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Brandon Sun (Newspaper) - April 3, 2008, Brandon, Manitoba Brandon Sun » Community News — Thursday, April 3J2008 Features D » 1985: THE DEATH OF BARRY LEVINSWas ‘death truck’ poorly repaired and hastily sold? Early in the morning of Oct. 24,1985, a resident on the north side of Braecrest Drive near 18th Street was awakened by a barking dog and looked out to see what was causing the disturbance. When he saw something suspicious on the bicycle path across the street he called the police. Within minutes patrol Const. Barry Gillingham arrived to investigate. He immediately observed the body of a man, apparently deceased, lying crumpled on the pavement. Returning to his patrol car, he radioed in his findings and was instructed to guard the scene pending the arrival of the medical examiner and members of Brandon’s major crime squad. While he waited Gillingham made notes of his observations: skid marks; pieces of metal that appeared as if they might have been part of the grill of a truck; the fact that the victim had been struck with such force that he was knocked out of his shoes, one of which was found lying on either side of his body. In a matter of minutes Const. Douglas Bottley arrived, unpacked his gear and began photographing the scene. The medical examiner showed up next, followed by a group of police officers who quickly began a sweep of the area. Crawling on their hands and knees, they searched for anything that might point to what had caused the death. As each piece of evidence was discovered its location was noted and it was photographed and bagged. When Dr. Nicholas Petri nack completed his examination of the body it was taken to the Brandon General Hospital, where an autopsy was performed to determine the exact cause of death. It revealed that the victim’s injuries were consistent with those of someone who had been struck by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. Death would have been instantaneous. When the dead man’s clothing was removed at the morgue authorities did not find a wallet or a set of keys, but they did discover a business card in the name of Barry Levins. They also noticed that the deceased was weanng an unusual piece of jewelry. His carved ivory and sterling silver ring was a ‘scrimshaw,’ a ring associated with an ancient craft of seamen. Later, the police asked Dennis Collingwood, a close friend of Levins, whether he had seen the nng before. He said that he had. “I had a terrible shock when I saw that ring. I knew right then that it was bad news. I was with Barry in Florida when he bought it. It was a very unusual ring and I knew he would not Charles & Dale Brawn DIGGING UP HISTORY Charles Brawn is a local historian. Professor Dale Brawn teaches in the Dept, of Law and Justice at Laurentian University. »> [email protected] Real estate agent Barry Levins seemed universally well-liked by friends and family. But walking home after an evening at the bar, someone ran him down and killed him. Was it more than just a terrible accident? Police believe they've tracked down the truck that killed him, but their only suspect is unco-operative and refuses a polygraph. (Charles and Dale Brawn/For the Sun) £ £ Police finally had a name, and the case once again became a priority. They briefly interviewed the suspect, and although he denied his guilt and refused to take a polygraph test, they were convinced they had found Levins’ killer. Now all they had to do was prove it. have given it to anyone else. As soon as I saw it I just knew it was bad news.” While the autopsy was being completed police investigators continued to examine the scene of what they were beginning to suspect was a crime rather than an accident. Although they did not discover a single large piece of evidence, they found enough small pieces to begin building a case, a case made stronger by what was revealed during the autopsy. Levins had been killed by a half-ton truck. The police learned that Barry had spent the last evening of his life in Spats, a North Hill bar. Some time dunng the later part of that evening a close friend had apparently suggested that Levins had been drinking too much to drive home. Barry agreed, and passed the friend his jacket, which contained his wallet and keys. When the friend left the bar he could not locate Levins, and assumed that he had found a ride home with someone else. It later turned out that despite being surrounded by people he knew well, no one saw Barry leave, let alone walk across the street Although there were reports in the local media from time to time following the accident, the account of Barry Levins’ death gradually gave way to other stories. The police investigation, however, continued. While one group of officers interviewed Levins’ friends and associates, other members of the force catalogued the fragments of metal found at the scene. In time they became convinced that what they had were parts of the grill of a murder vehicle. When all the evidence was located it was taken to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police crime lab in Winnipeg, where it was determined that Levins had been killed by a GMC Sierra Classic manufactured between 1980 and 1982. Although the search for evidence continued, when nothing further was discovered investigators were assigned other files and the Levins case lost steam, but it never became inactive. Shane Corley was put in charge of Brandon’s cold case files in 1990. “A case like this really grabs you. The fact that you can’t go out and solve it as quickly as you think you should is very frustrating but you never set it aside and forget it. You would be surprised how often you dig out the file and review it again until you almost have it memorized. Each time you do this you hope something will come to the fore and you go through it all again.” The break that Sgt. Corley had been hoping for came in the form of an anonymous note received by Crime Stoppers in late March, 1990. With it, the police finally had a name, and the case once again became a priority. Nine days later members of the Brandon Police Service briefly interviewed the suspect, and although he denied his guilt and refused to take a polygraph test, they were convinced they had found Levins’ killer. Now all they had to do was prove it. Corley and his cold case squad began combing through motor vehicle databases in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario to see if their suspect had ever owned a blue Sierra Classic. They could hardly believe their luck. Not only had he owned such a truck, he bought it new and traded it off less than a month after Levins was killed. The vehicle, however, had disappeared. In 1995 it re-surfaced in northern Manitoba. After a member of the Brandon Police Service, in co-operation with members of Royal Canadian Mounted Police, determined that the truck matched the particulars of the vehicle they were looking for, arrangements were made by Brandon officials to purchase and ship it to the RCMP crime lab in Regina. There tests confirmed that damage done to the front end of the truck was consistent with the damage Brandon reconstructionists predicted would be found on the murder vehicle. That included damage to the front radiator frame and a large dent which before repair would have been evident on the hood. For the first time in five years Corley could see the light at the end of a very long tunnel. Since it was obvious that repairs had been made to the front of the truck a Brandon body shop owner was called in to consult with the police. Cliff Clisby reported that the work had not been done by an experienced body repairman. “Tile preparation work was pretty amateurish. It might have even been done by the owner of the truck.” Proof of that, however, was not forthcoming. The Brandon Police Service unsuccessfully attempted to re- mterview their suspect, but he refused to co-operate. Although Brandon police officials can say with certainty that their suspect owned the truck they have kept in their impound for more than a decade, and that none of its other owners sustained any damage to it, they cannot prove that it was the vehicle which killed Barry Levins. Still, from time to time Corley cannot help but wonder what goes on in the mind of someone who could deliberately run a man down in cold blood and then drive away “I have always felt that sooner or later his conscience would get the best of him and he would contact us. We are not looking for revenge and I’m sure the family feels the same way. We all want closure. All we want is to have him come forward; confess that he panicked after hitting Barry and deal with the matter. The fact that he has not had a criminal conviction for anything since then would work in his favour.” Barry Levins mother speaks for everyone to whom Barry meant much. “Every day I pray that there is still hope that the man who did this will repent and come forward.” George Barry Levins is buried in Rosewood Memorial Gardens. | Foot Care For Seniors Assante Mobile Nurses, Certified Foot Care WEALTH MANAGEMENT 725.2300 * ! BLUE CROSS Darrell Juliak, CFP Financial Planning Advisor Assante Financial Management Ltd. 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