Canadian True Crime - 146 Brampton High School Shootings

Episode Date: October 7, 2023

In 1975, a teenager walked into his high school carrying two rifles in a black guitar case.This is the story of the first ever mass shooting at a secondary school in Canada, and how it spurred changes... to Canadian firearms laws.More info:1975 SCHOOL SHOOTING: "There were not words to describe this sort of thing..." - Brampton GuardianA TRAGEDY’S LONG SHADOW - Toronto StarBrampton Centennial has built a memorial to help the 1975 school shooting survivors heal - CBC NewsGiveaway: Hot Docs Podcast Festival - Creators ForumTo support local creators in podcasting, Canadian True Crime has teamed up with Acast to give away five (5) Creators Passes to the Hot Docs Podcast Festival 2023 Creators Forum - October 19 and 20.More details and how to enter - deadline is end of day Tuesday, October 10Podcast recommendation:Severed Affair: The Gruesome Murder of Shad Thyrion, a Law&Crime OriginalCanadian True Crime donates monthly to help those facing injustice.This month we have donated to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, who offer support, research and education to survivors, victims and their families.Learn more at ad-free and early:CTC premium feeds are available on Amazon Music (included with Prime), Apple Podcasts, Patreon and Supercast, giving you access 24 hours early without the ads. Please note: case-based episodes will always be available to all, we will never put them exclusively behind a paywall.Full list of resources, information sources, credits and music credits:See the page for this episode at Hosted on Acast. See for more information.

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Starting point is 00:03:07 Please take care when listening. Hi there, I hope you're well. Today's episode is about a mass shooting in a secondary school, a disturbing series of events that should be far more well-known than what it is today, for reasons we'll get into. This episode has been pieced together from news archives and investigation reports later released publicly by the police. Our sincere condolences to anyone listening who was impacted by this tragic event.
Starting point is 00:03:37 Just a few updates before we get started, including a giveaway and a podcast recommendation. But first, thank you so much to those who took the time to send in positive feedback about our recent series on Legacy Christian Academy and the opioid crisis. We really appreciate it. Obviously, they were both still developing stories, a bit different to what we usually do, so that's why we release them over the summer when we're usually taking it a bit easy. Now, because of this and a bunch of other things happening in the background, today's episode had to be delayed, but thanks for your patience and stay tuned for our annual case updates episode coming up before the end of the year, where it will also respond to some of the
Starting point is 00:04:19 most recent feedback. The next thing is that I'm excited to tell you about the Hot Docs Podcast Festival, which features an amazing lineup of podcasts on stage October 19-22 in Toronto. And this year I'm part of the Creator's Forum, a two-day event for anyone in podcasting looking to hone their craft. My session is on Thursday October 19 19, from 4 to 5 pm, and it's called How to Build a Homegrown Indie Hit, a case study with Canadian True Crimes Christy Lee in partnership with ACAST. This is the first time I've said yes to anything like this since before the pandemic. I'm a bit of a hermit, and I look forward to going behind the scenes to share what I've learned
Starting point is 00:05:04 on my very bumpy journey, producing an amateur passion project that turned into one of Canada's top indie podcasts. To access my session and all the other sessions in the creators forum, you'll need a creators pass, and we're excited to team up with our friends at ACAST to offer five of them as a special giveaway to support local creators in the podcast space. But you have to get in fast because we close entries end of day, Tuesday, October 10. Entry is super easy and no purchases required. For full details, see the show notes or go to to slash hot docs. That's H-O-T-D-O-C-S. I also wanted to tell you about a new law
Starting point is 00:05:50 and crime original podcast called Seved of Fair, the gruesome murder of Shad Varyon, about a particularly heinous crime committed last year by a 25-year-old woman who has been hitting the headlines lately, dubbed Lady Dahmer and The Laughing Killer by the Press, Taylor Shebusiness woman who has been hitting the headlines lately. Dubbed Lady Dahmer and the laughing killer by the press, Taylor Shebusiness and the details of her crime shocked even the most hardened investigators and left new rookies traumatized. Using law and crimes, exclusive audio and
Starting point is 00:06:17 court footage, severed a fair piece is together the full picture of this disturbing case to form an in-depth narrative. It's also been written by Eileen McFarlane and Emily Thompson, who've also written for this podcast. You can listen to Severed Affair, the gruesome murder of Shad Therion, exclusively an ad-free on Wundery Plus, join Wundery Plus in the Wundery app or on Apple Podcasts, and stay tuned for the end of today's episode to hear a trailer. And with that, it's on with the show.
Starting point is 00:06:55 Located in the northwest of the Greater Toronto area is Canada's ninth largest city, Brampton. Described as dynamic and vibrant with a proud past and bright future, Brampton today is one of the most diverse cities in Canada. It boasts more than 850 parks and green spaces, a booming manufacturing and business sector, and a population of about 600,000 people. But more than 40 years ago, Brampton had only just been incorporated as a city, with a population just shy of 100,000 people. At the time, it was known as the Flower Town of Canada, thanks to its thriving greenhouse
Starting point is 00:07:41 industry and annual flower festival. But Brampton would also become known as the location of the first ever mass shooting at a secondary school in Canada. It's an ordinary Wednesday, May 28th of 1975, and Margaret Wright has just arrived at Brampton Centennial Secondary School, where she's finishing her first year of teaching art in English. 25-year-old Margaret is a talented artist originally from Montreal, and she'd met her future husband Dave Wright in Nova Scotia, where she attended University.
Starting point is 00:08:29 After their wedding, the couple moved to the greater Toronto area, so that Margaret could complete her final education qualification at the University of Toronto. And then, she started her first teaching job at Brampton Centennial Secondary School. But after two years living in the province of Ontario, the couple had decided it wasn't for them. Dave felt incredibly homesick for the Maritimes, and Margaret's parents had since retired to New Brunswick, so they decided it made sense to move back to the place they met,
Starting point is 00:09:06 Halifax Nova Scotia. In fact, Dave had already moved ahead of Margaret to get a head start on the job hunt. He just secured a job in hotel management. Everything was set for Margaret to join him there after the school year ended. There was just a month to go. In fact, she just returned from a weekend trip there to look for teaching jobs. At Brampton Centennial Secondary School, Margaret is known as Mrs. Wright, a warm and engaged art and English teacher focused on seeing her students reach their potential. That Wednesday morning Mrs. Wright finds some quiet time during a mid-morning break to pick up the phone. She'd been keeping an eye on one of her students who was cutting class
Starting point is 00:09:59 and dials the number of his mother at home to see if anything was up. number of his mother at home to see if anything was up. That same morning, 16-year-old Michael Slobodian had walked to school with his best friend Steve. After attending first period math, Michael skipped his second period physics class and walked back home with his older sister Donna. The pair arrived home at about 10.40 a.m. to find their mother Lillian washing dishes. She pauses to say hi, and casually mentions to Michael about the phone call she'd received from his English teacher Mrs. Wright, who said he'd been cutting class. Lillian asks her son what he thought about the situation.
