deadmonton 2006 - thomas george svekla - the edmonton journal interviews

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In December 2006, Edmonton Journal reporters Chris Purdy and David Staples were subpoenaed by Crown prosecutors to testify at the Thomas Svekla preliminary hearing.

On January 19th, 2007 Journal lawyer Matt Woodley argued in court that compelling journalists to testify would have an adverse effect on their jobs.

"A reporter's ability to collect and disseminate information is affected by a subpoena," Woodley told Judge Douglas Rae.

"The likelihood of future reporting efforts might be hindered if journalists are seen as agents of the state."

Crown prosecutor Marilena Carminati argued there was no evidence to support the idea there would be a "chill effect" should journalists have to testify.

Carminati said that evidence from those interviews was important in the determination of Svekla's guilt.

Specifically, she pointed to quotes from Svekla that contained inconsistencies when compared to what he has told others.

The Journal was also issued orders to turn over all material it had concerning Svekla or the cases of Quinney and Innes.

Judge Douglas Rae was expected to deliver his decision on the Crown's subpoenae in late January 2007.

On January 3rd, 2007 the Edmonton Journal published the details of interviews Purdy and Staples had conducted with Svekla through letters and phone calls while he was in the Edmonton Remand Centre since his arrest in May 2006.

The article as published is presented below.

Edmonton Journal logo

'Rotten luck' suspect keeps finding bodies

The youngest of seven children, and only son, says he gets along with females and that police are using 'trickery' to discredit him.

Thomas Svekla says it's a coincidence that he discovered the bodies of two murdered prostitutes.

By Chris Purdy and David Staples, Journal Staff Writers

He stumbled upon Rachel Quinney's body in the bush near Sherwood Park in June 2004, he says, then found Theresa Innes's body in a hockey bag in his pickup truck in High Level two years later.

He never looked in the bag, he says. “I didn't know who it was in the package. It felt human.”

Svekla, now in the Remand Centre and charged with murdering Innes and Quinney, has talked at length with The Journal about Project Kare's investigation into his past.

He says he has answered police questions about the two cases for hours and has repeatedly told them they have the wrong man.

“I said, 'You guys are nuts. You're just wasting your time.' ”

Svekla insists he has nothing against women. “I have six sisters. I love them all. I have lots of female friends.”

He maintains Project Kare — which is hunting for a serial killer (or killers) responsible for killing numerous northern Alberta prostitutes — unfairly targeted him as a suspect two years ago, after he reported finding Quinney's body.

Detectives have shown him a list of many murdered and missing women. He took a polygraph test on the Quinney case — and passed, he says. The police have put many scenarios to him, including the notion that he enjoyed having sex with his dead victims.

“They told me I had sex with the body, but that's sick,” Svekla says. “I don't do that kind of sick stuff.”

Born in April 1968, Svekla is the youngest of seven children, the only son of a Fort Saskatchewan couple, George and Emily Svekla. He graduated from high school and became a car mechanic, working around northern Alberta. He was married, fathered a child, and later divorced. He says he has had several long-term girlfriends.

In June 2004, he came to the attention of Project Kare when he told police he had found the body of a dead woman in a clump of trees in Strathcona County. Svekla led Project Kare detectives to Quinney's body.

A short time later, a jittery Svekla made a late-night call to an ex-girlfriend named Karla. He told her he had been held two days by the police and hadn't been allowed to sleep or eat. He told her that he had gone to the bush outside of Edmonton with a prostitute to smoke crack. They fought and the girl ran, tripping over Quinney's body as she fled.

Svekla and the prostitute promised to go to the police when they returned to the city, but the woman changed her mind. “I didn't know Quinney, but the girl I was with knew her. She didn't want to come to the RCMP station with me.”

Svekla decided to go to the police on his own but they didn't believe his story, he says, and started to investigate him.

“I became a suspect immediately. (But) I had to come forward. No one deserves to be left out in the bush like that.”

Svekla says it's simply “rotten luck” that he found Quinney's body. The body hadn't been there long, he says, which is why the police suspected him.

