Early in my career I had the fortune to work in a community called Fort Macleod, near Lethbridge. I worked at the Macleod Gazette from 1996 to 2000. A very historic community, I had the good luck to work with plenty of great people. Also, just starting out I was also learning as much about community journalism as I could.
I learned a lot from the police commander there. The RCMP commander in Fort Macleod was Sgt. Pete Sopow. Pete was a friendly, easy-going fellow who was easy to work with. If he had a problem, he told you. If you helped him, he thanked you. I’ve been lucky to work with many great detachment commanders like Bill Laidlaw and Kevin Murray, but Pete will always be at the top.
After a police-involved shooting incident in town, Pete told me I could come directly to the detachment for an interview. He had the report in front of him for the incident, and literally let me read it myself. Trust me when I say that doesn’t happen very often.
Not only was Pete a great police commander to work with, he was a good friend outside the office. I liked to play community sports like volleyball and slo-pitch, and so did Pete. One night at co-ed slo-pitch, my horrible team was facing off against the best team in the league, the RCMP officers. Pete was pitching, and he was good. Very good. He struck me out every time I went up. Then at the end of the game on my last “at bat,” Pete, for some reason, lobbed a big, fat duck that I was all over. I got a triple, my only hit that night. Pete threw me that pitch on purpose. He could have struck me out if he wanted.
Pete Sopow, along with his girlfriend, kindergarten teacher Lorraine McNab, were found murdered on Monday, December 15 1997 at her farm outside Pincher Creek, a few minutes west of Fort Macleod. They’d been shot to death two days earlier, Dec. 13, and their bodies tossed in a horse trailer. RCMP found them Monday morning after Pete didn’t show up for work.
No one has ever been arrested or even charged for the double-murder 18 years ago. Whoever murdered them was waiting at Lorraine’s farm on Sat. Dec. 13 and ambushed his victims after they returned from visiting Lorraine’s parents. The murderer had some dumb luck in that the weekend included a fresh snowfall that likely damaged or destroyed some evidence, such as footprints.
Initially, some suspected the shootings were linked to Pete’s police career, but he wasn’t the primary target. Lorraine was. Apparently, Lorraine was being stalked by a man known to her whom she had no interest in. Most people familiar with the murders agree this is the person very likely to have murdered them. I spent about five minutes phoning around and had the person’s name on my desk.
You can Google search and read lots of articles from the Calgary Sun and Herald by people who think they’re experts on Pete’s murder. Maybe they are.
But I knew Pete. I’m very afraid he will become a forgotten statistic, and he deserves to be remembered. And almost 20 years later, those of us who knew him are still waiting for justice.
Stu Salkeld is the new editor of The Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.