Starting point is 00:10:48 Michael slumps over at the kitchen table, and readily admits he'd cut a few English classes. But he offers an excuse for the most recent one. He'd misplaced an English essay and didn't want to go without it. He promises his mother he'll hand over the essay and explain it properly to Mrs. Wright when he sees her in class that afternoon. Lillian is satisfied with that response and Michael heads down to his bedroom in the basement. About 45 minutes later, Lillian hears him call out, okay, mom, I'm leaving, I'll see you later,
Starting point is 00:11:27 as he exits out the side door. She glances out the front window and sees her son walking down the driveway. He's carrying the soft black guitar case he often takes to school for band practice, but today, it does not have a guitar in it. Back at Brampton's and Teniel's secondary school, the 1135 Bale rings throughout the halls, as classroom doors open and students start flooding out into the hallway. Three students head straight for the boys' washroom, all entering at around the same time.
Starting point is 00:12:33 Nineteen-year-old Michael Jibou sees there's only one other person in the room, in the end cubicle, standing on top of the toilet bowl. He takes a few steps and is confronted with the site of Michael Slibodian, described as short for his age at 5-5 inches tall, with black hair cut short, a brown jacket and a green beret. Slibodian is holding a rifle that he appears to be loading. Another rifle is slung around his back. What looks to be a soft black guitar case is on the floor. When Slibodeon sees Michael Gibo, he tells him to put his hands up
Starting point is 00:13:15 and get into the corner. As Michael laughs nervously, hoping the whole thing was a joke, Slibodeon notices there are two other boys in the washroom. He grips his rifle and aims it at 17-year-old lifeguard John Slinger, ordering him to put his hands up or he'll have his head blown off. John turns around just as Slybodian pulls the trigger, striking the teenager in the back, twice. John falls to the floor. The other student, 16-year-old Richard Shatterack, opens the door to exit the washroom, but Slobodian fires, sending him stumbling outside into the hallway. He fires several times at Michael Jibot, who collapses in the doorway.
Starting point is 00:14:08 Armed with two rifles, Slobodians simply steps over Michael to get out of the washroom into the hallway corridor. Lunch break has just begun. School shootings are practically unheard of at the time, and because it happens so fast, no one can figure out what was going on in the chaos. As a later article by Roger Belgray for the Brampton Guardian would state, the exact sequence of events gathered from witnesses gets somewhat blurred in the fog of Mayhem that ensued. Sibodian starts spraying the area with bullets as several more students fall to the floor, including 16-year-old Jeff Rogers who was shot in the abdomen.
Starting point is 00:15:02 Gripping his rifle, Sibodian continues down the hallway, firing at random in the abdomen. Gripping his rifle, Slavonian continues down the hallway, firing at random in the general direction of a home economics classroom. Some students wonder if it's a dramatic retelling as part of a history lesson, a firecracker prank or perhaps a car back firing. Other students are moaning in pain or screaming in terror. There's a lot of blood. One of the students close by that day is Scott Thompson, who would go on to achieve
Starting point is 00:15:33 national fame as part of the sketch comedy show Kids in the Hall. Scott knows Michael Slibodian. He sits in front of him and misses Wright's English class and lives down the street from him. He finds himself walking the halls alone, hearing the firecracker sounds, but not knowing what to do. All of a sudden, a teacher pops his head out of a nearby classroom and tells Scott to get the hell in here.
Starting point is 00:16:02 He joins the other students hiding in the classroom, as Michael Slobodian comes into view. Out in the hall, another student catches sight of Slobodian and watches as he pauses to kneel on the ground. Slobodian has been using a 22 using a 22 caliber Ruger semi-automatic rifle up until now. Considered a favorite for target shooting and the hunting of small game like rabbits and fessons. But now, he puts that rifle on the ground and grabs the other one slung around his back. A 444 Marlin lever action rifle.
Starting point is 00:16:46 It's a powerful military style firearm recommended for hunting large game like deer and moose. The 444 is known for its knock down power. As if Slobodian realises he's being watched, he suddenly turns around and looks directly into the student's eyes. That student waste no time in running for cover. Gripping his powerful rifle, Michael Slobodian continues through a hallway and fires randomly in the area of the school's cafeteria, wounding more students. Defning screams can be heard as some students fall to the floor, while others run in all directions in a panic as gun smoke fills the area.
Starting point is 00:17:35 One of the gunshots pieces a steel door, sending pieces of shrapnel flying in the direction of several students. Induring Sylvia Meister, Karen Sprag, Branda Whiteendorf, and Beverly Bairdot all aged between 15 and 18. Slobodian fires again at 17-year-old Jennifer Mather. The bullet goes into her leg, breaking her bone. Promising hockey player Greg Kier, also 17, is hiding around the corner and chooses the wrong time to peer around to see what's happening. Sibodeon fires again, smashing the bones in his left elbow.
Starting point is 00:18:19 Greg flees to the nurse's office and is joined by two other students who were also hit, 15-year-old Jane Thornton who had sustained a gunshot wound to her right thigh and Susan Winkleroth, 14, who was shot in her left foot. When the shooting first started in the washroom, Mrs Margaret Wright was in room 104, the art room, supervising two students who were retaking their English exam. When they heard what sounded like firecracker noises coming from down the hall, Mrs Wright covered her ears. Now, 17-year-old Dean Naden and 19-year-old Ernie Nichols want to go out to the hall and see what's happening, but Mrs. Wright is adamant about them staying in the classroom where it's safe.
