Friday, October 17, 1997

Neal Hall

p. A1.

Convicted Abbotsford killer suspected in 3 more murders

FAMILIES OFFER COMFORT: Janet Fillon (mother of victim Misty Cockerill, back to camera) embraces wife of Grant Driver, father of the killer Terry, as the convicted man's brother Donald Driver stands near by.

FAMILIES OFFER COMFORT: Janet Fillon (mother of victim Misty Cockerill, back to camera) embraces wife of Grant Driver, father of the killer Terry, as the convicted man's brother Donald Driver stands near by. GLENN BAGLO/Vancouver Sun

Terry Driver told a psychologist in jail that he had been involved with three other women who wound up dead.

The man convicted Thursday of being the Abbotsford killer now is under investigation as a suspect in three other murders, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

Terry Driver, 32, told psychologist Dr. Robert Ley during an interview in jail that he had been involved with three other women who ended up dead, a source close to the case said.

Driver tossed a threatening note taped to pliers through the front window of an Abbotsford home on Feb. 21 last year.

Inside the envelope containing the note, he included clippings from The Vancouver Sun on the unsolved murders of three women: Vancouver prostitute Linda Tatrai, Colleen Shook of Burnaby, who was attacked after getting off a bus, and Kim Stolberg, who was killed at her father's Richmond engineering office while she was arranging a surprise wedding anniversary for her parents.

All three women were stabbed to death in 1989.

In B.C. Supreme Court Thursday, Driver nodded as Justice Wally Oppal found him guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of Tanya Smith, 16, and the attempted murder of her friend, Misty Cockerill, now 18, who were beaten with a baseball bat in a random attack on an Abbotsford street about 12:30 a.m. Oct. 14, 1995.

After the killings, Driver terrorized the Fraser Valley community by making taunting phone calls to police in which he threatened to strike again.

He nodded Thursday as Oppal sentenced him to the mandatory term of life in prison with no parole for 25 years on the count of first-degree murder and a 10-year concurrent prison term for the attempted murder.

p. A2.

Judge finds 'no excuse' for killer

IT'S OVER: Misty Cockerill (right), with her mother Janet Fillon, addresses the media at the Abbotsford police station after the sentencing of Terry Driver.

IT'S OVER: Misty Cockerill (right), with her mother Janet Fillon, addresses the media at the Abbotsford police station after the sentencing of Terry Driver. WARD PERRIN/Vancouver Sun

Oppal, who noted Driver will be 57 before he can apply for parole, told the killer: "I simply cannot find the words to describe and depict your horrible crimes."

The judge said Driver viciously attacked the two girls as they were enjoying life.

"You murdered Tanya Smith for your own sexual gratification and you almost killed Misty Cockerill," he added. "They did nothing to provoke you."

The judge added Driver wasn't content to stop there -- he even stole the Smith's gravestone and defaced it with disgusting comments, which Oppal noted was the ultimate insult to the Smith family.

"You taunted police and terrorized a whole town," Oppal said. "There's no excuse for what you've done."

He also noted he watched Driver testify and "you didn't show the slightest degree of emotion or remorse."

At the time of his arrest last year, Driver was married with two children and was working as a printer. He had no previous criminal record.

Abbotsford police Inspector Rod Gehl confirmed Thursday that Driver is being investigated in connection with other crimes. But he would not comment on whether Driver is under investigation for unsolved murders.

He noted the Abbotsford killer investigation cost more than $2 million and is still continuing.

Gehl said about 75 officers were involved in the case and more than 9,400 suspects were questioned. He said 3,800 had been eliminated before Driver was arrested when his mother called police saying she recognized her son's voice on a tape of his calls to police that was released to the media.

Gehl described the Driver case as bizarre and unique in his experience in 27 years of police work.

"I hope I never see anything like it again," he said. "The way this individual taunted the community and put this community in a state of fear was like nothing we have ever seen before."