He says finding Quinney was a wakeup call, because at the time he was hooked on crack cocaine. “I thought God was saying, 'Tom, you're going to wind up dead.' God brought me to that remote location to show me if I continued with the drug use more awful things are going to happen.”

The image many people have of Thomas Svekla is of a man heading into court to face a murder charge in May 2006, acting as if he were walking down a red carpet, smiling and waving to the media cameras.

The image appeared in newspapers and on televised broadcasts across Canada. Svekla understands people might be appalled at his seemingly flippant behaviour.

“I couldn't believe the cops charged me for that (murder). I was laughing. It was just ridiculous. What a way to come back to Edmonton, my hometown.”

Svekla now spends days in a six-by-12 foot Remand Centre cell. One of his prison nicknames is “Hockey Bag,” a reference to the Innes case. He says he was attacked three times before he was placed in protective custody. “I give the Edmonton Remand credit. No one can get to me now.”

When not watching TV, Svekla says he reads crime novels and the Bible. “I pray. I've always been religious.”

He refers to God as Gus, as in the Guy UpStairs.

His mother Emily and sisters Susan and Maryanne visit him in jail. He tells them he is innocent.

In regards to the Innes homicide, Svekla says he had just returned to his home in High Level on May 4, 2006, after being out of town for a few months. For two days, he partied at a motel with his girlfriend Diane Kipling and a few friends.

On Saturday morning, May 6, he says he found Innes' body in his truck. He was shocked, he says, but refuses to say much else about it. “I can't tell you details in case they find the right guy.”

He says he has a theory about who killed Innes, but hasn't shared the name with the RCMP because he's not 100-percent sure he's right. “There could be a lot of people involved.”

He didn't go to the police to report Innes' body, he says, because he had been harassed after reporting to Project Kare that he had found Quinney's body.

“I just found the darn thing. I knew I was going to be a suspect,” he says. “I don't know how she died or the condition of her body. I don't know if it was cut up or not. All I've heard was rumours from other inmates. I'm still waiting for the results from the coroner.”

Svekla says it was a mistake not to report his discovery of Innes' body. “I panicked because of Rachel Quinney. It was the wrong thing to do. I decided to hide the (Innes) body. I made a mistake. There was no way I was going to come forward when I found that body Saturday morning. I was leaving High Level that day. No plan of moving a body. I felt I had to. I needed time to think what to do.”

His truck was broken down, so Svekla got a ride home to Edmonton with a family friend, taking the hockey bag with him. He says his friend had no idea Innes' body was on board.

When Svekla got to Fort Saskatchewan, he went to stay at his parents' home, but his father was upset with him, so he stayed with his sister instead.

On Sunday, May 7, someone found the body and alerted the police, and Svekla was arrested. He is hurt and angry that he was turned in.

“It was a big betrayal, but it was better this way. Theresa got a proper burial. I didn't know what I was going to do.”

His lawyer has instructed him not talk to the police or anyone else. Svekla hasn't listened to that advice. He likes leaving his cell to talk to the police and to chat with outsiders on the phone.

“I don't like being locked up, isolated. No one likes to be isolated.”

In October 2006, as Project Kare investigators continued to look into his background, he complained they were spreading information to his family that Innes had been living with him in High Level, and the two had smoked crystal meth together. Svekla says he had heard that Innes had AIDS so had always stayed away from her.

The rumours by the RCMP have had an impact, turning family members against him, Svekla says. “The police are using trickery. I talked to my lawyer about it. He said they're allowed to use trickery.”

His mother is the only one in his family who still believes he is innocent, he says. “In my mom's eyes, I could do no wrong. She keeps telling me that, 'I'm in God's hands now.' ”

The police also seized his tool box from his parent's garage. “They're looking for something to tie me to the murders. I'm not worried."

“The police don't have a case right now. As far as the murder part, they have no evidence.”

He intends to fight the charges against him, and implores people not to judge him because he found himself, by chance, at the scenes where two dead prostitutes were found.

“People die; people get killed. It doesn't mean you're a murderer or a serial killer.”

Copyright © 2007 The Edmonton Journal

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