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Alleged Barrie killer was known to locals as 'Bruce Ellis'

'He dated my aunt for a while and I remember that when they were together, no one messed with me'

More information is coming to light about a Barrie man who was arrested this week and charged with the murder of Katherine Janeiro, a young mother who was found stabbed to death in her apartment in the fall of 1994.

Robert Bruce MacQueen was arrested Wednesday morning in the city's south end in connection to the death of Janeiro, whose body was discovered in a pool of blood on Oct. 10, 1994 in her home at the Dunlop Apartments, located at 258 Dunlop St. W., near Anne Street.

Janeiro, who had lived in the apartment for about a year and was known to her friends as 'Sport', was just 20 years old. She had a two-year-old daughter who was not home at the time of the murder. The little girl was staying with her grandparents in Toronto when her mom was killed. It was Thanksgiving weekend. 

Police have previously said Janeiro suffered multiple stab wounds and succumbed to her injuries prior to being found in her basement apartment by friends.

When MacQueen's name began circulating on social media following his arrest, few people recognized him. However, he appears to be more widely known by an alias: Bruce Ellis.  

Bruce Ellis has lived in Barrie and the surrounding area for a long time. A post on one of three Facebook accounts shows Ellis moved to Innisfil in May 2020.

While the last name 'MacQueen' doesn’t ring a lot of bells for some, the name Bruce Ellis did for others.

A former Barrie resident named Paul, who didn’t want his last name published for fear of backlash to his friends and family, told BarrieToday he knew Ellis back when they were growing up.

“I tried searching the name (Robert Bruce MacQueen) that was in the media on Thursday, but couldn't find anything,” said Paul. “When you showed me that pic and name I knew him right away. Bruce Ellis is how most people will know him.”

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon confirmed that MacQueen is known by the alias of Bruce Ellis and that the photos taken from social media are of the suspect in the Janeiro case. 

Paul is six years younger than Ellis/MacQueen and though he never had a run-in with Ellis when they attended the former King Edward Public School in Barrie's Allandale area, he said Ellis was known as a tough guy.

"He dated my aunt for a while and I remember that when they were together, no one messed with me," Paul said. "But other than being a tough guy and all, I never would have thought of him in something like this (being charged in a murder case).”

BarrieToday also spoke to another woman who still lives in Barrie, but who wished to remain anonymous due to the nature of the crime Ellis/MacQueen is alleged to have committed.

The woman said she had been good friends with him since Grade 6 when they attended King Edward school together in 1977. She helped clear up the confusion on the different names. 

“His real father was (a) MacQueen, but when his mother remarried, that's where Ellis came about,” she said. “(It was) easier for the kids to go to school with one family name.”

The woman said Ellis/MacQueen worked in construction and other odd jobs. When it came to watching television, “he was crazy over those shows CSI and Law and Order," she added. 

The woman said Ellis/MacQueen never attended high school and was often in trouble in his younger days, in and out of jail.

“He never graduated public school,” she said. “All us kids used to say that (jail) was his first home.”

Despite the bad reputation as a child and adolescent, the woman said there was also another side to Ellis/MacQueen. 

“He did have a good side that nobody really knew about," she said. "If he saw me on the street, he would watch out for me, and if I needed anything he was there for me. He was always proud to say we were good friends since sixth grade.”

The woman also told BarrieToday that Janeiro was "a real good friend" to her. 

"I miss her dearly,” she said.

The woman says she and Janeiro had been about to become roommates prior to the murder. 

“I was moving into her place (with Janeiro) that following weekend after she was murdered,” she said.

MacQueen, who has been charged with first-degree murder, made a court appearance by video Thursday and is scheduled for another appearance on Jan. 21. 

Wednesday morning's arrest came following a tip received in 2019 that Leon said "primarily involved MacQueen."

Back in 1994, Barrie police began an investigation with assistance from the Ontario Provincial Police's Forensic Identification Bureau. After an extensive and exhaustive investigation, the case was turned over to the OPP in October 1999 in order to utilize an unspecified investigative technique that was beyond the scope of Barrie police at that time.

