Canadian True Crime - Connie Pruden Grandinetti

Episode Date: March 18, 2024

EDMONTON, ALBERTAAfter the body of a blonde-haired woman is found in an icy ditch by the side of the road, it proves difficult to get to the bottom of what happened to her - and who was ultimately res...ponsible.The intention of this episode is to shine a light on the inner workings of our criminal justice system in the context of the “open court principle”—which assumes that public confidence in the integrity of the court system and administration of justice is fostered by openness and full publicity.Podcast RecommendationThe Place That Thaws from APTN NewsMonthly DonationCanadian True Crime has donated to the First Nations Child and Family Caring SocietyFull list of resources, information sources and credits:See the page for this episode at Hosted on Acast. See for more information.

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Starting point is 00:00:00 Will you rise with the sun to help change mental health care forever? Join the Sunrise Challenge to raise funds for CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, to support life-saving progress in mental health care. From May 27th to 31st, people across Canada will rise together and show those living with mental illness and addiction that they're not alone. Help CAMH build a future where no one is left behind. So, who will you rise for?
Starting point is 00:00:25 Register today at That's This episode is brought to you by the Ontario Cannabis Store. If you're curious about cannabis products but have some questions or aren't sure where to start, you should check out the OCS. They're there to help you out. Find high quality products that work for you and share what they know about legal cannabis products. You shouldn't have to rely on guesswork.
Starting point is 00:00:49 You can find everything you need to know at the Ontario Cannabis Store. To get to know some of the trailblazers helping to shape the legal cannabis market in Ontario, visit slash trailblazers. For most of us, crime is something we see on the news. We never think it could happen to us until it does. Loved ones are gone, and for the survivors, the scars will never heal. I'm Nancy Hicks, a senior crime reporter for Global News, and on this season of Crime Beat, I'll take you inside some of the most serious crime stories for Global News. And on this season of Crime Beat, I'll take you inside some of the most serious crime stories I've covered. Season six of Crime Beat is available now on
Starting point is 00:01:30 Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and all podcast platforms. Canadian True Crime is a completely independent production funded mainly through advertising. You can listen to Canadian True Crime ad- free and early on Amazon music included with Prime, Apple podcasts, Patreon and Supercast. The podcast often has disturbing content and coarse language. It's not for everyone. Please take care when listening. This episode has been pieced together from publicly available court documents, as well as news archives and trial reporting from the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald. It's not quite 7.30 in the morning in an area near the small Albertan city of Fort Saskatchewan, located not too far from Edmonton.
Starting point is 00:02:27 It's April 1997, and two motorists are driving through rural rolling farmland when suddenly their eyes are drawn to something by the side of the road. They stop the car to investigate. In an icy, snow-filled ditch is what looks like a body lying face down. It appears to be a woman fully clothed with long blonde hair. The motorists call the authorities immediately. The first RCMP members on scene conduct a search of the immediate area to see if there might be any clues as to who the woman might be and what might have happened to her.
Starting point is 00:03:10 They spy something caught on a branch in a small grove of trees nearby. It's black and it looks like a purse or a handbag. Inside is a piece of photo ID belonging to a Connie Grandinetti who lives in the city of Edmonton about 30 kilometers southwest of the current location. According to her ID Connie Grandinetti has blonde hair and is 38 years old or was. An autopsy would determine that she'd been shot twice in the back of the head, execution style. But there's no large pool of blood. It's clear that Connie has been killed elsewhere, and whoever murdered her decided to dump her body in this particular spot.
Starting point is 00:03:59 It would be determined that Connie had been dead for about five hours by the time her body was discovered that morning, shortly after sunrise. This meant it had to have been dumped there after midnight, sometime in the early hours of the morning. Perhaps that's why no one has reported her missing yet. A police canine is brought in to search the surrounding ground, and a helicopter joins for an overhead search, but there's nothing more of interest to be found in that area. It's just a secondary location. It's clear that Connie Grandinetti had been murdered somewhere else, and they would need to find the actual crime scene. According to an article published in the Edmonton Journal two days later,
Starting point is 00:04:53 Connie Grandinetti was a 38-year-old mother of three. Friends and relatives described her as a dedicated family woman and kind-hearted friend who worked as a teacher's aid at a school in Edmonton. A colleague who knew Connie during this time would tell the journal that she was very good at engaging kids and encouraging them to confide in her. So when Connie Grandinetti's body was found in the ditch
Starting point is 00:05:22 by the side of the road that freezing April morning, the news that she'd been murdered was shocking to all who knew and loved her. Connie's half-sister Shawna described her as really friendly, really outgoing, and described the news as too awful for words. awful for words. As investigators were brought in to interview family members and others who knew Connie, the RCMP issued a plea to the public to come forward with any information that could help the case. A spokesperson said that while several tips had already come in, they needed more. They were specifically looking for anyone with knowledge about the hours before Connie's
Starting point is 00:06:09 death, between about midnight and 7am. The police spokesperson added that all they needed was someone to point them in the right direction and they would fill in the blanks. At almost the two-week mark, the RCMP released a new photo of Connie in the hope that it might spark some more tips. It showed her curly blonde hair and brown eyes. According to an RCMP spokesperson, there were now about 20 investigators
Starting point is 00:06:43 working around the clock to get to the bottom of what had happened and locate whoever was responsible. But the weeks passed with no news or updates about the case. And those weeks soon turned into months. There was a lot happening behind the scenes. When investigators first started interviewing Connie's family members, colleagues and acquaintances, they soon learned that she dealt with a lot of stress and adversity in her home life. And in recent years, she and her husband had divorced. Born Connie Frances Pruden, she grew up in Beaver Lake Cree Nation, located about 220 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
Starting point is 00:07:32 Her family was Woodland Cree. Connie's mother Midge Pruden was described as a woman who was incredibly family-focused but struggled with childhood trauma. Midge Pruden was a survivor of the residential school system. According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, over more than a century until 1996, about 150,000 Indigenous children were placed in government-sponsored residential schools, run by religious organisations. thousands of students suffered physical and sexual abuse. Thousands died right on their school grounds. All suffered from sexual abuse. The school system was built on the basis of the
Starting point is 00:08:13 indigenous culture of the West. The school system was built on the basis of the indigenous culture of the West. The school system was built on the basis of the indigenous physical and sexual abuse. Thousands died right on their school grounds. All suffered from loneliness and a longing to be home with their families. As a survivor, Midge Pruden felt it was important to instil in her children a strong spiritual and physical connection to their people and culture.