Starting point is 00:19:14 She has no idea that the danger will find them. Dean Naden wasn't quite sure what the initial noises were, but after a few seconds of silence, he suddenly hears a new noise that he recognizes, the sound of a 444 rifle. He had no way of knowing that Slobodian had just switched rifles, but as an avid hunter himself, Dean knows that it's a serious firearm known to leave a small entrance wound but causes a massive explosion in whatever it hits. This is no firecracker. Dean starts to get very nervous. He then sees Michael Slobodian slide up to the classroom's doorway, gripping the rifle. Dean recognizes him instantly.
Starting point is 00:20:07 They live just across the street from each other. He expected whoever was wielding the 444 to look angry, but Slobodian seems scared. Mrs. Wright walks toward the classroom door in front of her students, as Slobodian looks at her. Dean hears her call out, Mike, and then sees fire come out of the muzzle of the 444. Dean dives to the floor, and Mrs. Wright starts to turn, but she's struck by a bullet in the back that exits at the front of her chest. The bullet continues into Dean Naden's hip, lodging in his spine. Slibodeon fires again straight into the hip of 19-year-old Ernie Nichols.
Starting point is 00:20:58 By this point, the classroom and the hallway outside is filled with the sounds of people screaming in terror. Gripping the 444, Slobodian exits the art room and moves down the smoke-filled hall, back towards the washrooms where it all started. And then, Dean Naden hears one more unmistakable shot from down the hall. It would be the final one that day. In less than five minutes, Michael Slobodian had managed to terrorise the entire school and injure 15 people. The first person shot in the washroom was 17-year-old lifeguard John Slinger.
Starting point is 00:21:45 shot in the washroom was 17-year-old lifeguard John Slinger. His mother Pat Slinger happened to be at the school that day, taking two classes as a mature-aged student. She was in the parking lot just as the shooting spree started. As a flood of students start running out of the building, screaming that someone had a gun, Pat feelously runs inside to offer assistance to the injured. She might be a mature student, but she's also a trained first aid instructor. She first comes across a boy lying on his stomach in a pool of blood, with at least one rifle and several spent shells lying on the ground. She kneels
Starting point is 00:22:27 down to see if there's anything she can do to help, but quote, there was no head. 16-year-old Michael Slobodian had ended his rampage by turning the 444 on himself. Seeing there was nothing she could do, Pat runs into Room 104, the arts room, where she encounters an extremely distressing sight. 25-year-old teacher Margaret Wright is lying on the floor, still conscious, with blood pouring out of a chest wound so large that Pat can't even cover it with her entire hand. As two other teachers run in and start performing CPR on Margaret, Pat administers first aid to Dean Naden and Ernie Nichols, who are lying nearby with their own serious gunshot injuries.
Starting point is 00:23:22 Pat Slinger has no idea that her own son has also been shot. She's tragically unaware that John is lying just meters away, bleeding to death in the nearby boy's washroom. The police arrive within minutes, observing students running in all directions from the school, screaming and yelling. They soon come across the body of Michael Slobodian in the hallway and learn that he was the lone perpetrator. His rampage was over at least, but all the injured people need urgent medical attention. Peel Memorial Hospital calls in all available doctors as ambulances rush over to Brampton Centennial Secondary School, Syron's Blazing. The premier of Ontario is also on his way to the school.
Starting point is 00:24:20 Just five years beforehand, Premier William Bill Davis had created the Provinces Educational Television Network, now known as TVO. But that Wednesday in 1975, he's not rushing to the school in his capacity as Premier. He is the father of one of the students who attended it. Davis had been in the legislative building at Toronto's Queens Park when he was alerted to the shooting. As he's hurried to the school, he receives confirmation on the way
Starting point is 00:24:55 that his 15-year-old daughter Kathy is safe and uningered. Hours later, premier Davis would give a statement describing the incident as a shock to all, quote, with a directly or not, we all share the sense of tragedy and a grave sense of wonder and concern as to why something like this should happen in our community. Why was the big question? The police wasted no time in starting the lengthy task of interviewing eye witnesses and those who knew Michael Slobodion to figure out exactly
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Starting point is 00:26:19 Michael Slobodian had managed to injure 15 people that day, some of them critically. English teacher Margaret Wright and student John Slinger were among the first rushed appeal memorial hospital for emergency surgery. Margaret was reportedly fully conscious when she arrived at the hospital, and the fact that she was able to make conversation with doctors gave them hope that after emergency surgery she might pull through. But at about 12.50 pm, just over an hour after the shootings, Margaret Evelin Wright was pronounced dead.
Starting point is 00:26:59 Her injuries were just too severe. Slobodian had shot her in the back with his powerful 444 rifle, fracturing two ribs and piercing her lung, diaphragm, liver, spleen, pancreas and kidney. The bullet then exited out of her chest, leaving a catastrophic wound that was three inches in diameter. The 25-year-old English and art teacher would never join her husband, Dave, in Nova Scotia as they planned. The bullet that killed Margaret Wright then entered her student, Dean Naden, on his left side. By this point, Dean was in an ambulance being transported to the hospital, accompanied
Starting point is 00:27:47 by John Singer's mother, Pat. She had been helping and comforting anyone who needed it, completely unaware that her own son had also been shot. It was only once she got into the ambulance that she asked another teacher to check if John was okay. After the ambulance arrived at the hospital, a nurse came up to Pat and handed her a wallet. It belonged to her son. She was given the devastating news that not only was John the first person shot, but he passed away on the operating table. Seventeen-year-old John Bowick Slinger had been shot twice in the back with a 22-caliber
Starting point is 00:28:31 semi-automatic rifle, lacerating his heart. He didn't even know Michael Slobodian, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the very wrong time. Ambulances pulled into the hospital with the other injured students, including the two who were in the washroom with John slinger that morning. Sixteen-year-old Richard Shattererck had sustained a chest injury that caused extensive bleeding in the upper abdomen, and doctors were concerned that he may have tore along. He was in a stable condition, but he would develop jaundice after his first surgery,
Starting point is 00:29:16 and would need a second surgery to drain an abscess in his lung. Nineteen-year-old Michael Gibo had suffered four gunshot wounds in the abdomen and was also shot in the arm, causing a wound so big that a surgeon was able to put his finger through it. Doctors determined that Michael might lose his gall bladder. Also in critical condition was 19-year-old Ernie Nichols, who was in the art room with Mrs. Wright. Slebotian shot him through the hip, shattering his thigh bone, breaking his pelvis in two places, ripping apart his bladder and injuring his bowels and other organs.
