Canadian Criminals are a major part of Canadian society. In our country if you were not the direct victim of a crime you tend to forget the members of society that take pleasure in causing societies grief. As in the case of James Hutchinson and Richard Ambrose, whose crimes were committed in December of 1974.1 They were convicted of killing two Moncton City Police officers.
Today, years after the murders were committed Ambrose and Hutchinson are still the center of a major controversy that has plagued our parole system. In order to fully understand the controversy that Ambrose and Hutchinson posses you must look at the chronological order of events that lead up to the slaying.
Richard Ambrose and James Hutchinson lived in the outskirts of Moncton, New Brunswick. Ambrose and Hutchinson committed two indictable offences under the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC). On Tuesday December 12, 1974 they violated section 279.1(c) of the Criminal Code with the kidnapping of Raymond Stein and by December 15, 1974 it was apparent that another crime had been committed.
Ambrose and Hutchinson violated section 229(a)(i) of the Criminal Code, murder which would be defined under section 231(4)(a) of the Criminal Code; murder of a peace officer in the first degree.2 14-year-old Raymond Stein was the son of a Moncton restaurant owner and on the night of December 12, 1974 Raymond and his grandmother returned home from his father’s restaurant and found two men already in the house (Ambrose and Hutchinson).
The duo tied the grandmother to a stair railing with tape and took the boy to an apartment somewhere on the western fringe of Moncton.3 Shortly before 1am on the 13th Mrs. Stein freed herself and telephoned the boys father and informed him of what had happened. Around 1am Mr. Stein received a phone call and a ransom demand was issued.
Mr. Stein received two more calls at 2 and 3am. At 3am a ransom demand of $15 000 was agreed upon.4 Mr. Stein drove to a designated location somewhere close to the Riverview Mall around 3:15am. Mr. Stein drops the bag containing the $15 000 in a ditch about 100 yards in front of another car. The boy was released immediately and the car containing the two suspects speeded off. At 3:50am Cpl.
Bourgeois and Cst. O’Leary from the Moncton City Police were in the area of the drop-off in an unmarked police car and announced to dispatch that they would be going off air to investigate a suspicious car they had spotted.5 They were never heard from again. At 9am the unmarked police car was found in Salisbury locked and abandoned.
There was no trace of the officers, their sidearms or a shotgun they were carrying. Around noon the RCMP turned over to Moncton City Police a man they had arrested after stopping a car that had matched the description of the car used for the ransom trade. In the car was a set of keys that fitted the unmarked police car and over $6000 believed to be part of the ransom money.6 By 2pm Moncton City Police arrested another man in the city and was questioning him in regards to the kidnapping case but later was released.
At 6pm Moncton Police Chief C.M. (Moody) Weldon pleas on the radio for help by the public and offers $5000 in reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the 2 officers.7 At midnight Moncton Police announced they confirmed the presence of human blood on a glove that was seized from the abandoned car. 7:30am on the 14th over 300 searchers fan out over 125 square miles area in search for clues, between Riverview and Salisbury.
At 11 am the Moncton City Police in conjunction with the RCMP held a press conference announcing that there would be two teams set up, each involving the Moncton Police and members of the RCMP, one team was responsible for the search of the officers and the other for investigating the crimes that Ambrose and Hutchinson committed. During the same conference policed reveled they have found what appears to be a bloodstained patch of snow in a field near Salisbury.
At 5pm Cpl. Bourgeois’s torn drivers license was found by a covered bridge on Shediac River, approximately 15 miles east of Moncton. Due to the fact that sunset had past the police decided to cordon off the area and await daylight to continue the search.8 The next morning at 8am the search resumed with the aid of tracking dogs. Within an hour police found the missing revolvers, radio, pick and shovel in the water downstream.
At 2:15pm the searchers found the graves on a hill near the covered bridge and at 1:30pm on December 15th, 1974 the police carried their fallen officers out of the woods wrapped in blankets.9 It was later determined that Ambrose and Hutchinson drove the two officers to the secluded wooded area and forced them to dig their own graves and then shot each of them in the back of the head.10 Richard Ambrose 22 was already in custody at the time the bodies were recovered.
Later on the December 15th a few minutes after 11pm James Hutchison 43 turned himself in to Sgt. Greg Cahoon of the RCMP. Hutchison stated that he turned himself in because he knew he was wanted by the police and he thought they would ‘shoot first and ask questions later’. Ambrose and Hutchinson were to have their first appearance in court on December 23rd.
Both Ambrose and Hutchinson were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging in 1976. When the Trudeau government repealed capital punishment later in 1976 Ambrose and Hutchinson’s sentence was dropped to life in prison.11 Hutchinson was serving time at Pittsburgh Institution outside of Kingston Ontario, a minimum-security prison, and escaped at the age of 73. Prison files show that Hutchinson has expressed deep hatred toward police and had thoughts of thrill killing.
