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CAS Failure

January 9, 2008 permalink

A CAS alumnus, Christopher Myers, has graduated to life in prison. In between he killed a woman, Ardeth Wood. In childhood, Myers had it all — adoption, foster care, diagnosis of psychiatric disorders and, quite likely, brain damage from psychotropic drugs. The "forever" adoptive mother did not show up for his day in court.



A past that offered little hope ...

The killer: Born into a life of alcoholism and abuse, Christopher Myers was shuffled from foster home to foster home, ended up on the street, and is now behind bars for murder.

Don Butler, The Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The easy thing would be to describe Ardeth Wood's killer as a sexual predator and leave it at that. He unquestionably is that, as an agreed statement of facts presented in court yesterday as part of his guilty plea to second-degree murder makes abundantly clear.

Before and after that sunny August day in 2003 when he dragged the 27-year-old doctoral student into the bushes and drowned her in Green's Creek, Christopher Norman Myers regularly stalked women as sexual prey, attacking five others with mixed success.

But you don't have to probe very deeply into Mr. Myers' life to realize that simply labelling him a sexual predator -- yet another of the unfathomable monsters who appear now and then to terrorize the rest of us -- doesn't begin to describe the damaged life that led to his horrific acts.

Christopher Myers
For a while, Christopher Myers, shown in 2005, lived what appeared to be a fairly normal life, but he was preying on women the whole time.
CREDIT: Julie Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen

In some ways, Chris Myers' life course was charted before he was even born on Sept. 7, 1980.

The child of an alcoholic mother, he suffers from an alphabet soup of neurological conditions, according to his lawyer, Robert Carew: FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome, though his is relatively mild), ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), PDD (pervasive development disorder, a spectrum of social and communication disorders that includes autism), and schizoid personality traits.

His early life was a nightmare of parental alcoholism and abuse. He appeared to catch a break when he was adopted by a loving Ottawa family at age four.

But the damage, it appears, was already irreversible. Counsellors who worked with Mr. Myers as a child have provided harrowing accounts, with one calling him the most disturbed child he has ever seen.

Unable to handle their increasingly unmanageable adopted son, the Myers family turned him over to the Children's Aid Society when he was 12.

After that, he lived in foster homes and by 2000, he was living on the street. He soon found minimum-wage work through a temp agency, though, and was able to rent accommodation. At the time of Ardeth Wood's murder, he was working as a $7-an-hour dishwasher in a ByWard Market restaurant.

For a while, he lived what appeared to be a fairly normal, if marginal, young person's life. A lean, but muscular man who stands several inches short of six feet, he shared accommodation with roommates, listened to gangsta rap and was notably inarticulate. Despite that, he had a couple of girlfriends, though the relationships didn't last long.

He showed few signs of aggression or anger. In fact, he rarely spoke to co-workers. His former roommates describe him as meek -- someone who never raised his voice, even when provoked.

That is characteristic of people with schizoid personality disorder, who often have trouble expressing anger and react passively to adversity.

Even before killing Ms. Wood, Mr. Myers had had brushes with the law.

In August 2000, he was charged with two counts of trafficking drugs, pleading guilty in 2001. He was charged with more trafficking offences, as well as possession of property obtained by crime, in 2002. The charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to breaching the conditions of his probation.

In 2004, the year after he killed Ardeth Wood, he was charged with uttering a threat.

But there was an even more disturbing side to Chris Myers, a side his roommates seemed to instinctively sense. One, Miranda McMahon, then a university student, kicked him out after just a few weeks because his improbable stories were making her uncomfortable.

"I knew that he had things he was hiding -- he was a big liar," Ms. McMahon told the Citizen soon after his arrest in 2005.

In fact, Mr. Myers was living a double life, cruising the city's bicycle paths at night after his roommates went to sleep.

If he spotted a potential victim, he would typically approach her and strike up a conversation, often suggesting a sex act. When the victim declined, he would appear to leave, then suddenly return and attack from the rear.

For all of that, he was an inept rapist, often interrupted before he could proceed too far.

An incident four days before Ms. Wood's murder was typical. Mr. Myers grabbed a woman on the University of Ottawa campus, held her against a fence and started undoing the top button of her jeans. But he ran off with her purse when a security guard interrupted the assault.

The only time one of his assaults actually culminated in intercourse was in July 2004, when he raped a pregnant woman who had accepted his invitation to enter his townhouse while he retrieved some cigarettes. Even then, he had difficulty maintaining an erection, and had to masturbate before he was able to continue with the assault.

Those in the packed courtroom yesterday who had hoped that Mr. Myers might shed some light on his crimes -- or perhaps express remorse -- were doomed to disappointment.

Clad in a white shirt, black pants and blue sneakers, with his normally curly hair shorn and sporting a neatly trimmed goatee, he spoke only a single word, answering "guilty" in a quiet but steady voice six times to each of the charges against him.

When asked by Judge Monique Métivier if he had anything to say before sentence was pronounced, he merely shook his head.

During the two-hour proceeding, Mr. Myers mostly stared straight ahead, often with his head slightly bowed. Once, though, he swivelled within the glassed-in prisoner's box and carefully scanned both sides of the courtroom with expressionless eyes, searching for only he knew what.

He was composed throughout, showing no visible emotion, not even when Ardeth Wood's mother, Catherine, and one of his sexual assault victims read moving victim impact statements.

There were no family members -- just his clergyman, who hurried off without speaking -- present in court. His adoptive mother, Lynn Myers, who had been present for his earlier appearances, was out of the country, missing the final chapter of an all-too-familiar story.

Source: Ottawa Citizen