All you ever heard about Canada is how friendly the people are.
And for the most part, that's true.
But then you heard about some stuff that just...it sends chills up your spine.
Ever heard of Robert Pickton? He was a pig farmer in British Columbia, Canada who made headlines for his 19 years of crime. Sound like a long time? You haven't even heard the half of it.
Robert Pickton had a troubled childhood, as it seems all serial killers do. His dad wasn't around and his mom wasn't always a mother. She ran the family business and expected her kids to put in hours of work at the family meat shop. When Robert (who went by Willie as a kid) wanted to get away, he would hide in the gutted carcasses of large pigs. He also had a visceral fear of showers, which didn't make him popular at school.
When he was a boy, Robert's older brother David accidentally hit a neighboring kid with his truck and ran to get his mom for help. Instead of taking the boy to the hospital, Pickton's mom rolled the boy into the ditch and walked away. When his body was later discovered, it was apparent that the injuries he suffered from the car accident were not enough to kill him, but rather drowning in the murky ditch water.
Robert and David Pickton grew up and owned a farm together in Port Coquitlam. One of their workers, Bill Hiscox, described Robert Pickton as a "pretty quiet guy, hard to strike up a conversation with."
The farm was patrolled by a giant, 600lb boar.
"I never saw a pig like that, who would chase you and bite at you," Hiscox said. "It was running out with the dogs around the property."
The Pickton brothers decided to register their farm as a non-profit charity and started holding raves and prostitute parties in a converted slaughterhouse. They told the government they were aiming to "organize, co-ordinate, manage and operate special events, functions, dances, shows and exhibitions on behalf of service organizations, sports organizations and other worthy groups." Umm...okay, sure.
In 1997, 5 years after starting their farm, Robert Pickton was charged with the attempted murder of prostitute Wendy Lynn Eistetter, whom he stabbed several times. The charges were dropped, but the Picktons were sued for violating zoning ordinances and were ultimately banned from holding parties at their farm.
Hiscox started noticing that women who visited the farm would disappear soon thereafter, and eventually a warrant was issued as part of a missing persons search in 2002. Personal items for the missing women were found on the farm, and Robert Pickton was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Two months later, three more murder charges were added to his rap sheet.
Then a sixth.
Then a seventh.
Then four more.
Then another four.
By 2005, Robert Pickton was facing 27 charges of first-degree murder.
By now, Pickton's body count ranges between 6 and 49 women. But why is it so hard to pin down a number? Great question.
Robert Pickton fed the victims to his pigs on the farm, proving it to be a little difficult to to narrow down an exact number. There was even speculation that the serial killer ground up human flesh and added it to the pork he would sell to the public. A province wide health recall was issued.
In 2006, Robert Pickton plead not guilty to all 27 charges he faced. The judge broke the charges into groups: one group of six counts, and one group of 20 counts. The 20 counts were stayed and the trial proceeded on the group of six counts.
There was a media ban for the trial, but in 2007 it was lifted and Canadians heard the details of what was found during the investigation.
- skulls cut in half with hands and feet stuffed inside;
- the remains of one victim found stuffed in a garbage bag, and her blood-stained clothing found in Pickton's trailer;
- part of another victim's jawbone and teeth found beside Pickton's slaughterhouse;
- and a .22 calibre revolver with an attached dildo containing both his and a victim's DNA.
Pickton was given trial by jury, and there was controversy surrounding that as well (because why wouldn't there be?) One juror was accused of already deciding Pickton was innocent heading into the trial.
The jury ultimately found Pickton NOT guilty on six counts of first degree murder, but GUILTY on six counts of second degree murder. A second-degree murder punishment carries a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years, while a first degree punishment is a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. The judge gave Pickton the maximum punishment for second degree murder, which is basically the same as if he had been convicted of first degree murder.
"Mr. Pickton's conduct was murderous and repeatedly so. I cannot know the details but I know this: What happened to them was senseless and despicable." said the judge.
In 2008, Robert Pickton's lawyers tried to appeal his sentence, claiming the judge of the trial made too many mistakes in how he handled the jury and evidence. The defense team was seeking a new trial for 6 counts of second degree murder.
This appeal was dismissed by a 2:1 majority.
Robert Pickton then exercised his right as a Canadian to appeal to the Supreme Court, but in July 2010 the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided to NOT grant Robert Pickton a new trial.
Robert Pickton is still in prison to this day.
Robert Pickton's story may sound familiar if you're a fan of Criminal Minds. In season 4, the TV show did a two part episode based on the story of the infamous pig farmer.