Starting point is 00:29:59 Ernie was in bad shape and would face more than 20 surgeries. The bullet that exited Mrs. Wright's chest had continued into the left side of 17-year-old Dean Naden, who was determined to be in stable condition and expected to recover without serious complications. The other injured students were treated at the hospital in stable condition, but some of them were facing permanent injuries and scars. When it came to Michael Slobodian, a forensic assessment would determine that he died from massive destruction of the brain.
Starting point is 00:30:40 The police found he had loaded himself up with ammunition, but most of it hadn't been used. The investigation would reveal that a total of 15 rounds were fired from both rifles, but there were another 50 bullets stuffed into his pockets that he never used. It appeared that the 16-year-old had been planning for a prolonged attack, but chose to die by suicide after just a few minutes before the police even arrived. The terror he inflicted on the school was unimaginable as it was, but it could have been so much worse. Michael Sloboady was the youngest child of four from a family known to be into hunting and fishing.
Starting point is 00:31:30 The police had started interviewing eye witnesses and anyone who knew or encountered him at school. He was commonly described as quiet, nice, easy going, average and every respect, someone who generally kept to himself and wasn't much into the usual social or extracurricular activities. Michael's personal finance teacher told police that he was an excellent student with marks in the 90s and was an active participant in class. It seemed that no one had any inkling that he might have been planning for a mass shooting or to end his life.
Starting point is 00:32:10 So what went wrong? Michael had a few close friends who told police he had an intense interest in guns. Some of his teachers knew about it as well, because as part of his school woodwork class, Michael had made a gun rack and ammunition holder. If this raised any flags, they likely dissipated when he made something unrelated to firearms for his next woodwork project. Later that afternoon, the press started descending on the street the Slebotian family lived on, looking for answers from whoever would speak to them.
Starting point is 00:32:52 Some neighbors said that father Peter Slebotian had recently suffered two heart attacks and was off work while he waited for scheduled open heart surgery. They were worried about the impact this news might have on his health. Teenagers from the neighborhood eagerly spoke to the press about Michael, describing him as a loner and a karate expert who didn't have much time for girls. They reportedly used to call him priest because of their perception that he acted in an aloof, solitary kind of way. One teenage neighbor spoke of Michael in glowing terms, adding that he wouldn't have believed a word of what happened because the Slybodian family were very nice neighbors.
Starting point is 00:33:42 Michael was known to be close to his older sister Donna and was seen spending a lot of time talking to her. When reporters knocked on the front door of the Slebotian family home, it was 18-year-old Donna who came out to speak with them. She was photographed with long, dark hair parted down the middle, large wire-rimmed glasses, a brown and orange-patent mini-dress, and a haunted stare. She answered the questions in as little words as possible, describing Michael as a talented guitar player and drummer who loved music, particularly James Taylor and John Denver.
Starting point is 00:34:25 Donna said her brother was also self-conscious about his height, and wore platform boots to make himself appear taller than his five feet five inches. She confirmed he knew all about guns, quote, "'My father and he go on hunting trips all the time. Some reporters would point out that she was speaking about her brother as though he was still alive. Donna Slebotian was clearly in a state of shock. At one point, their mother Lillian came to the door of the home and asked Donna to come
Starting point is 00:35:03 back inside, insinuating to the gathered press that they should have some consideration for what the family was going through. But Donna was dismissive, saying, �It doesn't bother me to talk about it.� The reporters continued to fire off questions, and she told them that about a week earlier, Michael had asked her how to quit school, and she told him to � a week earlier, Michael had asked her how to quit school and she told him to, forget it, you don't want to quit. Donna told the press how the family first learned about the shooting.
Starting point is 00:35:36 After arriving home with Michael, she'd gone to her room to lie down. Her father, Peter Slobodian, was at home as well, off work while he waited for scheduled heart surgery. He suddenly heard the sound of multiple ambulance alarms and turned on the radio. That's how he first heard there'd been a shooting at Brampton Centennial Secondary School. Donna told the press that her father went into Michael's basement bedroom, where he found a note on the dresser. He then woke her up. She said that in the note, her brother wrote that he loved his family, but he was fed up with life, so he was going to
Starting point is 00:36:19 eliminate people and kill himself. Peter Slobodian called the police to let them know about the note and rushed over to the school with Donna. They arrived to a scene of chaos with wounded students being carried out. It's not known at what point the family learned that Michael had died by suicide. But Donna told reporters that her mother Lillian became so distressed that they had to call the family doctor to sedate her. The information Michael Sister and neighbors gave to reporters was eagerly consumed by a hungry public, but it didn't satisfy their need to know why exactly a grade 11 student
Starting point is 00:37:03 would suddenly decide to go on a rampage at his own high school. A police spokesperson told the press that investigators had examined Michael Slobodian's school records, but found nothing that might help explain why he did what he did. Soon, there would be dozens of investigators looking into it. In the wake of the Wednesday shootings, Brampton's Centennial Secondary School was closed for the rest of the week. Flag's flew at half-master across the city in memory of Margaret Wright and John Slinger, and the terror everyone had experienced.