Unfortunately, police have said this technique didn't yield any results that would advance the investigation or point toward a suspect.

In February 2012, the investigation was turned back over to city police.

During the course of the investigation, Barrie police detectives also obtained witness statements and collected numerous pieces of physical evidence.

According to the Janeiro case file on the police department's website, they had also worked with the Centre of Forensic Science to re-examine some of the existing evidence "in light of scientific advancements in forensic analysis that have been made over the years."

Investigators have also sought opinion from experts in various investigative and scientific fields, including DNA analysis and DNA mixtures, both in Canada and the United States.

These investigative procedures and techniques enabled investigators to eliminate certain persons of interest.

According to reporting published by the former Barrie Examiner, Janeiro's body was found lying on the floor, covered in blood with scratches on her face. Estranged from her boyfriend, she'd been at a pair of downtown bars most of Sunday night and early Monday morning prior to her body being discovered. Her death may have been the result of a robbery.  

Janeiro's telephone, which police believed may have contained her killer's number in its memory, had also been stolen from the crime scene. In March 1995, only a week after police announced they were looking for the phone, it was found in a creek not far from the murder scene. Its memory was intact, but police said it brought investigators no closer to finding her killer.

Janeiro left home at age 16 and moved to Barrie with her boyfriend. A year later, she gave birth to a baby girl named Dawn. About 10 months prior to her death, Janeiro and her boyfriend had separated and she moved into the Dunlop Street apartment with her toddler. 

Her parents, Dinora and Fernando Janeiro, who had spoken to Examiner reporters about their daughter's slaying, have both since passed away. Dinora died May 18, 2012, in Toronto, followed by Fernando on Jan. 19, 2014, also in Toronto.  

Katherine grew up on a quiet street in a middle-class neighbourhood. She was the Janeiros' only child.

In a story published in the Examiner on Oct. 14, 1994, Dinora says: "She was so smart, happy and fun. A good heart and soul. All that for nothing."

Added Fernando in 1994 at their North York home: "I want to know all. I will wait. Somebody killed my daughter like a pig. I'm her father and I can't even see her."

At a 2014 press conference to mark the 20th anniversary since Janeiro's murder, Det. Rob Gravel said he believed investigators were getting closer to solving the case. 

“He's in the Simcoe County area," Gravel told reporters, according to an Examiner article from the time. "I know his identity and we have been keeping tabs on the suspect."

Now, in 2021, it's unclear if the detective was referring to MacQueen/Ellis. 

In 2014, Gravel said they had two men under surveillance and detectives hoped developing technology in the field of DNA analysis would help break down the DNA mixtures of the original six suspects and narrow down the search to two. He said he was certain one of the samples would be a match the killer's genetic code, according to the Examiner

Gravel had said DNA was only one part of the investigation and not its "totality. Definitely, the Janeiro case is a strong forensic case, but we have interviewed hundreds of witnesses. Over 350 witnesses have come forward," he said in 2014. 

Janeiro's daughter, Dawn Nelson, also spoke at that press conference when she was 22 years old. Nelson told reporters how she learned of her mother's death a few years after the fact. 

“When I was about six years old and my grandparents were distracted, I was flipping through channels and came across the Crime Stoppers episode," Nelson said in 2014. "This episode was a re-enactment of a young woman being stabbed in her apartment. As young as I was, I still remember being terrified and sad for this woman, and sad for her family.

“Moments later, a picture of the real victim holding her child was put on the screen and I realized at that moment that was my mother," Nelson added. "I knew because it was the same picture that's in my living room to this day. I've never been able to get rid of the hurt and confusion that flooded my mind that night.”

Nelson said her grandparents, who both suffered from depression after their daughter's death as well as battling cancer in their later years, were "torn apart" by what happened to Katherine. 

“They're both in a better place right now, reunited with my mother, but it was a tough way to get there," Nelson said in 2014. “Now I stand alone, holding on to the hope that there will be justice in my mother's case. I hope to one day have closure to what has caused me so much pain.”

— With files from Raymond Bowe