A Canadian journey west : how Ricky brought Anguish from Ontario to Alberta

May 2nd, 2008 | By Citizen X | Category: Crime Stories

We know for certain that 44-year-old Richard James Anguish’s life came to a sudden end on the afternoon of Thursday, April 24, 2008, when his grey Pontiac G6 crashed into an oncoming semi-trailer on the Trans Canada Highway just east of Calgary, Alberta. A few hours later police also discovered the body of his 45-year-old wife, Darcy Rae Elder, at the couple’s “two-storey blue suburban home” in the Calgary community of Bridlewood. She had been strangled to death.

The Mounties “are saying they may never be able to determine if the crash that killed Anguish was intentional or not.” (I.e. did he finally commit suicide?) But there are good reasons to believe that he did strangle his wife, earlier that same day. He had a violent criminal record stretching back to 1980. And in 1994 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the “manslaughter” of a 69-year-old farmer near Hamilton, Ontario.

Why did he only get 10 years back then? Why did he only actually serve six of these 10 years? Why did Darcy Elder, who must have known something of his background, agree to marry him anyway in 2001? There may never be good answers to these questions. But they still linger in your mind.

Growing up absurd in Ontario …

Ricky Anguish grew up in Dunnville, Ontario, just north of where the Grand River meets the north shore of Lake Erie. He was apparently “abused as a child,” and his official “criminal record began in 1980,” in his mid teens.

According to his sister Sandra, who still lives in the nearby city of Hamilton: “He wasn’t the monster [the media] is making him out to be … He was in trouble … but he wasn’t always like that … I don’t want to make any comment about it other than he wasn’t totally 100 per cent a monster. He wasn’t like that. He was a very passionate person and he cared a lot for people … but things got in the way.”

One of these things, it is said, was drugs. They allegedly got in the way in his first big crime – the 1994 murder of the 69-year-old Hamilton area farmer Berkley Black (or as some sources say, Blake). According to a brother, Berkley had passed up “a chance to study in the US” when he somewhat reluctantly first “took over the family farm” many years before. He “milked the cows for years and hated it,” but was “too nice of a person” to complain.

Berkley was so nice that he sometimes gave work to Ricky Anguish, who still “looked like a dumb, innocent kid” at that time, even though he was in his early 30s. As Berkley’s brother explains the story, “Anguish was in and out of jail … but he’d always come out with the same problems. At some point, the drugs took hold and he needed the money to support his habit.” Anguish and a co-conspirator in the Berkley killing “had planned to rob a bank but got spooked when they saw police. Instead, they went to Berkley’s farm.”

So in the middle of November 1994 Ricky Anguish and his co-conspirator showed up at Berkley’s farm gate in broad daylight. As his brother tells it, Berkley “was reading the paper when he saw someone stop at the gate … Berkley was on his way back to his house, presumably to call police, when he was shot” with a sawed-off shotgun. Anguish “took the back of his head off and then … went through his pockets.”

According to another similar enough story, drawing on court records, the 69-year-old Berkley “was working on his truck when Anguish and a friend approached him.” When it became clear that Anguish intended to rob him, Berkley said “he was going to call police and turned toward the house.” Then Anguish levelled a sawed-off shotgun” at Berkley’s head “and squeezed the trigger.”

Settling for “manslaughter” …

Right after the shooting and robbery Ricky Anguish fled to Alberta. In fact even before the tragic Ontario events in November he had already “moved to Calgary in 1994 to begin a new life, but went on a crime and drug spree after a girlfriend broke off a relationship.” At that point he “travelled back and forth between Alberta and Ontario and weeks before the Black shooting, broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home [in Calgary] and caused $25,000 in damage … Two weeks after the killing, he entered her home again and held her at gunpoint for two hours before she convinced him to surrender to police.”

When Ricky Anguish surrendered in Calgary “he gave a statement to police without his lawyer present.” On the basis of this statement, it seems, he was then charged in Ontario with the first-degree murder of Berkley Black (or Blake). However, a “judge later ruled the statement inadmissable,” presumably because no lawyer had been present.

The upshot was that “Anguish should have been sentenced to life, as he would have for the first-degree murder charge he first faced.” But the inadmissability of his own statement to the Calgary police “affected the Crown’s chances of proving its case beyond that Anguish had been at the scene of the crime and was later found in possession of property belonging to Berkley Blake [or Black].” The Crown “could connect him with the theft, but wasn’t sure if it could go further.”