Gehl took the first series of taunting calls by Driver in which the killer asked police if they were having trouble finding him and vowed to strike again.

Police knew if was the killer calling because Driver repeatedly referred to the bite mark left on the breast of the murder victim, Tanya Smith -- information police never made public.

During the trial, Driver testified he didn't beat the girls. He said he saw a mystery man run from the scene, found both girls unconscious and couldn't resist an urge to have sex with Smith, who was naked.

After having sex with Smith, who was bleeding from the nose and suffering from a massive head injury, Driver said, the teen stopped breathing. He said he thought she had died, so he put her body in the Vodder River, one of his favorite fishing spots, about 15 kilometres from the crime scene.

Three doctors were called as defence witness to explain Driver's impulsive sexual behavior and his bizarre post-crime calls to police. They said he suffers from Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes verbal and physical tics, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In convicting Driver Thursday, Oppal said he didn't believe the killer's fantastic tale.

"I do not believe there was a person other than the accused who was involved in the assaults of Tanya Smith and Misty Cockerill," the judge said in his reasons for judgement.

"I have no doubt that after the accused murdered Tanya Smith in the course of sexually assaulting her, he fully enjoyed the notoriety of being the Abbotsford killer. He took full delight in directing his abject callousness toward the victim and their families.

"I am of the view that his phone calls to police and media, during which he admitted he was the killer, were actual admissions of truth."

Driver was set to start a preliminary hearing this week on five other charges involving three attacks on a 12-year-old and two women in Abbotsford before his arrest. He will appear Oct. 31 in Surrey provincial court to set a date for the charges -- sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and assault causing bodily harm.

After Thursday's court session, the victims' families expressed relief that their ordeal was finally over.

"It's a day of tremendous relief," said Terry Smith, the father of Tanya Smith. "It's not a day of joy, because Tanya is not here. Our lives will never be the same, but maybe somehow now we can start thinking about all the good memories instead of all the horrible things that happened."

His wife Gail was asked if she could speak a little about what Tanya was like.

"It's really hard for me to talk about her," the mother said, tears welling up in her eyes. "It's really hard for me to say her name -- I really feel that's been stolen from me because of what has happened... She was very special. We loved her very much."

The mother became too emotional to continue.

Cockerill's parents, Janet Fillion and Marty Jonkoute, said they are happy with the verdict and hope it will be a fresh start for them.

Fillion, who collapsed as she entered the courthouse earlier in the day, said she was a nervous wreck. She also noted the family's life will never be the same and they will always be afraid, even at home.

Cockerill and her family spent months in the witness-protection program until Driver was arrested. Police were worried the killer was going to try to get Misty. Driver wrote on Smith's headstone: "She wasn't the first and she won't be the last. One day, Misty."

Prosecutor Sean Madigan said he never doubted Driver was the killer. But what set the case apart was they way he goaded police after committing the murder, he said.

He added that he was unhappy with the defence using Driver's afflictions to explain away his bizarre behavior.

"There are a lot of people with these afflictions and they function very well in society and I hated to see them branded the same as the Abbotsford killer," Madigan said. "It didn't do a service for people with attention deficit disorder."

Driver's lawyer, Glen Orris, said he was disappointed by the judge's decision but thought the defence was "extremely good," considering it was a very difficult case.

"What I can say about our defence -- it didn't work," he said. "I would never , ever present a defence that I did not believe in."

Orris said he will sit down with his client and look at the decision to see whether there could be an appeal.

Driver's brother, Don Driver, said he believes his brother was wrongfully convicted of being the killer.

But he offered his best wishes for the victims and their families.

"I hope Misty Cockerill and her family and Tanya Smith's family can get on with their lives... I just want to thank both families for giving us enough credit for [us] being here. I wish the best for Misty Cockerill for the rest of her life and hope nothing else but good comes to her."

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Created: October 18, 1997
Last modified: June 20, 1999

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