Starting point is 00:37:48 There was reportedly a great deal of compassion also offered to the Slobodian family, who of course also suffered a loss and were clearly beside themselves. Become Monday, the school reopened and it was business as usual. But come Monday, the school reopened and it was business as usual. When the first bell rang and classes got underway, Principal William Springle delivered a message to students over the broadcast system. In this earthly existence, we may never unravel the mystery that led to the tragedy that be fell us last week. The principal acknowledged that the students might have a fearful feeling
Starting point is 00:38:26 about the school, but he pointed out that there was just a month left of the school year with exams still to come. Students wore black arm bands to commemorate the tragedy, but they were expected to attend classes and resume their normal activities. The press reported that the school was eerily silent. Students were quiet and contemplative. No one raised their voices, no one laughed. There was nothing to laugh about. Other than that announcement from the principal, there was little acknowledgement of the immense trauma
Starting point is 00:39:03 everyone had suffered, and how it might affect them moving forward. And there was still visible evidence of what happened all over the school. While there had been cleanup over the weekend, it would have been impossible to eradicate all signs of what had happened. Bullet holes could be seen in some of the lockers and walls. One student saw some blood behind a water tank in the boys' washroom where the rampage started. Some students reported they tried to go into Margaret Wright's art classroom that day,
Starting point is 00:39:38 but left straight away. It just didn't feel right. These days, there would be social workers, grief counselors, psychologists, and other professionals brought in to assist anyone affected by the shooting, in dealing with their shock and grief. Students would be encouraged to take time off as needed. But this was the mid-1970s. Research in mental health and the impact of trauma on the human psyche was still in its early stages, especially when it came to young people. The authorities believed that the best way to move on was to simply move on. An unspoken code of silence. As the investigation continued, Margaret Wright's body was flown to Hampton, New Brunswick, where her family lived. Margaret's 19-year-old sister Nancy told the press that her sister was such a warm person. Quote, she believed in getting
Starting point is 00:40:43 involved with her students and they really liked her for that. Nancy couldn't believe that just a year into her teaching career, her sister had actually been killed by one of her students. A funeral was held for Margaret on May 31st. Photo showed her devastated family looking on as her coffin was lowered into the ground. Margaret Wright's friends, neighbors and work colleagues all gave glowing reports of her to the press, describing her as someone who was small and gentle, intelligent, an excellent teacher who showed genuine concern for her students. They described her as a talented artist teaching art who would privately sold some of her own works. 17-year-old John Slinger was the middle of three children with an older brother at military college. The day of John's death, his parents and sister
Starting point is 00:41:46 had no choice but to drive up to Canadian forces' base boarden, where he was stationed north of Toronto, to deliver the devastating news in person. John Slinger was a hospital volunteer, a key member of the school orchestra, and a Joker who was known for his Donald Duck impersonation, according to a later CBC News report. His parents, Pat and Burwick, told the press that just the day before the shooting, he had discussed donating his body to science in case of his death. It wasn't possible to salvage any of John's vital organs because of his injuries, but his family announced that his eyes had been donated to the Toronto Eye Bank. Through tears,
Starting point is 00:42:35 Pat described her son as such a lovable rap skeleton. Less than a month after the Brampton Centennial Secondary School shootings, an Inquest was held in the school's auditorium to get to the bottom of what happened and why. Ontario's chief coroner opened by telling the Inquest jury that its task was to explain the shooting to the community, taking into consideration Michael Slobodian's behaviour and emotional state before the incident. The coroner also urged them to look into the serious problem of gun control and make recommendations to help prevent similar incidents in the future. In the month after the shooting, the attention of parents and the wider community soon turned
Starting point is 00:43:27 to the issue of guns. Parents started turning their guns into police, saying they didn't want them around their homes any longer, or almost 7,000 people signed a petition requesting tighter gun control laws. But first, the Inquest jury heard testimony from dozens of eye witnesses, including from teachers and students, police, and doctors about what happened that day.
Starting point is 00:43:56 The jury members saw the washroom, walked through the school, and stood right on the spot that Slobodians' body was found. So much had happened in such a short period of time, with multiple accounts from different angles that had proved impossible to lock down the exact sequence of events in Michael Slobodians' rampage. A scene of horror is how it was described by a young coroner who arrived at the school soon after the shootings.
Starting point is 00:44:28 He then provided the jury with updates about where the injured students were at with their recovery to take into consideration. Richard Shatterack and Michael Gibo, who were shot alongside John Slinger in the washroom, were still in hospital. So too was Ernie Nichols, who were shot at the same time as Mrs. Wright. They were experiencing a multitude of complications as a result of their injuries. Michael Slebotian had done quite a number on them. Other injured students had been released from hospital, but the inquest
Starting point is 00:45:06 jury heard that some of them would be permanently injured and scarred. Jennifer Mayther had been shot in the leg, breaking her bone and tearing her calf muscles. She was left with a 4-inch wound. There was also promising hockey player Greg Kier, who suffered a severe bullet wound in his left arm, shattering his bones. He would face at least four surgeries and would never play hockey again. The rest of the injured students were all reportedly recovering as expected, physically at least. But when it came to psychological recovery, there just wasn't enough known about mental health and trauma at the time,
Starting point is 00:45:52 so there were almost no details given for the jury to factor into their assessment. A key focus of the inquest was of course determining a motive for the shooting, and the jury heard testimony from those closest to Michael Slobodian, including his mother, sister, and best friend. They would also learn more about that suicide note he left behind. Lillian Slobodian described her son as a beautiful boy who was a bit sensitive and wanted to be
Starting point is 00:46:26 a doctor. She told the Inquest jury he would go out of his way to do anything for anybody and never expected anything in return. She recounted that about six months before the shootings, just before Christmas, some of Michael's grades were low, which concerned him. But by the end of the second term, he'd made a dramatic improvement. Lillian said her son experienced normal disappointments, but he did not experience any special
Starting point is 00:46:58 emotional views about school. She had no inkling of what must have been going on in his mind and said he had so many future plans. As an example, just weeks before the shootings, Michael had been accepted into the lawn scots, a reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces, pending security and other checks. He had already chopped off his long shaggy hair into the classic army crew cut in preparation. Joining the military would likely have been seen as future planning, a good sign. But could it have been an indicator of something else. in the Ubra, Uber Tina counts. Invite your teen to join your Ubra account today, available in select locations.
Starting point is 00:48:05 See out for details. At the inquest, Michael's best friend, Steve Kipfer, testified that he was actually at the Slobodian home the night before the shootings. Michael showed him the guns and said he wanted to hide his 22 caliber Ruger semi-automatic rifle in his guitar case and take it to a nearby creek for target practice. Steve said that he refused because he was scared they might get caught, but he noticed that the 22 caliber rifle was fully loaded and told his friend to be careful.
Starting point is 00:48:52 He told the jury that Michael dismissed the concern, saying that the safety was on. The next morning, it was that fateful Wednesday, and Steve said that the pair walked to school together. Michael appeared happy and talked about girls. Steve testified to knowing that Michael cut classes, and sometimes forged his father's name on the notes to explain his absence. He even showed Steve one of the absence notes, saying that his teacher's jaw would drop when she saw it. The contents of that note was not disclosed, but the Inquest jury heard Michael had forged about 30 separate notes from his mother, father, and doctors, with various reasons for why
Starting point is 00:49:44 he was absent from class. His mother Lillian said she was completely unaware of the notes. She recounted her phone conversation with Mrs. Wright that morning about Michael cutting classes. And then, about 20 minutes later, Michael arrived home with his sister, Donna. His mother told the jury that she broached the topic of cutting classes with her son, casually, quote, I don't have the habit of nailing my kid to the wall.
