Baltovich Released, But Not Free

In June of 1990, University of Toronto student Elizabeth Bain goes missing from her Scarborough campus. A few days later her blood-stained car is discovered. But Elizabeth’s body is never found.

The police investigate. The vehicle is carefully examined. Witnesses are interviewed. Although there’s no physical evidence directly linking Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Robert Baltovich, to the disappearance, the young man is arrested. Two years later, he’s convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole for 17 years.

While Robert is behind bars, the Scarborough Rapist, only later identified as Paul Bernardo, is still at large. His modus operandi is strikingly similar to the circumstances in the case of Elizabeth Bain. Still, it’s not until 2000, after the case captures the attention of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, that Robert is released on bail pending his appeal.

In 2004, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturns Robert’s conviction, stating that the original trial judge’s charge to the jury was one-sided and prejudicial. But an overturned conviction is not the same as an acquittal; Robert is not declared innocent. Although he’s out of prison, he’s not a free man.

Now, in 2005, Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General has decided to retry Robert on second-degree murder charges. While the case against him in 1992 was weak, today, with so much new evidence implicating a far more likely suspect, perhaps Robert will at last gain the freedom he longs for.