The upshot here was that Ricky Anguish finally pleaded guilty to the much less burdensome charge of manslaughter. And for this he ultimately received a sentence of 10 years – which is apparently “a long sentence for manslaughter.”

As it happened, moreover, Anguish proved a rather well-behaved prisoner. He was granted parole after serving only six years of his 10-year sentence.

He had already told the judge at his manslaughter trial: “we all make mistakes … I know deep down that I can be a good person and I’m asking you to give me that chance.” His subsequent parole officer similarly “enjoyed dealing with Anguish, who had a difficult upbringing,” and most of whose “support come from his sister …. He was a pleasant, decent enough client to deal with.” (And the ultimate end of the Ricky Anguish story in 2008, at the two-storey blue suburban home in the Bridlewood community and on the Trans Canada Highway, his parole officer also feels, was “a real shame.”)

Moving on to Alberta … things are good there in the fall …

Ricky Anguish “was on parole and living in a halfway house” in Calgary when he met Darcy Rae Elder, in the year 2000. She was “the oldest of four sisters and one brother.” Her “family had concerns about the parolee’s past.”

But, as one of her sisters has explained: “She would tell us he had a very kind demeanour. She admired the fact he was getting his life together … She was also the type of person who had the boyfriend who always needed help – needed to be fixed in some way … She was trying to fix him.”

Darcy Rae told her sister that Ricky Anguish was on parole, but “she never went into the details about his violent past … I’m not even sure she knew herself.” (Which seems a bit odd: how could she not know that his jail sentence was for “manslaughter,” and so forth?)

In any event, Anguish was now working “as a welder and as a trucker. The couple enjoyed camping and each bought Harley-Davidson motorcycles shortly after they started dating in 2000. They married a year later,” in 2001.

It may also say something about just why Darcy Rae Elder finally married Ricky Anguish that in 2002 she “travelled to Mexico to do roofing as a volunteer with World Vision Canada.” She had earlier “volunteered for more than 20 years with the Red Cross and had worked to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis.”

Anguish already had two children from an earlier relationship – back in Ontario, it seems. A son came to live with him and his new wife in Calgary. The son was 15 at the time. Darcy Rae “never had children, but loved her stepson as if he were her own.” As her sister has explained: “She was a nurturing stepmother. She liked to talk with him and keep him on the right path.” In her own wider family circle as well, she was the “favourite auntie who always had candy and gum in her purse and was always the one that would do fun stuff.”

More recently, Darcy Rae Elder herself was working as office manager at a railing company owned by a brother-in-law. Lately, she “had just taken a position as executive assistant working with charities the company supports. But despite the exciting new life ahead, family noticed changes in Elder. Over the past year, she stopped socializing with people at work,’ her brother-in-law has said: Everything in her life kind of dropped away in the last two to three years.’”

Elder’s relatives apparently believe an increasingly “grim financial situation,” at least partly linked to Ricky Anguish’s “suspected drug addiction,” had something to do with the dropping away in her life. At the time of his and his wife’s death last week “Anguish was awaiting trial over accusations of stealing a semi truck and a credit card in Okotoks, Alta. last fall.” In the not too distant past: “Officers were also once called to the couple’s Bridlewood home to quell a domestic dispute.”

Oddly enough, this past January 31 Ricky Anguish was actually interviewed by the Calgary Herald. At the time he “was assisting in the cleanup of a five-truck pileup that killed three people on the Trans-Canada Highway near Lake Louise.” He told the Herald that “he drove rigs for six years, but got out of the business because he believed it was dangerous … drivers are pushed to their limits to make deadlines and financially penalized for missing them. He added there was a trend toward bringing in foreign workers who often aren’t aware of winter driving conditions.”

“It’s Ricky. You lose. I win.”

Most recently, “relatives believe financial pressure in the past two-and-a-half weeks was the catalyst” in the ultimate deaths of both Darcy Rae Elder and Ricky Anguish, on the afternoon of April 24. “Elder’s sister says at one point the couple got into an argument over mortgage payments and the woman actually left the house … Elder’s family says it believes she was murdered because she was going to leave him.’”