Starting point is 00:08:45 She reportedly took great care to pass on the knowledge, ceremonies and traditions of their ancestors who lived along the shores of Beaver Lake. Close to those shores is a small hamlet known as Lac La Biche, and that's where Connie Pruden met Jeff Grandinetti, the man who would become her husband. She was just 17 years old and already a single mother with a young son by the time she met 19 year old Jeff. The couple married two years later in 1978 and moved to the city of Edmonton together. Connie Pruden changed her surname to Grandinetti and gave birth to two more sons.
Starting point is 00:09:33 She wanted all three of her children to grow up with the same knowledge of their Cree culture, history and traditions that had been passed down from her own mother, Midge. The problem was that her husband, Jeff Grandinetti, was of European ancestry and apparently not on board with that. According to a court document, one of their sons together would say that his father held quote, blatant racist beliefs that indigenous people were inferior and did not allow his children to reveal their Cree identities to anyone. As a result of these beliefs, the son recounted growing up with a great deal of shame attached to his Cree roots. And it appears that Connie herself may have also been influenced by her husband's beliefs.
Starting point is 00:10:27 From the Edmonton Journal article, quote, Connie dyed her hair so thoroughly blonde, a stranger would never guess she was half woodland Cree. Such were the deep, confusing paradoxes of Connie Grandinetti's life. End quote. of Connie Grandinetti's life." End quote. The mother of three may have played down her culture at home, but her passion remained strong and came out through her employment. Connie worked at an Edmonton school
Starting point is 00:10:57 as a native liaison teacher's aide, helping troubled indigenous students get back on track. It was here that Connie was free to share the same ceremonies and traditions her own mother had passed on to help her students stay connected with their culture. She was also known to go over and above the scope of her job by personally meeting with the families of the students she worked with. The Edmonton Journal reported that her students considered her a role model.
Starting point is 00:11:32 But Connie's marriage to Jeff Grandinetti wasn't an overly happy one, particularly in the last few years. As well as the issues with Connie's Cree heritage, one of their sons together would later recount that he had witnessed his father being physically abusive to his mother. Things came to a head and in 1994 the couple decided to separate after about 16 years. A nasty divorce and custody battle was brewing, and Connie was struggling with overwhelm, so she took leave from her job as school native liaison to sort it all out.
Starting point is 00:12:15 The school principal would tell the Edmonton Journal that they were sorry to see her go. Connie never returned and less than three years later she would be dead. Connie was eventually awarded custody of their teen boys and her ex-husband Jeff was ordered to pay her about a thousand dollars a month in child support. It was by this point early 1996, more than two years since Jeff and Connie had separated. She was not doing very well financially and Jeff appeared to be in arrears with his child support payments. At some point, Connie started using drugs to get some relief from all her pain and stress. Then she started selling small amounts of it to keep herself afloat. According to the Edmonton Journal, the animosity between Connie and Jeff had not only grown during this period, but had spread
Starting point is 00:13:20 to other members of his family. As members of Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Connie and her three sons were registered under the Indian Act of Canada, which confirms they belong to a First Nation that signed a treaty with the Crown. This meant they were eligible to claim some exemptions from paying GST or HST on property purchased
Starting point is 00:13:44 either on the reserve or for use on the reserve. The Edmonton Journal would report that Connie discovered that unnamed members of her ex-husband's family had used one of her son's registry numbers to avoid paying GST on the purchase of a holiday trailer. They were not First Nations, so this was a form of fraud, and Connie reported them to the Canadian Revenue Agency. This made her not very popular with her former in-laws. According to that same newspaper article, Geoff Grandinetti's sister then accused Connie of stealing their camper trailer
Starting point is 00:14:25 and trying to resell it at a local dealership. It's unclear if this is the very same trailer, but it does seem plausible. The Journal also reported that as a result of Connie's former in-laws reporting her to the RCMP, she was charged with possession of stolen property and fraud over $5,000. A court date was scheduled a few months after that, in May of 1996, but no further details about the outcome of that situation were reported. There was something else of interest in that article. At around the same general time period, Jeff's sister, the one who had accused Connie of
Starting point is 00:15:11 stealing their camper trailer, was fired from her job after her employer accused her of embezzlement. Three years later, in the year 2000, the Edmonton Journal would report that she had been charged with the theft of amounts totalling more than $200,000 from the contracting company where she worked. While it seems unlikely that Connie Grandinetti had anything to do with that situation, her ex-husband's sister reportedly blamed her for losing her job. In March of 1996, just a few months after Connie got into the small-time drug trade, she was caught trying to sell cocaine to an undercover cop.
Starting point is 00:16:00 Her half-sister Shawna would tell the Edmonton Journal that her sister's run-ins with the law had worried her. Quote, Although Connie wasn't formally arrested or charged at the time, she decided to start getting her product from a different supplier after this. But about three weeks later, she and her new boyfriend Lawrence were surprised at her apartment by two men breaking in. One of the men was Connie's original supplier, who pulled out a hunting knife and held it to her throat. His name was Rick Pappin and his associate, Calvin Dominic, hit Lawrence hard enough to break his nose.
Starting point is 00:16:56 As it turned out, Rick Pappin had discovered that not only had Connie switched suppliers, but she was now paying less money for the product, yet continued to sell it to the same clients. His clients, and he was not happy. He slapped her in the face repeatedly as he told her she owed him money and ordered her to stay away from his customers and stop selling cocaine around town.
Starting point is 00:17:26 He was furious. It appeared that Rick Pappin may have been aware of Connie's recent run-in with the undercover cop and he accused her of informing on him to the police. There was no evidence that she had though. And the RCMP would confirm that while she later informed on a number of drug dealers, she never gave up Rick Pappin's name or any details about him. The assault lasted about 10 minutes and both men abruptly left, leaving Connie and her new boyfriend Lawrence reeling.
