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Foster Failure

May 18, 2010 permalink

The Edmonton Journal profiles the short life of a man who became a provincial ward at the age of six. A veteran of at least 25 foster homes, he ran away from foster care at age 16, killing a man soon after with a baseball bat. He got a sentence of three years (he was just a youth) and at age 25 died a violent death himself. The story does not name him, but he is identified by the CBC, CTV and Global as Daniel Louis Thomas.



Homicide victim had violent past

Body of 25-year-old man found on stairs in river valley

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald
Homicide detectives investigate a man's death Monday on the stairs that lead to the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, The Journal, Edmonton Journal

His death was violent, as his short life had so often been.

"He was street," Drew Tomlinson, who knew him, said. "It's survival of the fittest down here. They call it the war zone."

Official records will show the "war zone," as Tomlinson calls it, claimed another victim early Monday when the body of a 25-year-old man was found by a passerby on a set of wooden stairs below the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

His death will be listed as the city's fifth homicide of the year. Those who knew him weren't shocked. Those who inhabit his violent world aren't easily shocked by much.

Tomlinson wasn't sure if the young man had any enemies, but said he was a "tough kid" who "wouldn't back down from a fight."

Police say the young man's body showed obvious signs of trauma. It's not yet known if he died in a fight. But what seems clear is that he had been fighting, in one way or another, for most of his life.

The latest young man to die on city streets was six in 1991 when he was taken from his alcoholic mother, who neglected him and often left him alone without food, according to records that later came up in court.

The boy was subjected to sexual abuse by his mother's boyfriends, who provided her with alcohol and drugs.

Later, he was prone to running away from foster homes and had stayed in at least 25 different homes by the time he was a teenager.

He was 16 when he ran away from a group home in 2001. Soon after, he beat 37-year-old Ove Lundgren to death with a baseball bat.

The two knew each other and were drinking together before the killing. Lundgren's bloody body was found in his bachelor suite by his father, the caretaker of the building near 92nd Avenue and 149th Street.

Police found the teenage runaway sleeping in Lundgren's brown GMC van in a parking lot about 10 blocks away.

He was charged with second-degree murder and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in June 2002. He was sentenced to three years in jail.

The court was told at the time the teen had suffered from severe neglect, and emotional and physical abuse starting at an early age.

He also suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, depression, often threw tantrums, and was known to be involved in drugs.

In the days before his own violent death, the young man had stayed at the Herb Jamieson shelter for men, where he was last seen Sunday morning.

People who knew him say he kept to himself mostly, and worked temporary jobs. They say he abused drugs and alcohol.

"I knew by watching him, the booze and drugs had some effect on his downfall," said Tomlinson, a resident at Immigration Hall, which provides permanent housing for the homeless or people at risk of becoming homeless.

"If you're down here and you're in active addiction, your odds are slim," he said.

Tomlinson said the young man would often walk the streets alone, which he called dangerous in the inner city.

Early Monday, the young man was found lying face down on a landing, halfway down a set of stairs leading to the river valley off McDougall Hill.

Homicide Det. Bill Clark said the dead man showed obvious signs of trauma to the head.

The body remained on scene well into Monday afternoon as a civilian search-and-rescue team used a dog to comb the bushes for evidence.

"We're looking for an edged weapon, possibly a knife," Clark said.

An autopsy has been scheduled to confirm the cause of death, but investigators are treating it as a homicide.

Police interviewed city workers and homeless people in the area overnight Monday.

Surveillance video has been collected from transit and Telus cameras.

Some of those interviewed said the young man was seen near the bus shelter on 100th Street near Telus Plaza, prompting investigators to cordon off the shelter for much of the morning.

Witnesses said the suspect and the young man, who cannot be named because he was in foster care and was a young offender, were spotted together in the area, Clark said.

Police were searching for a native male between 14 and 20 years old, with a thin moustache and short hair.

Scott Anderson, a resident at the Hope Mission, saw the victim's body Monday morning after it was discovered. While Anderson said he was disturbed by what he saw, he wasn't surprised.

"It left a sick feeling in my stomach when I saw his body, but it didn't shock me," he said. "It's a reality check down here."

Source: Edmonton Journal