315: More than Meets the Eye: The Murder of Barbara Stoppel

Episode 315: Barbara Gayle Stoppel, a 16-year-old waitress, was tragically murdered on December 23, 1981, in the women’s washroom of Ideal Donut Shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was strangled with a twine, and despite being found alive, she succumbed to her injuries after six days on life support. The murder case quickly became notorious not only due to its brutal nature but also because of the wrongful conviction of Thomas Sophonow, who was initially accused of the crime.

Sophonow underwent three separate trials: the first ended with a hung jury, and the second and third led to convictions ultimately overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear a Crown appeal, leading to Sophonow’s final acquittal. This case is frequently cited as a significant example of a miscarriage of justice involving flawed eyewitness identifications and police misconduct during the interrogation process.

Despite Sophonow’s exoneration, the actual perpetrator remained at large until a re-investigation of the case pointed to another suspect, Terry Arnold, who was already known to police for similar offences, having left a trail of depravity, sexual assaults and suspected murder in his wake. This revelation came too late to be pursued thoroughly, as Arnold died by suicide in 2005.

The impact of this case has been profound, leading to public scrutiny over police procedures and the reliability of eyewitness testimony. It has also been the subject of several books and a public inquiry which sought to prevent such injustices in the future.

Sources:

barbstoppel.com

Thomas Sophonow | Innocence Canada

City of Winnipeg

1984 CanLII 2912 (MB CA) | R. v. Sophonow | CanLII

1984 CanLII 3811 (MB CA) | R. v. Sophonow (No.1) | CanLII

1986 CanLII 104 (MB CA) | R. v. Sophonow (No.2) | CanLII

1999 CanLII 6576 (BC SC) | R. v. Arnold | CanLII

2001 BCCA 374 (CanLII) | R. v. Arnold | CanLII

2005 BCCA 611 (CanLII) | R. v. Arnold | CanLII

Body of suspect in Winnipeg killing found in Victoria

Drifter

Thomas Sophonow Inquiry

Letter of Apology to Tom Sophonow

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Stoppel

Exclusive: Thirty years later, survivor details encounter with serial killer Terry Arnold

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