Starting point is 00:18:03 She called the police immediately to report them for breaking and entering and assault, presumably leaving out the fact that she had been selling cocaine and that Rick Pappin was her former supplier. Both Rick and his associate, Calvin Dominique, were arrested and charged with several offences arising from this incident. Then they were released as they waited for the matter to make its way through the court system. For Connie, the assault was a wake-up call and she told a few people, including one of her sons, that she was afraid of Rick Pappin.
Starting point is 00:18:45 The next day, she moved them across town to a new apartment, intent on making a fresh start. Connie had dedicated so much time to helping her Indigenous students get their own lives back on track, and now the time had come for her to take her own advice. She decided to quit selling drugs immediately and work towards her own recovery from substance use. It took a couple of months and lots of hard work,
Starting point is 00:19:16 but she succeeded to a point where she was in recovery and abstaining from drugs completely. That was August of 1996. Her boyfriend Lawrence would later tell police that she remained on the straight and narrow after that. She never did drugs again and she never sold drugs again. There would never be any direct evidence presented to contradict this.
Starting point is 00:19:43 Connie's own neighbor in the apartment right next door would tell an Edmonton Journal reporter that she was a mother who was quiet, didn't party, and in the year she'd been living next door to him, he never saw her coming home late. He added that he saw her about a week before she was murdered, vacuuming in the hallway, and she seemed to be in good spirits. The neighbor was surprised to learn that she was the woman found murdered in the ditch. In early January of 1997, Connie was suddenly arrested by the RCMP in relation to selling
Starting point is 00:20:23 cocaine to that undercover police officer, the incident that seemed to have prompted her decision to switch to a different supplier. It's unclear why the RCMP waited 10 months to arrest her, but she wasn't in custody for long. At this point, she was invited to provide information to the police and she did give a constable details of a number of drug dealers in the area. But according to a court document, she did not give anything up about Rick Pappin, even his name. But Pappin did come up during that same conversation
Starting point is 00:21:02 in the context of the break and enter. Connie told the constable she'd not seen either of those two men after that. She confirmed that she was willing to testify against them if required, but it was a moot point because just a month earlier, the charges against Pappin and his associate Calvin Dominic had been stayed by the Crown. and his associate, Calvin Dominic, had been stayed by the Crown. Connie Grandinetti was released from custody without being formally charged. Part of Connie's decision to turn her life around also included taking charge of the child support payments situation. She claimed her ex-husband Jeff Grandinetti
Starting point is 00:21:45 was in arrears to the tune of several thousand dollars at least, an amount that continued to grow as he missed each monthly payment. At the time Connie was working towards recovery from substance use, she had hired a lawyer to try and get Jeff to pay up, but more months went by and she still didn't receive the payments she was entitled to. So eventually, her lawyer applied to the court to compel Jeff to start paying his ongoing
Starting point is 00:22:16 maintenance costs of $1,000 a month as well as his arrears, which he claimed were now up to $12,000. That happened in early January of 1997, the same month that Connie was arrested and released in relation to selling cocaine to that undercover cop. But she and Jeff were unable to reach a settlement and the matter was adjourned until a later date. Connie would be dead before that date arrived. Connie Grandinetti was murdered on April 10th, 1997. And after the initial flurry of media reports,
Starting point is 00:23:01 there were no further announcements for months. But that November, a new article popped up in the Edmonton Journal, seemingly out of nowhere. The RCMP were announcing they were looking for a man seen with Connie Grandinetti at about midnight on April 9th, the night before her body was found. This mystery man was reportedly driving an older, dark-coloured half-ton truck and they were seen in a neighbourhood in East Edmonton near 118th Avenue. A Crimestoppers segment on the case was also released at the same time. The following month, December of 1997, an arrest was made. This episode is brought to you by the Ontario Cannabis Store.
Starting point is 00:24:05 If you're curious about cannabis products but have some questions or aren't sure where to start, you should check out the OCS. They're there to help you out, find high quality products that work for you, and share what they know about legal cannabis products. You shouldn't have to rely on guesswork. You can find everything you need to know at the Ontario Cannabis Store. To get to know some of the trailblazers helping to shape the legal cannabis market in Ontario, visit
Starting point is 00:24:35 Will you rise with the sun to help change mental health care forever? Join the Sunrise Challenge to raise funds for CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to support life-saving progress in mental health care. From May 27 to 31, people across Canada will rise together and show those living with mental illness and addiction that they're not alone. Help CAMH build a future where no one is left behind. So who will you rise for? Register today at
Starting point is 00:25:03 That's Hi everyone. Register today at That's Hi everyone. Today we're talking passion projects that turn into careers. A topic that obviously resonates quite a bit with me. In collaboration with the Ontario Cannabis Store and Acast Creative, I want to introduce you to someone who took his passion for cannabis,
Starting point is 00:25:23 turned it into a career, and is now an industry trailblazer. This is Nico Sosziak. He's the chief financial officer of Canara Biotech, a prominent producer based in Montreal. Nico, I know that you've had a passion for cannabis for quite a few years, but you seem a lot younger than what I was expecting. I have to know how and when you got into the cannabis business. Yeah, absolutely.
Starting point is 00:25:48 I look younger, but I'm, you know, I'm aging by the day, but no, I'm 35 years old. I got into cannabis about five years ago, started with Canara. But you were a consumer before that. Yeah, I was, I've been a consumer. I had friends in the legacy side of the business and watch what they did. I tried the different strains and genetics, watched how they grew, really found a passion for cannabis and the products.
Starting point is 00:26:12 But my professional career is an accountant. So while I had a passion for cannabis, I was also a straight A student. Wow. And then Canada decided to legalize cannabis. And that was when I was like, okay, this is kind of my calling. I have to try to figure out how do I can get into the industry and Canara had just became
Starting point is 00:26:32 a public company. I joined them in April 2019 and built the finance department here at Canara and worked with the founder and at one point I was given the keys to that and now I'm here today. Wow that's such a cool story. So how do you feel about being called a trailblazer in the legal market now? It's an honor. I've looked up to many trailblazers in this industry today that come from the legacy side that went to legal. You know, I'm happy to be part of that. Actually, I wanted to ask you about the legacy market. How did you incorporate it into operations on the legal side?