Hutchison had admitted to his life of crime that dates back to the 1940’s, which has stemmed from an insatiable hunger for excitement, and the thrill of outwitting authorities.12 The Ontario Provincial Police classified him as extremely dangerous and Staff Sgt.
Rick Myers of the OPP Penitentiary Squad described him as “looking like anyone’s grandfather but capable of anything”. Prison officials also stated that Hutchison has been plotting his escape since he was jailed in 1974. In 1997, Hutchison persuaded the National Parole Board to grant him escorted temporary absences.
His main argument was “the burnout theory” stating that in today’s workplace also applies to longtime criminals who lose their desire to keep breaking the law. Hutchison was denied parole because of numerous escape plots.13 Three years later the parole board reviewed several reports filed by a supportive case management officer, the board ruled his risk to the public was “manageable”. In 2000 Hutchinson was granted a leave to volunteer at a shelter for stray cats and dogs approximately 12 kilometers from Pittsburgh Institution.
Hutchison finished cleaning the stalls around 2:30pm, laid down his broom and walked away as a free man. He was recaptured two days later. This however was not the first time Hutchison escaped custody. In 1966 Hutchison was serving a 10 year sentence for robbery and was being transferred from Kingston Penitentiary to Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick.
It was at this point where Hutchison made his first escape.14 He was arrested the same day at a train station in Moncton. Hutchinson made parole 4 years later, in 1974, that is when he murdered the two Moncton Police officers. Hutchison lived with the prison’s Small Group Living Program. This is where prison officials believe that Hutchison did most of the planning for his escape. Prison files show Hutchison as having obvious planning skills.
Prison psychologist used to consider Hutchison antisocial and sick enough to carve self-inflicted wounds.15 In this program inmates lived peacefully and less supervised. Although many reports stated that Hutchison was not rehabilitated, Deputy Warden Ron Fairly described Hutchison as a “model inmate.”16 Ambrose however, had quite a different prison life he was 22 when he was first arrested for the murder of the two police officers.
Throughout Ambrose’s incarceration he claimed innocence and refused to speak about the crime. As well, he has expressed remorse and pleaded for life beyond prison. In the late 1980’s Ambrose got married in a prison ceremony and became a father to a baby girl in 1992. Ambrose told parole board members he is a reformed man, and deserves a life outside of the public’s eye. Ambrose changed his surname to Bergeron and in the summer of 2000 won full parole.
According to a psychologist report prepared for Ambrose’s parole hearing indicated that he still posses a moderate to high risk to re-offend in a general and violent manner.17 On December 10, 1999 The Canadian Justice Foundation released an article alerting the public that Ambrose was granted day parole after he had changed his name to Richard Bergeron. The Canadian Justice Foundation has called on the Solicitor General to launch an investigation in regards to the parole.
Shawn Howard, the Managing Director of The Canadian Justice Foundation said: “If inmates are allowed to change their name and erase their criminal identity, it poses a risk to public safety” he goes on to say “its obvious that Ambrose is trying to disappear by cloaking himself with a new identity”.18 Previous attempts to locate Ambrose have been unsuccessful since his original name was removed from the parole-hearing list.
A Moncton reporter recently alerted the public that Ambrose had legally changed his name to Richard Bergeron and may return to Edmonton where his wife and child currently reside. The parole system in Canada has let out more ‘Cop Killers’ then Richard Ambrose. 19The list is long and in each case the criminal was perceived as a good inmate.
When you look at the crimes committed by Richard Ambrose and James Hutchison with the murder of a two police officers that carries a sentence of life in prison as well as the kidnapping case that carries a sentence of imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years.
However Richard Ambrose was granted parole 25 years after he showed no mercy to the two police officers that were only doing their job. In the Hutchison case a 73-year-old man who has made more then one attempt to break out of custody and who also stated squeezing the trigger, was a ‘reflex action’ was given the opportunity to work outside the prison, and was able to walk at a humane society for animals that he was allowed to work unsupervised.
Many citizens are enraged that these two criminals were allowed to leave the prison system. They showed no respect for the law and killed two members of society who have sworn to uphold the law. Both persons were described as being a moderate to high risk to re-offending but are still allowed to go into the public unsupervised.
Final Tribute Paid To Slain Policemen. Mark Pedersen. Telegraph Journal. December 16th, 1974
Hunt to Resume Today For Missing Policemen. Don McLeod. Telegraph Journal. December 14th, 1974.
May Have Been Forced To Dig Their Graves. Don McLean. Telegraph Journal. December 16th, 1974.
Alan Cairns. Prisons a ‘disgrace’. The Toronto Sun. November 20, 2000
Dimmock,G. and A. Sands. Escaped murder kills for thrills: 73 year old fugitive. Retrieved from the World Wide Web September 9, 2002. http://www.dimmockreport.com/escapedmurderer.htm
Howard, S. The Canadian Justice Foundation. June 10, 1999