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UCF #104200061

Police Use DNA to Identify 'Septic Tank Sam' after Four Decades


Gordon Sanderson
COLD CASE

Gordon Edwin Sanderson

Updated

Tofield, Alberta — On April 13, 1977, a body was found in a septic tank on an abandoned farm 55 kilometres east of Tofield.

The RCMP said that the remains found on that farm are those of Gordon Edwin Sanderson, a 26-year-old Indigenous man from Manitoba who had been living in Edmonton.

"He was known as Gordie to his family and friends. Gordie had a hard life. He was separated from his family at nine years old during the Sixties Scoop and placed in foster care," Staff Sgt. Jason Zazulak of the Alberta RCMP major crimes unit said during a virtual news conference.

"He was a resident of Edmonton from the 1970s and was last heard from by family when he was going to meet his younger brother, Arthur, in Calgary. Sadly Gordie did not make it to that meeting."

The body was covered in lime, wrapped in a bed sheet and tied with a nylon rope. Police say parts of the body were mutilated, and the victim was shot twice with a .32 calibre semi or automatic weapon.

RCMP say the state of the body prevented it from being identified until now.

After seeing officers in California use genetic genealogy to find the Golden State Killer, officers in Alberta decided to try a similar technique. The RCMP submitted Sanderson's DNA to Othram Inc., a private laboratory in Texas.

Othram specializes in the recovery and analysis of human DNA from degraded or contaminated forensic evidence. It also does genealogical research for policing agencies in Canada and the U.S. It first hit the headlines in Canada after identifying the killer in the 1984 murder of Christine Jessop.

Sanderson was nicknamed Septic Tank Sam by the RCMP after he was found on April 13, 1977. The body was rolled in a yellow bed sheet and tied with nylon rope before it was dumped head first into the 1.8-metre deep septic tank on the farm owned by Mavis and Charlie McLeod. Both are now deceased.

The McLeods' farm is located about 65 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

Their son Greg McLeod, who was 15 at the time Sanderson's body was found, told The Fifth Estate that he didn't know any of the details surrounding Sanderson's death.

"It's such a sad story because Dad never talked about it…. I didn't know any details about it."

McLeod said he is glad that Sanderson's family finally has some answers.

Police said the investigation into the killing remains open.

RCMP want to speak with anyone who may have known Gordon (Gordie) Edwin Sanderson, or have information about his death to contact the Tofield RCMP at 780-662-3353.

Ryan Abdella

Ryan Abdella

See more Case Files contributed by Ryan Abdella.

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Jeffrey Andrew Dupres
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Jeffrey Dupres

Jeffrey Dupres told his mother he was going with his five-year-old friend to play next-door at his house. About 20 minutes later, the friend showed up looking for him.
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I moved there from Sudbury, ON, I now have also lived in Vancouver, BC for 10 years. The talks of bad things in Red Deer is a joke. Vancouver/Lower Mainland obvs has a lot of crime with larger population & favorable weather. Compare Red Deer to Sudbury for a more accurate comparison, and I'll tell you Sudbury is by far worse. Like, by far.

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