Starting point is 00:27:09 I don't pretend that the cannabis market just got created in 2017, right? For me, legacy means that everyone that's been working all the businesses that've been in the industry pre-legalization. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel in terms of thinking I know what consumers want. There's been an industry that's been built for many, many, many years.
Starting point is 00:27:27 So it's all the ideas and creations that were pre-legalization, figuring out how do we evolve that into the legal side with all the regulatory frameworks. What would you say is the best part of working in the legal market? Knowing that your product is clean, knowing what you're consuming, we're ensuring quality, we're ensuring the price. I think we're you know we're ahead of other industries. Okay so final question, what gets you excited to go to work every day? This is my dream, this is my passion. I get excited. Work doesn't feel like work for me. When you're creating things that you dream about, I give the idea to the team, the team is able to execute different innovations.
Starting point is 00:28:07 That's what really gets me excited. Thanks for listening to this Trailblazers story brought to you by the Ontario Cannabis Store and Acast Creative. If you like the trail Nico Sosieck is blazing, you will love what's happening in legal cannabis. Visit slash trailblazers to learn more. Get ready for Las Vegas style action at Bet MGM, the king of online casinos. Enjoy casino games at your fingertips
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Starting point is 00:29:15 If you have questions or concerns about your gambling or someone close to you, please contact Connects Ontario at 1-866-531-2600 to speak to an advisor free of charge. BetMGM operates pursuant to an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario. As reported by the Calgary Herald, quote, A Calgary man has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of his aunt, who was found shot to death in a ditch near Edmonton. has been charged with first degree murder in connection with the slaying of his aunt,
Starting point is 00:29:45 who was found shot to death in a ditch near Edmonton. The article named Connie's nephew, Corey Grandinetti, who would have only been about seven years old when his uncle Jeff married Connie. He was now 26. Corey's father, the brother of Jeff Grandinetti, worked in the oil field business, according to a friend of the family
Starting point is 00:30:10 who spoke with the newspaper. Corey reportedly helped his father out on the oil patch and also worked with a paving company. The family friend said Corey was the only child of his parents and described the 26-year-old as a regular guy who was always helpful and friendly with a gentle demeanor. Quote, if you got mad at Corey, he was the type to apologize. I never saw an aggressive side. He was a good guy. I'm surprised." Another person who seemed surprised at the news that Corey Grandinetti had been charged with murdering his aunt was Connie's own mother. Midge Pruden phoned the Calgary Herald from Beaver Lake Cree Nation to say that her daughter thought the world of Corey. The two were so close that Corey had visited Midge a few years earlier and described him as being just like her grandson. Corey's own grandmother on the Grandinetti side wondered if police had charged the right person. She
Starting point is 00:31:18 told the paper that Corey was a quiet boy, he wouldn't do such a thing. Quote, I think the police have their wires crossed. News of Corey Grandinetti's arrest sent shockwaves through the whole family and seemed puzzling to many others. A court document would detail that RCMP investigators made a number of significant discoveries in the months after Connie Grandinetti's murder. As you'll recall, Connie and Jeff had been unable to reach a settlement in court about the $12,000 she claimed he owed in child support payments, and the matter was adjourned until April 4. That happened in early January of 1997.
Starting point is 00:32:09 At the end of February 1997, Jeff Grandinetti asked a friend in Calgary to lend him $10,000 and he made the three hour drive there from Edmonton to pick up the cash. There is no paper trail after that. According to an associate of Corey's, the following month, March, he told them that his uncle Jeff wanted Connie killed and apparently asked for his help. Corey stated that he had decided to kill his aunt Connie with an overdose of heroin. Corey lived in Calgary at this point and Connie lived in Edmonton.
Starting point is 00:32:51 On April 4th 1997, an old friend of Corey's dropped him off at a bus depot in North Calgary to catch a bus to Edmonton. Corey told him that he had two vials of heroin on him. He saw the barrel of a gun in Corey's duffel bag. This bus trip happened to be the same date that Connie's child support action against Jeff had been scheduled to proceed in court. But that same day, it was also adjourned for unknown reasons. Connie survived the day, and the court appearance
Starting point is 00:33:29 was rescheduled for April 18, 1997. On the evening of April 9, the night before Connie's body was found, one of her youngest sons saw her leave their apartment at about 8 PM and get into an older, dark colour half-tonne pickup truck. The son couldn't see who was driving it, but noticed the truck looked very similar to the one owned by his grandfather, that's Jeff Grandinetti's father.
Starting point is 00:34:00 This was the last time Connie's sons saw their mother alive. Someone had tipped off the RCMP that this was that same truck and that the person driving it was Corey Grandinetti. The RCMP learned that he had asked his grandfather to borrow the truck that night, saying he was going to visit another one of his aunts. Instead, he picked up his aunt Connie in front of her Edmonton apartment building. Corey Grandinetti was the last known person to see Connie alive. Early the following morning, her body was found by passing motorists in a ditch outside Fort Saskatchewan. She had been shot twice in the back of the head at close range. The RCMP investigators scratched their heads. They had a few pieces of circumstantial evidence, but nothing to
Starting point is 00:35:05 link them all together, nothing concrete anyway. There was certainly nothing that could lead to an arrest, let alone charges. They needed more. It was time to bring in Mr Big. As regular listeners to this podcast well know, the Mr Big tactic is an undercover sting procedure developed in the early 1990s, just a few years before Connie Grandinetti's murder. It's no secret that the Mr Big technique is so controversial, it's banned in the US and the UK. It raises even more ethical issues than a typical undercover sting, because the police don't just infiltrate an existing gang of criminals.
Starting point is 00:35:52 They pretend to be that criminal gang themselves, going to extreme lengths to lure the target suspect to join them and participate. The big budget operation typically unfolds over a number of months, with the end goal of manipulating the target into confessing. The Mr. Big Sting intended to get Corey Grandinetti
Starting point is 00:36:16 to confess to the murder of his aunt Connie was named Project Kilometer. A team of undercover officers was put together and they did their research about Corey, his background, and how his vulnerabilities could be exploited to motivate him to confess. They learned that the 26-year-old was in a bit of a dire predicament.