According to her brother-in-law: “We worked to get her out of this situation,” even calling domestic violence agencies for help – “Every single one in the book.” But Darcy Rae’s husband was “very controlling.” He told his wife: “You can’t leave me, you can’t see these friends.”

On the evening of Wednesday, April 23 Darcy Rae and Ricky apparently met for dinner. Then on the morning of Thursday, April 24 Darcy arrived for work at her brother-in-law’s railing company at 7:30 AM. She left at 9:30 AM to meet with creditors downtown. A friend reported seeing Darcy Rae and Ricky having coffee together around 10:30 AM.

By lunchtime Darcy Rae had still not returned to the office. Her brother-in-law became concerned and started calling her on her cellphone. “Anguish answered once and said Elder was in the washroom and would be at work soon.” Then around 2:30 PM the brother-in-law’s cellphone rang. It was Ricky Anguish with a very short but chilling message. He just said “it’s Rick. You lose, I win.”

At the time Ricky was driving his grey Pontiac G6 on the Trans Canada Highway just east of Calgary. Very soon after he phoned in his last chilling message he would, deliberately or otherwise, slip over to the wrong lane, crash into an oncoming semi-trailer, and die almost instantly. (The semi-trailer driver was taken to the nearby Strathmore hospital, treated for minor injuries, and released.)

Meanwhile, by 4 PM Darcy Rae Elder’s brother-in-law had walked into the Calgary District 8 police office “to report his fears for her safety … Anguish’s grown son, in his early 20s, arrived at the family’s Bridlewood home shortly after police made the grim discovery of his stepmother’s body at 6 PM … Grief-stricken and weeping, the young man tried ducking under the crime scene tape, but was led away.”

It seems clear enough that it was Ricky Anguish and no one else who strangled his wife on Thursday, April 24, 2008. But “homicide investigators still must eliminate any other persons of interest,” according to Staff Sgt. Kevin Forsen of the Calgary police homicide unit: “We want to make sure we eliminate everybody that had potential to be a person of interest or suspect. We don’t want to make a mistake of stopping the investigation and letting somebody get away with murder.”

It would also fit with his sister’s, his murdered wife’s, and his parole officer’s theory that Ricky Anguish was at bottom a good person with a troubled childhood who wanted to do better, to think that a few hours after he strangled his wife, he deliberately drove his car into the path of the oncoming semi trailer and killed himself.

But the Mounties who look after such things in Alberta (and in every other province of Canada, except Ontario and Quebec) “are saying they may never be able to determine if the crash that killed Anguish was intentional or not … Sgt. Patrick Webb said Anguish did not leave a suicide note and he had not been driving in the oncoming traffic lane for any length of time before the crash … “The witnesses said it was more like a loss of control, a swerve … It’s not definite yet and it may never be.”

SOURCES

Gwendolyn Richards and Stephane Massinon, “Man suspected of killing wife went ‘from bad to worse’,” Calgary Herald, Monday, April 28, 2008.

Michelle Butterfield, Stephane Massinon, and Sherri Zickefoose,”Husband’s chilling message: ‘you lose, I win’ … Wife sought help before slaying,Calgary Herald, Sunday, April 27, 2008.

Michelle Butterfield, Stephane Massinon, and Sherri Zickefoose, “Alleged murder-suicide a chilling end to an anguished past,Windsor Star, Sunday, April 27, 2008.

Pete Curtis, “Bizarre Details Surface Over Possible Murder/Suicide,660 News, Sunday, April 27, 2008.

Nadia Moharib, “Victim’s brother finds closure,Calgary Sun, Sunday, April 27, 2008.

Nadia Moharib, “Murder-suicide suspected,Edmonton Sun, Saturday, April 26, 2008.

Dawn Walton, “Man dies in head-on crash on same day his wife slain,Globe and Mail, Saturday, April 26,2008.

Sherri Zickefoose and Michelle Butterfield, “Family feared for victim … Husband was convicted killer,Calgary Herald, Saturday, April 26, 2008.

CBC News, “Calgary woman found strangled; husband dies same day,Sympatico MSN News, Friday, April 25, 2008.

Sherri Zickefoose, “Slaying victim identified, husband dead,Calgary Herald, Friday, April 25, 2008.

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One comment
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  1. That is a great story! I just hope that he took the anguish from the roofing calgary industry. If so, that will help my work out a lot! But, seriously, this is a great post.

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