By M.J. Preston
I don't know what spurred me to follow him that day in 1977. I was 12 years old, knew who he was, so curiously I ventured out and began to move furtively up Yale Road East as the old man trudged ahead of me. The sky was overcast, a cold mixture of depressing gray-black clouds. Falling rain began to stain the ground with dark blots as we pushed up the street toward town.
I was wearing a blue jean jacket that day, made by GWG as I recall, and my shoulder length hair was a tangle of wet curls. The old man was wearing a suit and hat, as older men in the 1970s still did. There was a pang of guilt in my heart for this unintended victim, but I could not abandon the pursuit. The rain came down a little harder on us, and I continued, a few hundred feet behind him.
I had to keep my pace at a minimum as the old man moved slower than I, and if I didn't, I would no doubt pass him. He had traveled a couple blocks now, and I decided to cross to the other side of the street to avoid being noticed. As I did this, I took a glance at his house and wondered if his wife was in there alone.
I had to make sure the old man didn't see me as I followed, and I cut my pace a bit more looking away, as though I were trying to find a house on the opposite side of the road.
What is he thinking, I thought. What must be going through his mind?
Having walked better than two miles, we were now in the center of the town. The streets were not all that busy today, and the bench he decided to sit down on was situated where five roads intersected in the little city of Chilliwack. This place was aptly called "Five Corners," and it was still the heart of the town's business district. I also stopped and watched with guilty fascination as the old man stared off into the distance. He was broken, his eyes weary and tired, his heart battered, and he could not see me or anyone else as the rain fell a little harder. I leaned against a telephone pole, my jean jacket was spongy with water, and the air smelled moist sending a cold shiver into my bones.
Did he know I had followed him? I doubted that now, and I wondered whether I should approach him. He was an unfortunate spectacle sitting there in the rain trying to make rhyme or reason of the madness. Perhaps I could sit down beside him, tell him how sorry I was for his troubles, but no, I would never do that.
How long did I stand there watching the old man in the rain? Ten minutes? A half an hour? I don't remember, for a 12-year-old boy it should have felt like an eternity, but it didn’t.
He's dying, I thought. This is killing him. And I think it was, but there was nothing I could do about it.
The night before I had been camping two doors down with a friend of mine, named Warren. We had decided to set up a pup tent in Warren's backyard.
At first, I raised the alarm. "What about the Rosedale killer?"
Warren laughed. "That guy is 500 miles from here."
Not long before this night, a group of five young teens had ventured down to the Fraser River to party. On that night, a gunman came out of the woods and ambushed them. Their names were Leola Gulliker, Evert Den Hertog, Egbert Menger and Jan Den Hertog. Of the five, the only survivor would be Ed Menger who ran after the first shot rang out. The only female victim Leola Gulliker was not recovered at the crime scene. The killer had thrown her into the Fraser River.
The news media dubbed the killings: THE ROSEDALE SLAYINGS as they occurred in proximity to the farming community of Rosedale, British Columbia.
Everyone was talking about the murders, my older brother went to high school with the young victims. To us, the Rosedale killer was a monster, perhaps a gargantuan man without a soul and there was speculation that the missing Gulliker was still being held by this monster.
An hour after Warren and I had set up the pup tent, the street became awash with red and blue police lights as the RCMP cordoned the road off. One of the neighbor kids came by the fence and said, "The cops are arresting someone."
"Who," I asked.
"Probably some drunk," Warren rolled over and went to sleep.
The next morning, we found out different. They had arrested the Rosedale Killer, and he was not anything like we had imagined. He was a teenager as well, an average looking young man, tall, thin, glasses. He had gone to school with these kids, and for reasons only he could offer, he decided to ambush them on the river. His name was Walter Murray Madsen.
When the news broke, I smacked Warren in the arm and said, "500 miles, eh?"
He was speechless.
Now, I was watching the Father of Walter Murray Madsen sitting in the rain staring into the abyss likely trying to comprehend what his son had been arrested for. He was a sad figure sitting there in his suit, rain dripping down on him mercilessly. I honestly felt for him, but there was little I could do, and I eventually withdrew leaving him to his sadness.
Approximately a week or two later the news would announce that the father of Walter Madsen had died. They did not go into detail about the cause, but I believe that the implication of his son in the massacre of four innocent kids played a part.
The following spring, Leola Gulliker's body was recovered from the Fraser River.