Abbotsford, WI

The Abbotsford Killer Who Was Caught by His Mom

The Mystery Reporter
Photo by Maxim Hopman on UnsplashPhoto byMaxim HopmanonUnsplash

In 1995, Abbotsford, the picturesque city in Canada, experienced something horrifyingly insane. Two young girls, only in their teens were subjected to a brutal attack by a man who was later known as the Abbotsford killer. While one of the girls survived the traumatic attack, the other girl’s body was found floating in the Vedder River hours later.

The killer taunted the police for months, and eerily enjoyed their desperate attempts to catch him. His insanity terrorized the community for the years to come.

The Tale of Two Teenage Girls

An attack by a man on two young girls on October 13th was the beginning of it all. Tanya Smith and Misty Cockerill had no idea how terribly their lives were about to change.

At 12:30 am, the girls were walking to a party why they encountered a man in a park near Abbotsford street. He threatened the girls and forced them to go behind the bushes, where he ordered them to remove their clothes. As he began sexually assaulting Tanya, Misty tried to fight back and stop him. In response, he started beating them brutally right away.

Misty regained consciousness after hours and found herself alone. Tanya was nowhere to be seen. While her entire body was severely injured, she somehow managed to get herself to the hospital. But where was Tanya?

Her mind was racing with all the horrors she had just encountered. Misty was severely beaten with a baseball bat and needed immediate surgery.

Did Tanya Manage to Escape?

The detectives had no lead until Misty could recall everything.

The following morning, on October 14th, a fisherman found something floating nearby in the shallow rivers. As he approached, he discovered the lifeless body of a young woman. There was an immediate report to the Abbotsford police, who were seeking information on a missing 16-year-old.

Upon identification, the body turned out to be of Tanya Smith. All evidence washed away from the body because it was in the river. Once again, the cunning element of the crime concerned forensics. The other horrifying discovery was Tanya’s clothes. The murderer threw her clothes up in the bushes and chose to display them.

Meanwhile, Misty was in the hospital, battling for her life. Despite her being coherent enough to recount some details, the police were still uncertain about the details of her memory. As a victim herself, she may have been affected by trauma.

The intensity of this case made the police take help from as many people as possible. They had to issue a press release and set up a tip-line call center.

The Face Of The Monster

Not until four days later they started receiving calls at the tip-line by a man who claimed to be the killer. He gave graphic details about how he killed Tanya and mocked the police for their inability to find him. He said,

“Are you having trouble finding the killer? I’m the one giving you the chance to try and find me.”

These details, which were unknown to the public, indicated that he could be the killer. He kept taunting the police that he was looking for new victims to kill.

One telecommunications company developed new technology to help apprehend the killer. This way, if a person called 911, they would be connected to a tip-line that dispatched a rescue car to their location. The killer escaped again, despite their efforts to catch him.

Misty, who was still critically ill, was their only hope. Despite her condition, she managed to describe enough details to produce a composite of her assailant. On October 20th, the face of the killer appeared in all the newspapers.

There Is A Killer On The Loose

The forensics team, however, was hopeful that Tanya’s autopsy would yield some valuable information about her murderer. Since her body was submerged for many hours, water could have washed away all the precious evidence.

However, there was a bite mark on her breast. It served as a source to collect DNA from cells left on it by the murderer’s saliva. The victim, Tanya, had also been raped. Hence, a comprehensive DNA profile was also obtained using the semen sample. For the investigators, this was an important discovery.

Days passed by, and the terror in the city was only increasing due to the stalled investigation. They could not entirely depend on the sketch made by Misty’s testimony. Psychologists were also asked to create a psychological profile of the murderer. In addition to intimidating his victims, the murderer intended to depict himself as more intelligent than the police. They had to be mindful in this case.

By December, there had been multiple suspects. None of which matched the DNA of the killer. It had been weeks since he contacted the police, and his silence weighed heavily. His threat to kill again echoed through the streets of the city.

The Letter That Changed Everything

It was now February 17th when a host of a radio show received an anonymous call. He was told to check the parking lot. It was a gravestone that said “Tanya Smith,” and there was an embossed picture. Without any further delay, the host immediately reported the police. Surprisingly, no one saw a man placing this heavy gravestone. For the police, it was like chasing a ghost.

On February 21st, four months after the attack, the killer threw a wrench in a random house. He was deliberately making contact with the police to make them even more anxious. There was a typewritten letter inside the envelope with the wrench taped to it. “It was absolutely terrifying,” says Inspector MacLeod.

He had bragged about committing three other attacks and attached newspaper clippings to prove his claims. Tanya and Misty were sadly not his only victims.

The forensic expert applied a unique solution designed to detect fingerprints on tape. Could the monster have made the fatal error they had hoped for so long? After an intense checking, the police now finally had a crucial piece of evidence. They had a fingerprint of the Abbotsford Killer. However, he had no criminal record. They now had to look for a man who was just an ordinary citizen.

Who Caught The Abbotsford Killer?

After seven months of the first attack, police made the killer’s voice public and asked people to contact if they had any leads.

The next day a woman phoned the police saying that she recognized the voice; it was her son’s. She told them that he frequently fished at the Vedder river and even attended Tanya’s funeral. Was the mother of the murderer the one who handed him in?

The police went to his residence and treated him just like they treated every other suspect. He was given a chance to come in to talk voluntarily, provide his fingerprints and a DNA sample. To no surprise, the man declined to do any of it.

The Conviction of the Monster

The man, Terry Driver, was married, with two young children. He worked at a printing house and had no criminal record. His father was a retired police officer.

On the advice of his family, he agreed to take fingerprints, but nothing else. It did not take very long for them to realize he was indeed the killer. It was identical to the one found on the tape. The monstrous killer then admitted to rape and manslaughter.

Nearly two years after the attack on the teenage victims, Terry Driver was convicted of Tanya Smith’s first-degree murder and Misty Cockrell’s attempted murder. He received a life sentence with the possibility of parole denied when he showed no remorse. At a separate trial, he was also found guilty of three other attacks he confessed to.

The murderer’s conduct proves one thing: he did all of the horrific things to gain attention. Not once, not twice, but eight times, he deliberately contacted the police. He had no other motive to destroy the lives of his victims.

I can’t decide what’s worse- murder with motive, or murder just for the sake of attention. What do you think?

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