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  • The Murder and Ongoing Search for Shane Smith’s Body

    Understanding Crime & Criminals

    The Law

    Canadian criminal law recognizes 3 types of culpable homicide: murder (1st and 2nd degree), manslaughter, and infanticide. Murder is the killing of one human being by another with malice aforethought; infanticide is the killing of a newborn child by its mother; and manslaughter, which includes the lesser offense of criminal negligence, is any homicide that is neither murder nor infanticide. First-degree murder now consists of 4 forms of homicide: murders that are planned and deliberate, murders of police or custodial officers killed in the line of duty, murders committed in the course of specified criminal acts (hijacking, sexual offenses or kidnapping) or murders committed by a person who has been convicted of first- or second-degree murder. Second-degree murder constitutes all other murders. 

    The Crime

    On June 24th a beautiful life was taken away when he fell victim to homicide in south east Calgary. Calgary Police believe Shane Eric James Smith was killed late in the evening on June 6th  at a home in southeast Calgary and on June 16th, 24-year-old Ian Charles Abercrombie was charged with second-degree murder in connection to Smith’s death. On August 18th, twenty-three-year-old Andrew Leger-Wagner and 24-year-old Andrew Thomas Bablitz were charged of obstructing justice, the indignity of a human body, and two counts of firearms trafficking. Murder is probably the most significant act of moral violation because it not only deprives a person to live but leaves the victims friends, family and community fractured and traumatized. What possibly could be the next worst thing a person can do after committing homicide….it is not disclosing what they did with the victim’s body!

    Shane’s body remains missing. The primary accused, Ian Charles Abercrombie, refuses to utter a single word on his victims whereabout. The lack of information on Shane’s whereabouts has prompted a search stretching from Makenzie Towne, where the homicide took place, to Okotoks, Black Diamond and Priddis, and Bragg Creek. With the arrest of Andrew Leger-Wagner and Andrew Thomas Bablitz, police have learned that Shane’s body may have been dumped in the Elbow River. Whether this is true remains to be seen. 

    The Criminology

    As a criminologist not only I study crime and crime prevention but also try to understand the why and the what…in this instance, why commit such a hideous act knowing that the consequence could mean life in prison; why, even after being charged with homicide, would someone continue to refuse to tell the authorities where they dumped their victims body; why is the search area so massive, what does the river do to a corpse.

    Different theories may be applied to why would someone commit murder. It may range from Opportunity Theory which suggests that offenders make rational choices and thus choose targets that offer a high reward with little effort and risk. … A large part of this theory focuses on how variations in lifestyle or routine activities affect crime opportunities. Another possible explanation would be hegemonic masculinity, which is defined as a practice that legitimizes men’s dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of the common male population and women and other marginalized ways of being a man. There is also an array of different social, psychological, and developmental theories to try to explain such behavior. I emphasize ‘try’ because there is no one theory that can explain such a devious act. Maybe there isn’t an appropriate theory because what transpired was nothing less than sheer malice. It takes a particular type of person to kill someone and live with the knowledge that they are also emotionally and psychologically killing the victim’s family and loved ones daily.

    Not knowing where to look for Shane, the application of environmental criminology became imperative. Environmental criminology states that to know about the crime, one must learn as much about the criminal. According to environmental criminology, offenders commit crime/would hide evidence at a place they are most familiar with. Learning about the accused in this case was important to learn about his thinking process. Answers to questions such as where he grew up, where he worked, where he hung out most of the time, and how he was characterized by those who knew him became intricate. Answers to these questions help in trying to know the offender and what they may be capable of.

    While physical, circumstantial, demonstrative, and direct evidence is being systematically collected to prosecute Ian, there still is no sign of Shane’s body anywhere. Family, friends, and volunteers are now scouting the rivers and canals in Calgary to find Shane’s body. But it has been 11 weeks, so what should they be looking for. This is where forensics comes into play, which explains what happens to a body when left in the river for some time.  

    The progression of decomposition changes in a liquid environment is altered by temperature, current, the interaction between the remains and the physical environment, and animal predation. While postmortem putrefaction occurs in a dry climate, differences in bacterial flora, and an anaerobic atmosphere alter the usual chemical processes. With significant postmortem, intervals may result in the conversion of fats to adipocere. If the victim was dismembered, then bones often get wrapped up in debris. Of course, if the victim is weighed down, it could be a while before rope dissolves to allow bones to travel in the stream. Unless, of course, the victim was wrapped in plastic, then air can get into the plastic allowing for a chance for the body to submerge to the top. Lastly, for those victims who are shot, the part of that body which was shot will decompose first along with all open orifices (e.g., eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and rectum.

    The criminal justice system is tasked to bring those responsible for the senseless killing to justice. A conviction will be far from a full closure for the family. If there is anything that will bring some form of meaningful closure to Shane’s family then it will be giving a proper burial to Shane. The family continues to search for Shane till this day.