Starting point is 00:36:41 He was a heavy cocaine user and it appeared that he'd recently lost his job, as well as his girlfriend of several years, who he lived with in the Edmonton neighborhood of Fountain Lake. He had to move back home with his parents in Calgary. This information made Corey Grandinetti the perfect target for the Mr Big Sting. A series of staged scenarios were devised that began with one of the undercover officers innocently bumping into Corey. They hit it off, and Corey soon learned his new friend was part of a large international criminal enterprise. Before long he was introduced to other members of the criminal gang, who
Starting point is 00:37:27 were of course all undercover cops. They told him that the gang was moving into Calgary and wanted him to be their key contact there. They told him he could make hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seemed that Corey had already hit rock bottom in his life. Of course he said yes. These criminal activities were of course staged scenarios, where the undercover officers posing as fake criminals, organised fake crimes and exchanged fake payments. Corey thought he was participating in money laundering, theft, receiving illegal firearms and selling drugs,
Starting point is 00:38:10 all designed to convince him that the gang was real. And it worked. Along the way he was showered with friendship and camaraderie, praise for a job well done, and of course money. He was never aware or even suspicious that his criminal gang mates were actually undercover cops. Early on in the sting the undercover officers encouraged Corey to talk about his aunt Connie's murder but no matter how many times they tried he consistently refused to say anything about it.
Starting point is 00:38:46 By October of 1997, three months had passed with no success. It was time for a new tactic. In the next scenario, the undercover officers posing as criminals started mentioning contacts they had in the police department, who had helped them influence investigations in the past. When one of them had been charged with murder, their corrupt cop friends had retrieved incriminating photos and even relocated a witness, which resulted in the charges being severely downgraded,
Starting point is 00:39:21 they told Corey. These contacts were a massive asset to the criminal organisation. The ultimate goal of a Mr Big undercover sting is for it to culminate in a highly anticipated and hyped up meeting with the Mr Big character who is tasked with applying pressure on the target to confess to their suspected crime. The sting targeting Corey Grandinetti was now ramping up to that moment. Since the early news reports after Connie's body was found in April 1997, there had been no more announcements about the investigation for months. But that November, that new report suddenly popped up in the Edmonton
Starting point is 00:40:09 Journal, announcing the RCMP and crime stoppers were looking for a man seen with Connie Grandinetti the night before her body was found. The mystery man was reportedly driving an older, dark-coloured half-ton truck. It appears that this news report published on November 8th of 1997 may have been a strategic plan by the RCMP to scare or motivate Corey Grandinetti. Five days later, he was called into a meeting with the so-called head of the criminal gang he thought he was working with. The undercover officer playing Mr. Big told Corey that he already knew some insider details about his aunt Connie's murder investigation, like the name of the lead investigator. Mr. Big offered up their
Starting point is 00:41:02 corrupt cop connections saying they could help Corey out by steering the investigation away from him if needed. This was obviously intended to play on any anxiety Corey may have been hiding about his suspected involvement in the crime, likely fueled by that news report. The hope was that Corey would gratefully accept the gang's assistance and provide the details they were looking for in exchange, a confession. But he didn't. Corey Grandinetti just didn't seem that interested. It was time to turn the situation up a notch. On December 5th of 1997, another RCMP announcement
Starting point is 00:41:49 appeared in the Edmonton Journal. It said that the Crime Stoppers segment had led to numerous tips pointing to the suspect's identity, and they were close to making an arrest. In the days following that announcement, Corey Grandinetti was called into another meeting with Mr. Big, who told him they were starting to worry that he might be a liability to their organisation because of the ongoing murder investigation. Here's what happened next,
Starting point is 00:42:19 according to a court document. Quote, they forcefully suggested Corey come clean with them to protect the organization from possible police interference. This led him to confess his involvement in the murder, provide details to the undercover officers and take them to the location where Connie Grandinetti was killed. The confessions were recorded. End quote. Corey Grandinetti was killed. The confessions were recorded." End quote. Corey Grandinetti's last confession happened on December 9th. That evening, he reportedly went
Starting point is 00:42:54 for dinner with his undercover friends and was arrested afterwards. He was charged with the first degree murder of Connie Grandinetti and denied bail. When the RCMP Major Crimes Unit announced news of this arrest, they also stated that it did not close the case.
Starting point is 00:43:15 Investigators were continuing to focus on additional suspects living in the Edmonton area who, quote, might have been involved or who witnessed it, or people who might have information about the matter. When Corey Grandinetti's trial started two years later, in the year 2000, Mr Big Confessions were presumed admissible as evidence, with the onus being on the defence to prove they shouldn't be admitted. Corey's defence cited the rule of law that statements made out of court by an accused person
Starting point is 00:43:55 to a person in authority are admissible as evidence, but only if those statements were given on a voluntary basis. Although Corey believed he was giving his confession to criminals, he also believed that they were working with corrupt police officers, and the defence argued this meant he had effectively confessed to a person in authority. Therefore, the court would need to also establish that Corey's statement had been given voluntarily, without coercion or enticements. The judge did not agree, ruling that the confession evidence was admissible as is,
Starting point is 00:44:35 because Corey gave his confession to the undercover officers he believed were criminals, who were not persons in authority in this context. Corey's Mr Big confession evidence was admissible at trial, but the defence had another tactic under their sleeve. They believed there was someone else who may have committed the crime who wasn't Corey Grandinetti. The defence attempted to have evidence admitted of an alternative suspect, someone else who may have had motive and opportunity to murder Connie Grandinetti. It was Rick
Starting point is 00:45:31 Pappin, Connie's original drug supplier. At the time she was selling cocaine for Rick, he was in a relationship with a woman named Elaine who was called by the defense to testify at a voir dire, a pre-trial hearing where a judge decided whether certain evidence is admissible. Elaine testified that her former partner Rick Pappin was involved in cocaine trafficking and had a propensity towards violence. She confirmed that Pappin believed Connie had ripped him off and informed on him to the police, which led to him
Starting point is 00:46:09 and his associate breaking into her apartment and assaulting her. The two men were charged in relation to this incident, which may have provided Pappin with motive to murder Connie. But by the end of the year, year 1996 the Crown had stayed those charges. Elaine testified that Connie told her she was afraid of Pappen at the time, but she was personally unaware of any contact between them afterwards. This testimony was corroborated by Connie's boyfriend Lawrence, and at around the same time,
Starting point is 00:46:46 Elaine's own relationship with Rick Pappen ended. By that summer of 1996, Elaine had a new boyfriend who happened to know Rick Pappen. She testified that in early January of 1997, Rick assaulted her at a bar, and he and her new boyfriend were both charged and detained at the Edmonton Remand Center. It appears the involvement of her new boyfriend was likely in her defense.
