Regina reaches its Boiling Point
Barb Parcholik talks cold cases
Article: Dana Morenstein – Contributor
What would have been going through his mind, as he sat along the train tracks, waiting for an oncoming freight? He knew what he wanted to do that day. It was intentional. So when police found him, after the conductor had been unable to stop, they were told that the young man had been seen along the tracks at Courtney Street and Thirteenth Avenue, sitting in wait, before putting his head down in front of the oncoming locomotive.
“I wanted to know, a little bit more specifically, what was in his backpack,” journalist and author Barb Pacholik says, referring to the bag found with him at the scene.
“He was carrying a book called Under the Volcano. It’s a backdrop to a story that takes place in Mexico, and part of that story takes place on the Day of the Dead, which is a day in celebration of people who have passed on. I found it really interesting that this fellow, who was thinking of taking his life, was reading a book like that in the days leading up to him making his decision.”
Pacholik has been writing about crime for 25 years, first as a reporter for the Regina Leader-Post and now as an author. Her most recent true crime book, Boiling Point & Cold Cases: More Saskatchewan Crime Stories, includes the story “Day of the Dead”, in which Pacholik pieces together few known facts about a man who, in 1995, committed suicide. He remains unidentified, despite the Regina City Police’s best efforts at finding someone able to give John Doe back his name.
“There is sometimes a sense, by people who get caught up in the criminal justice system, that these are private family matters. But privacy is not private. When a case goes to court, it is the state vs. the accused. It is not a civil matter, it’s not a family who sues an accused for someone’s death, it is the state who prosecutes the person; and in that way, crime isn’t private.”
Pacholik is passionate about what she does. Her extensive research has resulted in historically accurate stories directly from archives, court transcripts, and meetings with law enforcement. The opening story in Boiling Point details the case of Bryan McMillan, a Regina man who went missing in 1978. Through way of archived newspaper articles and with help from a veteran police officer, Pacholik is able to give readers a hauntingly honest look at life in Regina during the 70s, while chronicling the quiet desperation of a family searching for their lost son.
[pullquote]“There is sometimes a sense, by people who get caught up in the criminal justice system, that these are private family matters. But privacy is not private. When a case goes to court, it is the state vs. the accused. It is not a civil matter, it’s not a family who sues an accused for someone’s death, it is the state who prosecutes the person; and in that way, crime isn’t private.”[/pullquote]
“When I first started doing crime reporting, I remember hearing this amazing story about a dedicated cop, who had solved a cold case … this was in the 80’s, before CSI television shows, and you didn’t really hear a lot about cold cases,” Pacholik recalls. “[The cop] was at my book launch and we got to talking. I sort of cornered him, and said, ‘Rick, I want to hear this story. I want you to tell me exactly how you solved that case’.” The result is the first story in Boiling Point, entitled ‘The Key.’
“What was so sad about this case, is sure, it’s fantastic that Rick Mitchell was eventually able to bring that closure. He cracks the case, he gets people to testify—and that’s no small feat, we’re talking seven years after the fact. He finds people who are willing to talk and say what happened the night Bryan McMillan disappeared. Eventually, because of people coming forward and being willing to testify about what occurred, the killers eventually take the police to find that body. And when they find the body, it’s buried on the outskirts of the city. So for seven years, this body has laid in this bluff of trees, which is remarkable in itself, that a body can lay in the open for seven years, and no one ever finds it.”
Pacholik continues, “So, they lead the police officers to these trees, and there they find the body. By that point, there was very little left, we’re talking bone. But the skeleton was still wearing the pants … so one of the police officers reaches in the pocket, and he finds a set of keys. Later, when they’re trying to tie up all the loose ends, they go back to the house where Bryan grew up and they put the key in the lock, and it still opens the door.”