Starting point is 00:50:17 Michael admitted he'd been cutting classes and promised his mother that he'd talk to Mrs. Wright later that day. His 18-year-old sister Donna told the jury that he seemed perfectly fine on the war comb, teasing her like every brother does. Nothing out of the ordinary about his behaviour. But that changed when they arrived home and their mother Lillian told him about the phone call she'd received from Mrs. Wright about cutting English classes. Michael hated English according to his sister, and this conversation made him upset.
Starting point is 00:50:57 He then disappeared into his basement bedroom for about 45 minutes before returning to school. The inquest heard that during Michael's 45 minutes in his bedroom, he took two cases of shells and loaded his two rifles, then filled his pockets with all the extra ammunition. He reportedly had a third rifle that he chose to leave behind in his bedroom. Investigators found what appeared to be drafts of several suicide notes that he wrote. One of them read,
Starting point is 00:51:34 Another one was addressed to his parents and family, he wrote, The jury was shown the full final version of the suicide note that Peter Slobodian found on the dresser in his son's basement bedroom. It read in full. To whom it may concern, my life is now gone to pot. I am going to eliminate certain people from this world. These people are Mrs. Wright and Mr. Bronson and any other sucker who gets in my way. I am then going to kill myself so as not to be imprisoned.
Starting point is 00:52:20 I am not insane but just strictly fed up of life. I am not getting myself anywhere strictly fed up of life. I am not getting myself anywhere and it's my fault. I love my parents and my family and I know that they love me. Michael, Teeter, Slobodian. As it turned out, Mrs Margaret Wright wasn't the only teacher on Michael Slobodian's hit list, but Mr. Ross Bronson was still alive. When he was informed that he was named alongside Mrs. Margaret Wright, he was shocked. He'd also been noticing that Michael had been cutting class, but he hadn't taken any action.
Starting point is 00:52:59 He didn't know why he was named on that suicide note, and he also didn't know why his life had been spared. In his initial police interview, Mr. Bronson said he generally considered Michael to be ordinary in average, but told investigators about a strange interaction in relation to a local science fair. He said Michael had arrived at school with his proposed entry. The hearts of 13 frogs in a box, with the explanation involving all the scientific ways he'd tried to resurrect the frogs after he killed them.
Starting point is 00:53:39 Mr. Bronson told Michael that the science fair frowned on experimenting with live animals, so there was no way his project would be accepted. That was the end of that. On one hand, it seemed that Mr. Bronson came very close to losing his life that day. After all, Michael Slybodean wrote his name on the note, loaded two rifles into the guitar case and filled his pockets with all that extra ammunition. But on the other hand, Mr. Bronson's classroom was on a completely different floor, a floor that Michael Slybodian never reached. He chose to die by suicide on the first floor just minutes into his rampage,
Starting point is 00:54:27 before the police had even been called, with all that ammunition still in his pocket. The only explanation seemed to be that he gave up or changed his mind. Mr. Bronson told the press that Michael was abnormally quiet and someone who kept too many things to himself. Quote, Obviously he was deranged. Obviously, it was something that developed in the quietness of his own mind. When it came to finding the suicide note on the dresser, there was no information given
Starting point is 00:55:06 about why, when Peter Slobodian heard on the radio that there was a shooter at the school, he was immediately prompted to go and check his son's basement bedroom. Did he know something about Michael's state of mind? Perhaps the most likely explanation is that Peter Slabodian knew his son had walked home from school, but didn't know he'd left out the side door. And when he heard about the shooting, his first thought may have been to check that Michael was still safe at home. There's no evidence that Peter testified at the Inquest, but a few days before it started, he told a Toronto star reporter that he didn't know why his son did what he did.
Starting point is 00:55:50 Quote, I knew my son. That wasn't him that morning. Maybe someone knows something we don't know. Maybe the Inquest will help parents be aware of some of the problems their children may be having. According to previous reports from the Canadian Press, several students suggested to reporters that Michael may have been upset because his bike was stolen and his driver's license
Starting point is 00:56:18 test was cancelled at late notice. But there's no evidence these incidents were even mentioned at the inquest. One of the lines of questioning was whether Michael may have been using any substances that might have contributed to his actions that day. His suicide note included the phrase, My Life has gone to pot, which some speculated may have been in reference to cannabis or marijuana ruining his life. But it's more likely that he was using an old expression that means something has deteriorated or become ruined beyond repair. His mother and sister testified that about two years beforehand, he told them he experimented
Starting point is 00:57:03 with cannabis and LSD, but decided it was a stupid thing to do and he'd learned his lesson. They were unaware of any substance use since then. Michael's best friend Steve was able to provide a few additional details. He testified that Michael used cannabis the weekend before the shootings. And a week before that, he said Michael got drunk on six beers and became obnoxious, breaking branches off a tree, and striking him with them. Michael apologized to Steve a few days later, and all seemed normal again. In any event, speculation about possible substance used turned out to be a moot point. The chief pathologist testified that a forensic study
Starting point is 00:57:53 found there were no drugs or alcohol in Michael Slobodian's system at the time of the shooting. He was not under the influence of any substance. There had also been speculation that perhaps his sudden rampage was caused by a brain tumor or something similar, but the pathologist testified that there was no evidence of that either. Two psychiatrists testified about a rudimentary forensic psychiatric assessment of Michael Slobodian, conducted through interviews with his family members, friends, and other students. His family gave their full cooperation, handing over all of his medical records. These psychiatrists found no evidence that Michael was, quote, mentally deranged or insane. He was just a teenager who needed to be accepted and liked.