Starting point is 00:47:19 Elaine and her boyfriend both testified about a complicated series of events that were almost entirely hearsay and didn't make a lot of sense. In summary, they believed that Rick Pappin was a police informant and that Connie Grandinetti could gather evidence for them to prove it, which they planned to show to others at the Remand Center in the hope that Pappin would be assaulted by other inmates as a consequence. Corey Grandinetti's defense claimed that Rick Pappin somehow found out about this plot and it may have renewed his anger, not against Delane or her new boyfriend, but against
Starting point is 00:48:00 Connie Grandinetti. The defense argued this gave him even more motive to murder her. And as for opportunity, the defence pointed out that Rick Pappin was released from lockup on April 7th of 1997, three days before Conny was murdered, and he didn't have a solid alibi for the night of Conny's murder. The problem was, there was no evidence that Rick Pappen was a police informant, no evidence that proof of that existed for Connie together, and no evidence that Rick had somehow been tipped off about it in a way that would motivate him to murder Connie. It all seemed a little far-fetched to the judge, who found it to be hearsay and speculative, and insufficient evidence of a link between Rick Pappen and the murder of Connie Grandinetti.
Starting point is 00:48:54 The defence was not permitted to present any of this evidence or mention anything about an alternative suspect at trial. about an alternative suspect at trial. As Corey Grandinetti's trial for first degree murder got underway, the Edmonton Journal described it as a story of family deceit, disloyalty, and a man who killed his aunt for $10,000. As well as the Mr. Big confession evidence, there were two other key witnesses
Starting point is 00:49:28 who testified about details of their relationships with Corey Grandinetti. As you'll remember, someone had tipped off the police that Corey was the man seen driving that truck the evening before Connie's body was found. Someone confirmed that the truck belonged to his grandfather. That person was his ex-girlfriend Cindy, who testified they lived together for more than three years
Starting point is 00:49:56 just before Connie's murder and were engaged to be married. She said Corey's aunt Connie was his favorite relative and they were once very close. But they drifted apart after 1994 as Jeff and Connie became embroiled in bitter divorce and custody proceedings. Cindy testified that two years after that in 1996, Corey told her that he'd had a phone conversation with his uncle Jeff. He said he wanted his ex-wife dead. This was around the same time that Connie had decided to get her life back together and hire a lawyer to help her get Jeff to pay her child support. Cindy testified that she and Corey put the conversation down to angry talk, the venting
Starting point is 00:50:48 of a man in the throes of a nasty divorce. The jury heard that Jeff raised the subject again later that year, around Christmas of 1996. Cindy didn't know it, but the first court date for Connie and Jeff to sort out the child payments issue was fast approaching, scheduled for early January. Cindy testified that Corey told her that his uncle Jeff asked how much it would cost to off Connie, and Corey told him it would be about $10,000. She said her fiance was someone who often bragged about having underworld connections. And as the matter became more serious,
Starting point is 00:51:33 he started talking about possibly contacting a friend in Vancouver to help his uncle Jeff. Investigators later learned that at the end of February 1997, Jeff Grandinetti asked a friend in Calgary to lend him $10,000 and he made the three-hour drive there from Edmonton to pick up the cash. There is no paper trail after that. Back to Cindy's testimony. At around this time, she had grown deeply unhappy in her relationship with Corey. They were both users of cocaine but it appeared his use had increased to a point where he
Starting point is 00:52:14 spent most of their earnings on it and it was now destroying their life together. He was unemployed, broke and selling his furniture to try and get money together to prevent losing their house. Cindy moved out and Corey had little choice but to move to Calgary into the basement of his parents large home according to the Edmonton Journal. But he and Cindy continued to stay in contact. She testified that in mid-March of 1997, just weeks before Connie Grandinetti's murder,
Starting point is 00:52:56 Corey told her that he'd travelled back to the Edmonton home of his grandparents to meet with his uncle. Jeff Grandinetti had remarried and lived at the home along with his new wife Karen. Jeff reportedly told Corey that he had the money together and he wanted Connie dead before Easter, which was March 30th of 1997. Cindy testified that she was aware that Connie was very unpopular with multiple members of the Grandinetti family. There was the issue with child support payments with Jeff, reporting his family members for fraud and the theft of the camper trailer. And after Jeff's sister lost her job for embezzling money from her employer, Cindy said that the
Starting point is 00:53:45 family decided that was somehow Connie's fault as well. Cindy testified that after this meeting with Jeff, Corey told her he'd decided to do the job himself and he had a plan. By this point he hadn't spoken with his aunt Connie for several years. In fact, he didn't even know where she lived. He told Cindy that he found her address from court documents and he would use cocaine as a reason to rekindle their relationship because the Grandinetti family believed that Connie was still selling cocaine. Once Corey got Connie alone with him, he said he planned to kill her
Starting point is 00:54:27 with an overdose of heroin. Cindy testified that she and Corey had a massive argument about his plan to become a murderer for $10,000. She said, quote, I just couldn't believe that he would even consider it. No matter what this woman has done, she didn't deserve to be dead. But Corey didn't want to hear it. Investigators later learned that on April 4th of 1997, Corey caught a bus from Calgary to Edmonton with two vials of heroin and a gun. This bus trip happened to be the same date that Connie's child support action against Jeff
Starting point is 00:55:09 had been scheduled to proceed in court. But that same day, it was also adjourned for unknown reasons and rescheduled to April 18th. Cindy testified that Corey told her he showed up at Connie's Edmonton apartment and asked her if he could buy some cocaine, but she told him she didn't do or sell drugs anymore. He asked her if she knew anyone that did, but it doesn't appear he got very far that evening. Cindy told the jury that a day or so later, Corey showed up at her house with a wad of cash and explained that Jeff's wife Karen had just given him an advance on the fee for killing Connie.
