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Serial sexual offender linked to unsolved 1970s homicides of four Calgary girls, women

WARNING: This story contain details of sexual assault some may find disturbing.

An investigation into unsolved historical homicides from the 1970s has linked the deaths of two girls and two young women in and around Calgary to a now-deceased serial offender.

RCMP held a press conference on Friday to share the findings of the investigation, linking a serial sexual offender to the deaths of Patricia McQueen and Eva Dvorak, both 14 years old, Melissa Rehorek, 20, and Barbara MacLean, 19, between 1976 and 1977.

Based on forensic evidence, witness statements and similar fact evidence, Gary Allen Srery, a U.S. citizen born in 1942, is believed to be responsible for the four murders.

Srery died in prison in the United States in 2011.

Police said if Srery were alive today, he would be charged with two counts of non-capital murder on Patricia McQueen and Eva Dvorak, and one count of first-degree murder for each of Melissa Rehorek and Barbara MacLean’s deaths.

RCMP noted the difference in charges reflects changes to the criminal code in the 1970s.

“For nearly 50 years, investigators did not give up in their pursuit to identify the man responsible for these murders,” Supt. Dave Hall, the officer in charge of the Alberta RCMP serious crimes branch, said Friday.

“Identifying the offender does not bring back Eva, Patsy, Melissa or Barbara, but it is my true hope that their families are finally able to have some answers as to what happened to their loved ones all those years ago.”

Police believe Srery may be responsible for more unsolved homicides and sexual assaults in western Canada.

Gary Allen Srery is shown in supplied photos. (Supplied: RCMP)

The Calgary Police Service is expected to unveil further details about their involvement in the landmark case during a press conference on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. The press conference will be streamed live on CTVNewsCalgary.ca.

McQueen, Dvorak, Rehorek and MacLean

Patricia (Patsy) McQueen and Eva Dvorak, were friends attending junior high school in Calgary, according to RCMP.

The teenage girls were last seen walking together on the evening of Feb. 14, 1976, in downtown Calgary.

Their bodies were discovered the next morning laying on the road underneath the Happy Valley overpass on Highway 1 west of Calgary.

Patricia McQueen and Eva Dvorak. (Supplied: RCMP)

Melissa Rehorek had moved to Calgary from Ontario in the spring of 1976.

She had been working as a housekeeper, living at the YWCA in downtown Calgary. She was last seen on the evening of Sept. 15, 1976, by a roommate. She had planned on hitchhiking out of the city on her day off.

Her body was found the next morning in the ditch on what is now known as Township Road 252, approximately 22 kilometres west of Calgary.

Melissa Rehorek. (Supplied: RCMP)

Barbara MacLean, originally from Nova Scotia, had moved to Calgary six months before her death and was working at a local bank.

On Feb. 25, 1977, she visited the Highlander Hotel bar with friends. She was last seen walking away from the hotel alone, in the early morning hours of Feb. 26.

Approximately six hours later, her body was found in the area of Sixth Street and 80th Avenue N.E. At the time, the location was outside of the Calgary city limits.

Barbara MacLean. (Supplied: RCMP)

Although autopsies were conducted on all four victims, initially, the causes of death for McQueen and Dvorak were not determined. Their deaths were not ruled as homicides at the time and were investigated as suspicious deaths.

Both Rehorek and MacLean’s causes of death were attributed to strangulation. Their deaths were investigated as homicides.

All four files were never closed.

RCMP said seminal fluid was discovered at all three crime scenes, but due to the technological constraints of the time, a DNA profile could not be created.

Similarities between Rehorek and MacLean’s deaths led investigators at the time to believe the same person was responsible for both homicides.

“For nearly 50 years, the Alberta RCMP exhausted all investigational means, in an attempt to identify the person responsible for these tragic deaths,” Hall said.

“The files were continually reassessed, with investigators following all leads that they could.”

The initial investigations continued into the 1980s and task forces were created in the 1990s to re-examine evidence, tips and leads not previously followed.

Genetic breakthrough

Police used genetic testing to narrow down their search and identify Srery over the past three years.

In 2021, the RCMP and Calgary Police Service partnered to use investigative genetic genealogy to identify a suspect.

After re-examining evidence seized more than 45 years ago, a DNA profile was created to be shared with other law enforcement agencies.

After work to build a family tree and further targeted DNA testing, a suspect hypothesis was provided to police.

“For the first time, investigators finally had the name of a viable suspect, one that had never surfaced in the investigation before, however, the hypothesis still needed to be confirmed,” Hall said.

Police determined that Srery had a connection to Canada and a history of committing violent acts against women.

The DNA profile was also matched to crime scene evidence that was resubmitted from the McQueen and Dvorak investigation. It was confirmed to match the DNA from the Rehorek and MacLean cases.

This led police to believe that the same man was responsible for all four deaths and that McQueen and Dvorak had been murdered.

Police identified Srery during a cross-border investigation and learned he had died in an Idaho state prison while serving a life sentence for sexual assault.

His DNA was then confirmed as a match to the unknown DNA profile present on all four victims.

Gary Allen Srery. (Supplied: RCMP)

Srery was a United States citizen who was living illegally in Canada at the time of the murders.

He had an extensive criminal history in the U.S. before coming to Canada, which included forcible rape, kidnapping, burglary and sexual perversion.

Police believe he fled the U.S. in 1974 after posting bail for a rape charge in California.

He had a transient lifestyle and lived under aliases in Calgary in 1976-77, including Willy Blackman and Rex Long. He occasionally worked under the table as a line cook.

Srery was known to frequently change his appearance, place of residence and vehicles.

RCMP said he lived in Alberta and British Columbia from the late 1970s until 2003 when he was deported.

This is a breaking news story. More details to come…

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