Starting point is 00:58:52 They determined him to be a responsible boy who came from a cohesive background. But when looking back at various factors, they speculated that Michael may have had an underlying mental problem. They pointed out his unsatisfactory school attendance, the forging of absentee notes, and his apparent preoccupation with high academic achievement. The psychiatrist said they believed the symptom suggested Michael was subject to feelings of depression and sometimes a sense of inadequacy and ultimate failure, although they warned against attaching significance to any of the symptoms. They also challenged gun control laws and said the community of Brampton has been victimized
Starting point is 00:59:39 by the availability of powerful weapons, which ordinary families like the Slebotian family were able to stock up on. But at the end of the day, with the available mental health knowledge of the time, the psychiatrist weren't able to shed much light on what provoked Michael Slebotian to enact such violence on innocent people. of violence on innocent people. It really did seem as though that phone call from Mrs. Wright might not have been the cause of the rampage, but perhaps it was the last straw. The Slebotian family knew that Michael hated English class, and while the evidence suggests that he also hated his English teacher that day, it appears their relationship was more complex than that.
Starting point is 01:00:29 Mrs. Wright's husband Dave reportedly said that about three weeks before the shooting, his wife told him that Michael had come crying to her about his personal problems, saying he wasn't happy at home, His grandfather had passed away and his father had health issues. But while Lillian Slebotian did mention that Michael was extremely close to his grandfather, who passed away less than a month before the shootings, there was no special significance attached to it over and above any other factors. Michael's mother told the Inquest jury that she had to believe that only God and her son are the only ones who knew why he did what he did. John slinger's parents, Bearwick and Pat Slinger were to have the loudest voices
Starting point is 01:01:21 pushing for gun control laws. Pat told the jury that if incidents like these can't be prevented entirely, then efforts have to be made to try and lower the chances of them happening. She asked the jury to recommend stricter gun control measures and consider psychological screening of students. Quote, I feel our open society has changed greatly and with the change in needs, laws should also be changed. A Toronto police firearms registry spokesperson
Starting point is 01:01:55 told the jury that restricted firearms weren't the main problem. It was the fact that shotguns and rifles were so easily obtainable by teenagers. The Inquest jury made eight recommendations, most of them related to strict firearm controls. The only recommendation that wasn't was for the Ministry of Education to look into a school attendance recording system where excessive absences, like those demonstrated by Michael Slebotian, might be quickly apparent and possible problems exposed.
Starting point is 01:02:36 But the jury also concluded that tough gun control would likely not have stopped Michael Slebotian from packing two rifles in a guitar case and opening fire in his crowded school corridor. Because even if all their recommendations were implemented, Michael Slobodian would still have been considered an exemplary person to be in possession of a gun. After all, he was from a known hunting and fishing family. His father taught him to respect firearms, and both his rifles were legally purchased and owned. The 22-caliber Ruger semi-automatic rifle had been purchased by his father, and given to him as a 15th birthday
Starting point is 01:03:22 gift. Peter Slobodian probably didn't think that more than 18 months later, the teenager would use it to terrorise his school and kill an innocent student. English teacher Margaret Wright was killed by the other firearm, the 444 Marlin lever action rifle, which Michael turned on himself. That rifle was reportedly purchased by Michael in March of 1975, just two months before the mass shooting. Michael was 16 years old at the time, the legal age for obtaining a hunting license, and for purchasing a rifle or shotgun. hunting license and for purchasing a rifle or shotgun. He was able to walk into a sporting good store and buy one easily or order one from a catalog. The inquest jury heard that his stated reason for purchasing the firearm was to go moose hunting,
Starting point is 01:04:19 which fit with the fact that the 444 is a firearm generally considered to be for shooting large game at close quarters. Michael held multiple hunting licenses for a range of different game. He had taken multiple safety training courses and had written a series of examinations on gun handling, passing them all with flying colours. The jury was right. The Inquest wasn't able to provide a solid motive or explanation for Michael Slobodian's rampage that day, but there was predictable speculation that violence depicted in the media of the day may have had an influence on him. Of course, this was 1975. There were no Nintendo or PlayStation's or ultra-violent video games.
Starting point is 01:05:13 The available arcade games were pretty tame. And Marilyn Manson was but a six-year-old known as Brian Warner, living with his parents in Ohio. So fingers pointed at Stanley Kubrick's dystopian film A Clockwork Orange, which was being rolled out in Canadian cinemas in the spring of 1975, just a month or two before the shootings. The cult film is about an anti-social teenage gang who go on a rampage involving scenes of extreme graphic violence, which some critics believed might have inspired copycat crimes. And that wasn't all. There were two other events in the spring of 1975 that some believed may also have contributed to Slobodians mindset.
Starting point is 01:06:05 The Vietnam War came to a head at the end of April, with the fall of Saigon making international headlines. Many Canadians were glued to their TV screens to watch the news each night, and thanks to the very recent completion of a large television and radio platform you might know as the CN Tower, they were able to see better and clearer images involving the end of the Vietnam War. In the decades that followed, studies have consistently found little to no evidence that consuming violent media causes or inspires violent acts. But there has been a link established between violent media causes or inspires violent acts. But there has been a link established between violent media and an increase in aggression,
Starting point is 01:06:50 whether it be physical, verbal, emotional or otherwise. But that said, studies have also shown that extremely violent behavior never occurs when there is only one risk factor present, like watching violent media. A healthy, well-adjusted person is not likely to become a school shooter, just because they start consuming violent media. In the summer of 1975, John Slinger's parents, Bowick and Pat, took up the cause of gun control advocacy and traveled to Ottawa to meet politicians to discuss what could be done. They presented a petition to solicitor-general Warren Armand
Starting point is 01:07:37 and campaigned in other locations across Canada. And while they were given a positive reception, they were dismayed to see little actually being done about it. In just a few months after the Brampton School shooting, there was another school shooting, this time in Ottawa at the end of October 1975. It started with 18-year-old Robert Poulin raping and murdering his 17-year-old neighbor and classmate Kim Rabbo, who had reportedly turned down his romantic advances. He then took the 12-gauge shotgun he purchased from the local giant Tiger Store and brought
Starting point is 01:08:20 it to his school, St. Pius X, where he wounded six students before fatally turning the gun on himself. One of those injured students, 17-year-old Mark Hoff, battled for his life in hospital for a number of weeks before passing away of his injuries. Some believed that Robert Poulin had seen news reports about the Brampton Centennial School shootings and had been inspired. The push for tighter gun control increased, but the government was fighting a lengthy battle with firearms enthusiasts who were supported by the powerful National Rifle Association
Starting point is 01:09:02 lobbying group in the United States. 18 months later, there were some changes to firearms legislation introduced. The Federal 1977 Criminal Law Amendment Act banned fully automatic firearms, required dealers and retailers to keep mandatory records of all sales, and required anyone wanting to purchase a firearm to obtain a firearms acquisition certificate, which included a basic criminal record check. John Slinger's parents and others rallying for gun control were of course happy to see some progress, but they noted it was only a fraction of the changes they were advocating for, and still likely wouldn't have prevented either of those school shootings.