Starting point is 00:55:55 Cindy testified that she and Corey used the $2,000 to pay for a cocaine party. But the following day, she realized she was afraid of her former fiancé. On April 8th, she applied for a peace bond, intended to prevent Corey from contacting her anymore. Two days later, Connie Grandinetti's body was found in a snow-filled ditch, just eight
Starting point is 00:56:23 days before the rescheduled court date that would have dealt with Jeff's missed child support payments. Cindy testified that although she was the one who contacted the RCMP to tell them that it was Corey seen driving his grandfather's truck that night, she was too scared to tell them anything else. It took about six weeks and numerous interviews with investigators before she started to reveal what Corey had told her about his uncle Jeff's plot to murder Connie Grandinetti. But Cindy wasn't the only person that Corey spoke to. An old friend of his named Blair testified that he'd often
Starting point is 00:57:06 gone out with Corey when they were both drinking and doing cocaine. He was the one who dropped Corey off at the bus depot in North Calgary and testified that Corey told him that he was catching a bus to Edmonton to look after a family matter. Blair told the jury that on the way to the bus depot, Corey pulled out a container with two vials of golden liquid he described as enough pure heroin to kill someone. Blair said he asked Corey to put it away. This was in early April of 1997. A week later, Corey turned up at Blair's place asking to borrow his car and showed him a container that should have had baby wipes in it but was filled with a wad of cash. Blair testified that Corey told him it was about $8,000 in $100 bills.
Starting point is 00:58:07 After that, Blair and Corey partied hard, sometimes at local bars, and other times where he lived in the basement of his parents' home. The jury heard that one night in that basement, Corey told Blair that he had looked after the family members. When Blair told him that was good, Corey stated, no you don't understand, I killed somebody, adding that the person had been causing rifts in the family. He said that the murder happened when they were out drinking or something and he had his grandpa's truck. Blair testified that
Starting point is 00:58:46 Corey never stated that he had killed Connie Grandinetti but he assumed it must have been her because she was the only member of the family who had recently been murdered. He said that he felt scared of Corey after this. Under cross-examination Blair agreed that Corey Grandinetti liked to make himself look dangerous and he bragged about being a suspect in the case. The defence had of course not succeeded in having Corey's confession evidence thrown out and were not permitted to present evidence to suggest an alternative suspect with motive and opportunity to murder Connie Grandinetti.
Starting point is 00:59:31 When Corey Grandinetti took to the witness box to testify in his own defence, his lawyer asked him if he shot Connie Grandinetti. The then 28-year-old answered, no I did not, and that she was his favourite aunt. He added that he didn't see anyone kill her. When asked about his former girlfriend Cindy's testimony that he was offered $10,000 to murder his aunt, Corey testified that he didn't know why she said that. Quote, there's no way I would have said anything like that. I don't know where that figure would have
Starting point is 01:00:08 come from. I don't have any idea what she's talking about as far as money being paid to kill Connie. Corey said he may have mentioned to Sydney that someone wished Connie would fall off the face of the earth, but insisted that his uncle Jeff never spoke about wanting her dead. Admitting that he was a long-time heavy cocaine user, Corey told the jury that the reason he rekindled his relationship with Connie was to discuss selling drugs with her and also to discuss his recent breakup with Cindy. In response to the testimony of his old friend Blair, Corey admitted that he did tell Blair
Starting point is 01:00:51 he had enough heroin to kill someone during the ride to the bus depot in Calgary, but explained it away as just being a general statement not related to his aunt Connie. He said one of the reasons for his bus trip to Edmonton was to drop off a package of heroin in Red Deer. Blair had also testified that Corey told him he was there to look after a family matter, but Corey said this was in reference to helping his uncle set up an office. He added that he also wanted to try and save his own house from foreclosure while there. Corey testified that the evening of April 9th at about 8 p.m., he picked Connie up in the truck he had borrowed from his grandfather with the goal of finding a cocaine supplier. In a reportedly calm voice, Corey testified that over the next few weeks, grandfather with the goal of finding a cocaine supplier.
Starting point is 01:01:45 In a reportedly calm voice, Corey testified that over the next few hours, he waited in the truck while Connie went inside a number of local bars and a convenience store looking for cocaine. He also said that his aunt was looking for someone, but she didn't tell him who that person was. It's unclear why a heavy user of cocaine who was known to brag about his underworld connections seemed so helpless about finding his own supplier. Also unclear was why the only person who could help him find said supplier was his estranged aunt,
Starting point is 01:02:25 who had already told him she was no longer in the business. Corey's testimony continued. He said that Connie's mood got worse as the evening went on, and they decided not to go into the drug business together. He dropped her off at the Beverly Crest Hotel, which was located in East Edmonton near 118th Avenue. Presumably, this is where someone spotted him in the truck at about midnight. Corey said this was the last time he ever saw Connie and he never saw anyone else kill her. After dropping Connie off, he drove to the South Edmonton home of his grandparents,
Starting point is 01:03:09 who of course owned the truck that he borrowed. This was also where his uncle Jeff lived with his new wife Karen. Corey testified he went to bed at about 1am. The jury had of course heard the recorded confession Corey gave as part of the Mr Big undercover sting. The only detail about this confession to be found in either the court documents or the news archives was that Mr Big had asked Corey what time he hit Connie. He replied quote, it happened sometime over the evening from midnight on.
Starting point is 01:03:47 Connie's body was found in the ditch at 730 a.m. Corey Grandinetti testified that he flew back to Calgary that day, stopping on the way to the airport to make a car payment of $1,800 for his Corvette. He said that money was sent to him by his parents. He disputed his old friend Blair's testimony that he showed him a wad of cash in an empty baby wipes container, saying it amounted to $8,000. Corey testified that it was only about $5,000 and the reason he had it was to pay for the heroin. He added that his supplier was now dead. And as for Blair's testimony that Corey bragged about being a suspect in the murder case, Corey told the jury that he was joking that being a murder suspect would elevate his status
Starting point is 01:04:46 if he became a cocaine dealer. He denied telling Blair that he'd actually killed someone. Corey testified that the day after that, he was told that his aunt Connie had been shot. In reference to the confession he gave months later as part of the Mr. Big undercover sting, Corey testified that he'd become nervous about working for such an apparently dangerous group but they wouldn't let him quit. Quote, After a few weeks it took on a fear element.
