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Canada

HUNTER: Accused cold case killer was convicted in ’96 homicide

This isn’t Steven Laroche’s first rodeo.

No, the Niagara Falls native, has been in this particular quandary before.

And if cops have their way, Laroche may finally find his forever home.

British Columbia’s Unsolved Homicide Unit (UHU) arrested the 51-year-old Hamilton resident last week in Oakville with an assist from Steeltown cops.

Sources told the Toronto Sun, Laroche had been living in community housing in the city’s west end.

But detectives from the West Coast weren’t in town to discuss housing policy or decor. No, they were after justice.

With two police companions, Laroche was given a one-way ticket across the country where he is now safely ensconced in a Vancouver-area jail.

On Friday, he was charged with second-degree murder in the March 4, 1993 slaying of 23-year-old sex worker Vicki Black.

Vicki Black was murdered in Vancouver in 1993. The Toronto Sun has learned that her alleged killer was convicted of murdering a Winnipeg woman in 1997.

And on Monday he made a video appearance in Vancouver Provincial Court.

None of the accusations against him have been tested in court.

But cops confirmed to the Sun on Wednesday that the beefy accused killer was convicted of a Manitoba murder four years after the Black slaying.

The Winnipeg woman’s name was Donna-Marie Durham.

She was 34-years-old and her body was found on Sept. 9, 1996 in a dilapidated house at 414 Maryland St. in Winnipeg’s city core.

Her body had been stuffed underneath a bed in one of the building’s apartment units. Few details are available.

Laroche was convicted of second-degree murder on Dec. 19, 1997.

He was sentenced to “life imprisonment” and his parole eligibility was pegged at 12 years.

According to the RCMP, in January 2000, the killer’s sentence “was varied on appeal and the parole eligibility reduced to 10 years”.

Yippee.

In 2014, Laroche was sprung on full parole and was living in the Hammer at the time of his arrest.

He is on parole for life.

What he was doing, how he made a buck and other details remain vague and cops aren’t saying.

One source said his family is involved in the auto body business in Niagara.

While Laroche might not have heard the footsteps edging ever closer, make no mistake, cold case detectives were closing in on their suspect.

Investigators have released little information about what happened on that brisk night in the mid-1990s in a filthy Vancouver alley behind a 7-11.

What is known is that Vicki Black had struggled with addiction and turned to sex work to feed her demons.

She had been on the streets for a couple of years when her killer intervened.

That path led her to the city’s tattered Downtown Eastside where 26 sisters in sex work had been murdered in the five years before her death.

Each had their own miserable tale. Each had people who loved them.

They found Vicki Black’s body in a dumpster, wrapped in a bedsheet. For more than two decades, that’s all detectives had to go on despite weeks of pounding the pavement.

But inside that sheet must have been the accusing finger of Vicki Black pointing at Steven Laroche.

Science just had to catch up and call.

The evidence pointed to Laroche, all 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds of him.

A former Vancouver cop who pounded the the rough beat on the Downtown Eastside for nearly three decades, told CBC News he remembered Black well.

Now retired, Dave Dickson called the doomed girl “a super nice kid. She wouldn’t hurt a fly”.

And he casts a dark cloud.

“I’m still convinced that there are other girls out there missing that have never been reported,” he said.

bhunter@postmedia.com

@HunterTOSun

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