On March 8, 1987 a tragic event occurred that forever changed the lives of a young family. At this time of year the memories are overflowing but the connections are always growing. I never know when I will meet someone who will share their memories and connection to this day. This year I was reminded of just how small the world is when a co-worker at my new job came to my desk and told me that at the beginning of his career as a journalist he was a reporter in Fredericton and covering this event was his first big story. Amazing.
This past Monday the story of this day was featured on the front page of the Fredericton newspaper. Here is the story:
30 years after murder, no forgiveness
The Daily Gleaner Mon Mar 6 2017
Byline: Michael Staples
“My dad was a great guy by all accounts.”Those words, a reflection on a parent now gone, take on a new meaning when spoken by Valerie Aucoin.She didn’t get a chance to know her father too well - he was gunned down at close range on a wooded stretch of highway about 20 kilometres southwest of Fredericton 30 years ago this week.When the body of New Brunswick Highway Patrolman Const. Emmanuel (Manny) Aucoin was found, a half-written speeding ticket in his hand, seven-year-old Valerie’s world shattered.“So much has happened over the past 30 years with plenty of ups and downs,” Aucoin recently told The Daily Gleaner.“For a long time, I didn’t fully understand just how much that tragic day had created such a deep-seated anger and unhealthy childhood coping mechanisms that took their toll. However, over the past five years the upswing of positivity in my life has been substantial and I believe I am a much different person now and in a much better place by all accounts; physically, emotionally and mentally.”The man who killed her father, Long Island, N.Y., resident Anthony Romeo, remains in Dorchester Penitentiary, still considered a menace to society. When Manny pulled Romeo over for speeding on March 8, 1987, the American was on the run, wanted for another murder in the U.S.Aucoin had been a member of the New Brunswick Highway Patrol for three years and was stationed at the Harvey detachment.After killing Aucoin, Romeo fled the murder scene.A car matching the description of Romeo’s was seen crossing the U.S. border at Calais, Maine, but no one had been alerted to its possible involvement in a crime.Later that same day, officials learned Romeo was on a plane headed to Boston. He was arrested at the airport there when he exited the aircraft. Canadian authorities succeeded in extraditing him to Canada where he stood trial.Romeo was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder in 1988, but his conviction was appealed before the Supreme Court of Canada and a new trial was ordered. He was found guilty again in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison.In November 2005, Romeo was returned to the U.S., where he admitted to the murder 20 years earlier of John Starkey, son of a former aide to former governor Mario Cuomo on Fire Island, N.Y. After plea bargaining to the New York murder, Romeo was sentenced to serve seven to 21 years concurrent to the life sentence he received for Aucoin’s murder.While he was subsequently returned to Canada, he appealed the New York conviction, arguing the 19-year delay deprived him of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The conviction was overturned on those grounds in February 2009, according to an article published by the New York State Law Reporting Bureau. The bureau is an online library of New York State court decisions dating back to 1956. At a 2012 Dorchester hearing, board members denied Romeo’s application for parole.The Daily Gleaner has learned that Romeo waived his right for the parole hearing last year and the next is scheduled for 2021. Valerie hasn’t forgiven, or forgotten, the man who killed her dad.“My feelings towards Romeo are mixed at best and extremely harsh at worst,” she said. “I had hopes previous to the first parole hearing that he would prove that he had some sense of remorse and had genuinely tried to do anything he could do behind bars to attempt at becoming a better person. My hopes were tossed as it became quickly obvious he was still a horrible person and I have not forgiven him in any way.” Her father, meanwhile, still holds a special place in her heart. “My dad was a great guy by all accounts,” Valerie said. “He did everything he could for anyone he could help. We always had everything we needed and he worked really hard putting himself through police academy. Everyone who has ever told me a story about him only have had high praises for him.”About seven years after the murder, the Aucoin family left Harvey and moved west.“I did visit Fredericton, the [murder] site, and Harvey Station nearly six years ago,” said Valerie, who now lives in downtown Calgary. “I think of that day less often throughout the year but, as March nears, memories and thoughts are far more frequent.”Valerie said her life now revolves around being active outdoors and having a creative, art-focused life. “I really do love living in Calgary,” she said. “It is an amazing city full of energy and possibility. However, my heart is in the east coast. I still visit often and, I suspect, had the murder not occurred I possibly would have lived there for the majority of my life ... I try to visit the east coast at least once a year but am usually drawn to P.E.I. as that is where the bulk of my family lives.”Valerie said her brother Jeremy and mother Esther are both living in Canada’s north, but prefers not to divulge exactly where. Both have declined to comment on the incident as the 30th anniversary nears.But, in a 2011 interview, Manny Aucoin’s wife Esther said time has a way of easing the intense pain, but she can also picture every aspect of that day and thereafter.“Manny was the centre of our beings,” she said. “He was a very spiritual and peace-loving person who carried his duties well on duty and off.”Also in 2011, Jeremy Aucoin said the most noticeable side-effect of his dad’s death is how he’s incapable of trusting others well.“I have an extreme short list of friends that I would give my life for,” he said.Wondering what her life would be like if her father hadn’t been taken away is something Valerie has thought about a lot, especially when she was younger. But she still feels like it’s a loaded question. “I wouldn’t be who I am today had none of this had happened, for better or worse.”© 2017 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)