Chances of justice in Sopow murder approaching zero

Now 21 years since murder of RCMP sergeant and fiancé near Pincher Creek

Next week marks the 21st anniversary of RCMP Sgt. Pete Sopow’s murder near Pincher Creek, and it’s looking less and less like anybody is ever going to be held responsible for the murder.

Pete’s body, along with the remains of his girlfriend Lorraine McNab, a schoolteacher from Pincher Creek west of Fort Macleod, was found in a trailer on McNab’s property Monday, Dec. 15, 1997. Investigators later stated the pair were shot to death at the farm Saturday, Dec. 13, two days earlier after returning from a visit to McNab’s parent’s home. Friends and family have suggested over the years that Pete and Lorraine became engaged that night.

Pete was the commander of the Fort Macleod RCMP detachment, and had been since before I arrived there to work as a reporter at the Macleod Gazette newspaper in August, 1996. I got to know Pete quite well, although I didn’t know Lorraine as well.

To this day no one has ever been arrested for the double murder. Some fragments of evidence have leaked out over the years, such as the pair were murdered in an ambush in Lorraine’s farm yard after returning from a visit with Lorraine’s family, they were killed by a .22 caliber rifle, a noteworthy vintage car was seen in the vicinity of Lorraine’s yard the weekend of the murder and Lorraine had trouble with someone stalking her…or at the very least, someone was bothering Lorraine with unwanted advances, was rebuffed and couldn’t take his medicine like a man.

One Pincher Creek-area man was detained and sent for a mental evaluation in the days after the murders but the man was never charged. Coincidentally enough, that man owned a .22 caliber rifle that has never been found to this day and owned a vintage car exactly like the one seen near Lorraine’s yard the weekend of the murders. The man is also the one who was bothering Lorraine with unwanted advances.

Something else has been disturbing me about the murder case, and that’s armchair detectives on blogs and social media stating the murder “must have something to do with Pete’s RCMP career,” despite the fact that what evidence exists actually argues against that theory.

I don’t believe for a minute the pair were murdered for something Pete did in his 30 plus year police career. How many times do you hear about criminals murdering police officers in Alberta in revenge? Plus, doing it when an innocent woman is present? That’s Hollywood stuff.

However, it’s a fact, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, that her intimate partner murders a woman in Canada every six days. Men murdering women in Alberta is a very common occurrence. In this case the person I think murdered Lorraine wasn’t her partner…but he certainly wanted to be.

Pete was a great example of a police commander who boosted the community and wanted to help in ways other than handing out traffic tickets.

Pete approved an Fort Macleod RCMP trading card program (all members of the detachment had a trading card with their photo on one side, their personal information on the other) so school kids could get to know the local RCMP, and also helped develop a “Bears of Hope” program, where emergency vehicles, including RCMP patrol cruisers, had stuffed toys in the event a child was involved in misfortune (the police officer would then present the kid with a stuff toy in order to help them feel a bit better).

Pete didn’t deserve to be murdered and he doesn’t deserve to be forgotten either.

(If you want to learn more, CBC did a great podcast about this case. You can find it online at https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/ambushed-cattle-country-murder/)

Stu Salkeld was a reporter for The Macleod Gazette newspaper for four and a half years and spent many hours working with Sgt. Pete Sopow.

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