Starting point is 01:05:21 I knew too much. Basically I was in. I could not step back. In closing arguments, the Crown stated that Jeff and Connie had been through a bitter divorce and were fighting over her claims that he was well overdue in his child support payments. Jeff decided that he wanted Connie dead and asked his nephew Corey to help. Connie Grandinetti was murdered just a week before the long-awaited court date that would have dealt with the child support payments.
Starting point is 01:05:55 The defence reiterated Corey's testimony that he had no involvement in a plot to kill his aunt, and stated that evidence that reflects badly on his character doesn't mean he's guilty of murder. The trial had been scheduled to last about four months, but went for a little more than half that time. After deliberating for two days, the jury found Corey Grandinetti guilty of the first-degree murder of Connie Grandinetti. A report published by the Edmontonetti's relatives had attended the trial daily and
Starting point is 01:06:46 again packed into the courtroom for the verdict and sentencing. In her victim impact statement, Connie's mother, Midge, said her emotional and physical health had deteriorated since her daughter's murder. Connie's sister, Jackie Jackie told the court quote, Corey Grandinetti was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Outside court, Connie's oldest son Merrill told the Edmonton Journal that Corey Grandinetti's denial was nothing but lies. Quote, He talked with his friends about how he could do 25 years in prison standing on his head.
Starting point is 01:07:42 Hopefully he's got experience because he has 23 years to go. An RCMP spokesperson announced that the case was not yet closed and that further charges could be laid. Quote, the investigation is open and we have identified other suspects who are potentially a party to the offence and we will be following up on it." Corey Grandinetti appealed his conviction on the grounds that the trial judge made a mistake in allowing his Mr. Big confession evidence and in not allowing the evidence that suggested Rick Pappin as an alternative suspect. The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal,
Starting point is 01:08:27 but because it wasn't a unanimous verdict, Corey was eligible to take it to the Supreme Court of Canada, who also dismissed it. Corey Grandinetti's trial was in 2000, and it should be noted that 12 years later, the Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark ruling about how Mr Big Confessions should be interpreted. Before that time, the onus was on the defence to prove that this confession evidence should not be admitted.
Starting point is 01:09:00 But the decision known as R.V. Hart flipped it around, ruling that confessions elicited through Mr Big Sting operations must be presumed inadmissible at trial because they're open to abuse and police misconduct and fraught with risks of a false confession. The onus was now on the Crown to prove that this confession evidence should be admitted. We covered the central case to this ruling about two years ago. After confessing to Mr Big, Nelson Hart was found guilty at trial for the murder of his two young daughters, Karen and Krista Hart, who both drowned in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled
Starting point is 01:09:46 that when trial judges are deciding if Mr. Big confession evidence is admissible, they need to look at a number of outside factors, like whether the suspect was threatened or offered incentives to confess. The confession alone is not enough to convict. The details of the confession need to be compared to other evidence to find markers of reliability. For example, did the suspect provide any key details that only the person who committed the crime would know?
Starting point is 01:10:21 I have to note that many of the details reported about the prosecution of Corey Grandinetti in court documents are unusually vague and leave several unanswered questions. The Supreme Court of Canada ruling, which is publicly available, stated that Mr Bigg forcefully suggested he come clean and confess. And although there were no specific details provided about this forceful suggestion, it certainly did suggest a threat. The Mr Big operation, quote, led Mr Grandinetti to confess his involvement in the murder, provide details to the undercover officers and take them to the location where Connie
Starting point is 01:11:04 Grandinetti was killed. Although the court documents provided no further information about his confession and the location of Connie's murder hasn't ever been publicly released, from the affirmative way this statement was worded, it gives the clear impression that the Supreme Court determined the details provided by Corey Grandinetti were credible and able to be verified. Surely Corey didn't just take the undercover officers to some random location where he claimed Connie was murdered and they simply took his word for it. Yet on the witness box, he claimed he knew nothing about any plot to murder his aunt and didn't see her being killed. There's no mention in court documents or news archives about whether he was cross-examined about this significant inconsistency, and it obviously doesn't matter that
Starting point is 01:12:00 much given the guilty verdict, but still. After serving 15 years of his sentence, Corey Grandinetti was eligible to apply under the Faint Hope Clause for the chance to appear before the Parole Board and ask for early parole. That would have been in late 2012, but the date came and went with no public announcement about whether he applied. His 25-year parole and eligibility period ended about two years ago. His current status is not publicly known. Despite the RCMP's announcement that they were following up on other suspects who were potentially a party to the case.
Starting point is 01:12:46 Nearly 25 years have gone by with no further news. According to court documents, one of Connie's sons with Geoff Grandinetti pointed out that his mother was one of the many missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. And not only has he struggled with losing her, but he does not feel justice has been done for her, as quote, his father walks free. This son says that he has no relationship with his father
Starting point is 01:13:17 and does not want one. It seems that the real story of what happened to Connie Pruden Grandinetti will never be publicly known. Perhaps it proves the old adage being true, that blood is thicker than water. Thanks for listening. If you found this episode compelling, we'd love for you to tell a friend, post on social media or leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.
Starting point is 01:13:55 For the full list of resources we relied on to write this episode, visit Special thanks to Danielle Paradee for for Indigenous script consulting on this episode. Dani is also the writer and host of The Place That Thaws, a new six-part podcast series from APTN News, Canada's Indigenous broadcaster. The series features immersive storytelling centering't already, subscribe to the place that thaws on your favourite podcast player. And for more info and stunning photos, visit If you haven't already, subscribe to The Place That Thores on your favourite podcast player. And for more info and stunning photos, visit slash the place that thores.
Starting point is 01:14:54 Canadian True Crime donates monthly to those facing injustice. This month we have donated to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, which works to ensure the safety and wellbeing of First Nations youth and their families. Learn more at Special thanks also to Charlie from Crime Lines, who first told me about this case when she covered it in an episode a few years ago. There's a link to her episode in the show notes.
Starting point is 01:15:26 Audio editing was by Eric Crosby, who also voiced the disclaimer. Our senior producer is Lindsay Eldridge, and Carol Weinberg is our script consultant. Research, writing, narration, and sound design was by me, and the theme songs were composed by We Talk of Dreams. I'll be back soon with another Canadian true crime episode. See you then. you

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