­nia — but he had many friends, Kennedy said, and liked to do odd jobs for people.

The discovery of Collison’s decomposed remains breathed new life into a number of old cold cases, including the unsolved slaying of Randy Rankin, 46, who was shot in the head as he sat at his basement computer in Morewood in February 2007. Rankin, a children’s clown who dabbled in harness racing, was shot through the window by a gunman standing in the dark at 5 a.m.

Rankin lived less than two kilometres from the site where Collison’s body was found, on the same sparsely populated rural road.

During their cold case investigat­ion, OPP detectives produced a crime map that plotted five unsolved homicides clustered around Morewood, along with more than 50 unsolved arsons and suspicious fires.

The map was based, in part, on the strong similariti­es that the Rankin case bore to three other unsolved homicides dating back to 1983:

In November 1983, Harold Davidson was sitting at the kitchen table of his remote farmhouse, near Brinston, when he was shot three times with a .38 calibre handgun.

In May 1987, a single shot was fired through the dining room window of an Avonmore farmhouse, killing Wallace Johnston, a 48-year-old dairy farmer, as he ate his supper.

In July 1987, a nighttime fire engulfed the Morewood home of John King, 59, a reclusive bachelor; forensic tests showed he had been shot in the head.

DIDN’T THINK WE’D EVER GET ANSWERS IN RAYMOND’S MURDER.

 ?? TONY CALDWELL / POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES ?? James Henry “Jimmy” Wise will appear in a Cornwall, Ont., courtroom on Friday to face a single charge of first-degree murder in the death of Raymond Collison.
TONY CALDWELL / POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES James Henry “Jimmy” Wise will appear in a Cornwall, Ont., courtroom on Friday to face a single charge of first-degree murder in the death of Raymond Collison.

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