Starting point is 01:09:53 It would take more than another decade and another tragic mass shooting in Montreal before Canada would be spurred to implement major gun reforms. be spurred to implement major gun reforms. After the 1989 ECHO Polytechnic Massacre resulted in the murder of 14 women engineering students, Canada imposed new measures, including a 28-day waiting period for purchases. Restrictions on firearms that were not reasonably used in hunting, the creation of a long gun registry, mandatory safety training courses, more detailed background checks, and more. Since 1989, there have been a total of 11 shootings at a Canadian school or university, and seven mass shootings outside of education settings, resulting in the deaths of less than 80 people
Starting point is 01:10:47 including perpetrators. It's still too many, but it's a fraction of what it could have been. The slinger family reportedly moved to Alberta to live a more private life. They never spoke out publicly about their son or gun control again. Margaret Wright's husband David also preferred to live a private life. A year or two later, the media reported that the Ontario Criminal Injuries Compensation Board had awarded him almost $3,000 as well as $200 a month in compensation for his pain and suffering.
Starting point is 01:11:30 It was noted that he was financially dependent on his wife at the time of her death, and he never started his job in hotel management and wasn't able to work for quite some time afterwards. Many of the other students received compensation as well, including Ernie Nichols, who was retaking his English exam with Mrs. Wright that day when he was shot in the hip, shattering his bones and organs. His mother described his two years of pain and suffering, which saw him placed in traction, suffer abscesses on his abdomen and pelvis, and endure more than 20 surgeries. Ernie was left needing a cane to help him walk, and was awarded the maximum amount of
Starting point is 01:12:19 $175,000 in compensation, the largest amount given to anyone hurt in the shooting. Michael Jibot was shot in the washroom, receiving four bullet wounds to the abdomen and one in a vein in his arm. According to a later interview with Catherine Ford for Southam News, Michael would recount that his recovery took four years and several plastic surgeries. In decades later, when he was diagnosed with cancer, doctors determined that pieces of lead from the bullets that were still in his body were a key contributor, according to a 2015 article for the Toronto Star by Eric Andrew G. Michael Gibot passed away in 2013. While many students were left with scars and physical injuries that would never properly heal,
Starting point is 01:13:22 a great deal more grappled with psychological scars. In that same Toronto Star article, former students recalled that it almost seemed to boo to talk about what had happened that day. They found their parents and teachers were hesitant to discuss it, because no one knew what to say. no one had any experience dealing with anything like that. So the only way to move forward was to leave it behind and bury their feelings. When they found themselves being unexpectedly affected by loud noises or the sound of popping balloons or firecrackers, and when they had painful flashbacks they couldn't control, they didn't know what it meant. PTSD didn't become a mental health diagnosis until 1980, and would take
Starting point is 01:14:13 decades longer for it to reach mainstream public awareness. Everything changed with the advent of social media. A Facebook group was created for those affected by the Brampton Centennial School shootings, where students were able to reconnect and discuss their experiences, and the way it affected them afterwards. Former student Pam Hand would tell Mike Wise of CBC News that the Facebook group sparked an outpouring of emotion. Quote, We all just realized we had some huge, unhealed wounds that needed healing. Many of them had spent years, decades, wondering why Michael Slibodian did what he did that day,
Starting point is 01:14:58 and what it all meant. Eventually, they had to accept that there are some questions that have no answers. Perhaps, it was as simple as a teenager who finds himself in mental distress, with a brain that hasn't matured yet, no knowledge of mental health, no access to social supports, no healthy coping mechanisms, and too easy access to powerful firearms. In 2015, Pam Hand and other former student volunteers organized a memorial service to mark the 40th anniversary of the shootings. And after that, they worked hard to raise thousands of dollars to commission a permanent memorial. Two years later in 2017, the Healing Place sculpture by artist Mary Ellen Farrow was unveiled
Starting point is 01:15:58 outside Brampton Centennial Secondary School. The stone sculpture depicts one person consoling another on one bench, with two other benches for students to sit on, displaying the following message. On Wednesday, May 28, 1975, all of us learn to love each other just a little bit more. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode we'd love for you to tell a friend or leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. For the full list of resources
Starting point is 01:16:44 we relied on to write this episode and anything else you want to know about the podcast, visit The podcast donates monthly to those facing injustice. This month we have donated to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, who offer support, research and education to survivors, victims and their families. Learn more at Audio editing and production was by We Talk of Dreams, who also composed the theme songs.
Starting point is 01:17:21 Production assistance was by Jesse Hawke, with script consulting by Carol Weinberg, research, writing, narration and sound design was by me, and the disclaimer was voiced by Eric Crosby. I'll be back soon with another Canadian True Crime episode. See you then. Wisconsin has had more than its fair share of horrific murders and high-profile criminal cases, from the notorious Jeffrey Dahmer to the gruesome Ed Geen. On a cold night in February 2022, another name was added to the list of Wisconsin's worst, Taylor Shab a business.
Starting point is 01:18:05 Teri had woke me up, says she found my son's head in a bucket. I'm downfounded. Didn't believe her. I thought she was having a mental issue or something. From the outset, the details of the case shocked even the most hardened detectives and traumatized young rookies. If we could get more answers sooner rather than the minute that we appreciate, we've got quite
Starting point is 01:18:28 a bit of blood down here. Law and crime has reported on the case from the beginning. Using Law and Crime's gavill-to-gavill coverage, we've woven an in-depth narrative. I went down stairs. I went at the bottom of the stairs to the right. There was a green bucket with a shower towel on top of it. Lifted the towel off, and there was, in fact, a human severed head in the bucket.
Starting point is 01:18:51 Severed Affair. The gruesome murder of Shaft Therion is a law and crime original podcast that uses exclusive audio and court footage to piece together the story. Beyond the stack of mattresses, there appear to be blood in the floor and then small chunks of human flesh. You can listen to severed affair exclusively
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