15 year-old Kelly Jane Evelyn Cook lived with her parents in the village of Standard, Alberta. This village is about 70 kilometres northeast of Calgary, a big city in Alberta, Canada. It’s a small village – today the population is 353. The Wikipedia page for the village includes only three sections: Demographics; Athletics; and The murder of Kelly Cook.
Kelly, like many young girls her age, was a babysitter for families in the community. She usually babysat once or twice a week and made the arrangements by telephone.
On the morning of April 22, 1981, Kelly received a phone call at her house from a man looking for a babysitter. He said his name was as Bill Christensen. Police have stated that he got Kelly’s number from her friend after the friend had turned Bill down because she was busy.
The phone call was at 8:20am. Bill Christensen needed a babysitter for that evening, and he and Kelly arranged that her would pick Kelly up from her home, and drop her off back at home at midnight.
Twelve hours later, at 8:30pm, a full-sized cream coloured North American car pulled up in front of Kelly’s house. Bill Christensen picked up Kelly from her home while her mother watched on. Kelly’s mother never suspected it would be the last time she saw her daughter.
Kelly’s family had an agreement with their daughter that she would call once she arrived at someone’s house for a babysitting job. On April 22, Kelly never made that call. Kelly’s mother Marion started getting worried around 9:30pm and called around. “I started phoning her friends, I phoned the postmistress to ask if anyone new moved to town and I called my friend at the bank and asked her, too”, Marion said.
Around midnight, Kelly’s parents decided to call the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). The police called every Christensen (there were multiple families by this name), but none of them knew who Bill Christensen was. It was a fake name.
Kelly’s younger sister Marnie Kathol reflected on that night in an interview with Global News. “I remember going to bed and waking up probably after midnight and the police were already there,” she said. The police had started their investigation into Kelly’s disappearance that very night.
It had only been hours after Kelly’s disappearance that 400 local residents and 40 officers had started searching. Police knocked on every door in the village and searched all through the village’s perimeters, including rural properties and abandoned buildings.
It was a long eight weeks of searching before Kelly’s remains were located by accident. Her body was found in an irrigation canal in the Chin Lake Reservoir on June 28, 1981. The water levels were low because of drought and the heavy irrigation that year. A young teen came across the horrific discovery while riding his motorbike. Based on searches in Google Maps, this is about 200 kilometres from Kelly’s village.
Kelly’s body was fully clothed. Her body had been tied to cinder blocks and thrown into the water. The remains were identified through dental records. According to one newspaper source, the police could not determine cause of death, however they could determine that she was not sexually assaulted. Another article stated that Kelly died of asphyxiation.
Police have had several persons of interest over the years but no suspects. They believe that the crime was planned over a one or two month period. I’ve posted a composite sketch of a suspect and a description below under Additonal Photos.
Here’s one story I read but wasn’t able to corroborate: In March (Kelly’s abduction was in April), a local paper (the Strathmore Standard) featured a photo of a young girl from a figure skating club. A man phoned the local school and questioned the principal about the girl. Somehow the man got this girl’s phone number, and this is the girl who he called the night of Kelly’s abduction, who passed along Kelly’s number.
I read that story on a few boards, but not in any newspaper articles or official websites. It is confirmed that another girl passed along Kelly’s number, and Kelly’s sister did mention in one article that Kelly enjoyed figure skating, which would add up to why figure skating girl had Kelly’s number. Also it is confirmed that the police believe the murder was planned for one to two months, which matches up with the man phoning the school in March enquiring after the figure skating girl. To me, this story has significance as it indicates that Kelly is not the intended victim. This seems like an important detail, so I’m frustrated that I can’t find confirmation of this story online (I’ve seen the source linked, a Calgary Herald article from 2005, but the link is broken, could the story have been taken down for a reason?).
I’ve been mulling over how bold the crime was. The killer picked Kelly up from her house and her mother watched, and saw the car. Was he sure he would not be recognized? There is a sketch of the killer yet no one in the small town recognized him.
Kelly’s murder is theorized (by police) to have been planned for one or two months in advance – not a crime of opportunity. So where did the killer live when he was planning the murder? Was he staying in town short-term (maybe with a relative)? Was he a trucker who frequented the town? The town doesn’t really look like a place you’d stop if you were a trucker, it’s only an hour outside of Calgary, a big city, and it’s not on a major highway. I just can’t wrap my head around the killer being from Standard (the town) and being so bold as to pick Kelly up from her house to kill her. Surely he thought he wouldn’t be recognized, and hence had to be an out-of-towner?
According to one article from 1981: ‘”There is no doubt the suspect either lived in the area or frequented it,” says RCMP Corporal Craig Green. “He knew what Kelly looked like and what her name was. He also knew the town layout and some of the neighbours. Other than that we have very little to go on.” But police do not know of any area residents who disappeared at the same time the girl did’.
The next thing to think about is the location of Kelly’s remains, in the Chin Lake Reservoir near Taber, Alberta. This is not the nearest or the largest body of water available. Was the killer familiar with this body of water?
And was Kelly not the intended victim? Why go to great lengths phoning a school after information on another girl and ‘settle’ for Kelly instead? Was the killer impatient or did he have to leave the area (maybe for work?). The figure skating girl story indicates he planned for months to get one girl but then he gave up when she wasn’t available. It is confirmed the killer called one girl (identity of this girl has never been published) and received Kelly’s number from her. Why not just ask the girl if she could babysit the next day, or any other day, unless he ‘had’ to kill that day? Did he have somewhere to be?
The case has now been cold for 36 years. It will only be solved if new tips and leads are given to police by the public. The Village of Standard is offering a one hundred thousand dollar reward from for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator of this crime.
The perpetrator may already be dead, but the family still wants the case to remain in the public eye and for people not to forget Kelly. However, they are not sure if they are ready for a resolution. Kelly’s sister Marnie has said: “If it all changed tomorrow and we had all those answers, I don’t know if any of us are prepared for that. Justice makes that individual accountable, but it doesn’t bring her home, it doesn’t change it.”
Full body photo of Kelly
Locations (In Alberta, Canada)
Police Sketch. Note this sketch is from the RCMP however they no longer include it on the online page for Kelly’s cold case.
Description: 30 – 40 years of age; Height 5 foot 10 inches; Weight 160 pounds; Body type Medium to heavy build; Facial Characteristics Round face with swarthy complexion, hands and face were weather beaten, Clean shaven, short dark hair, Had a blue windbreaker with possible complay logo or emblem on it. Driving a 1978 to 1981 Chysler or GMC full size, light color, possibly pale with Alberta plates.