It may sound incredible, but drug and alcohol abuse claims more lives annually than violent crime. In fact, alcohol use alone can claim the lives of upwards of 88,000 people a year and accounts for approximately 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year. And that’s just in the United States.
Our story however, takes place in Canada, in a little town in British Columbia. It is a tale of one man’s untameable taste for booze and the crooked path that one night can take when one makes all the wrong choices…
The Canadian Mounted police arrived at the house in British Columbia to find a dreadful scene. Isabelle St. Amand, her common-law husband Ray, and their three sons, Paul, Brian, and Roy had all been shot. Their eight-year-old daughter Cathy was missing. The mounties had made a terrible mistake.
Protect His Family
After seeing the scenes of murder, the police immediately made a call to their fellows in Creston. They believed that the killer’s next targets might well be his own wife and children. They evacuated Annette and her three kids and hoped that they would soon catch up with Dale, who they believed was the killer…
Logger and Husband
Dale, like many individuals in his area of Creston, British Columbia, was a logger. Married with three children, Dale was an angry man who had resorted to physically abusing his wife on more than one occasion. It was this piece of information that led police to move them out of harm’s way when they believed he’d gone off the deep end.
Dale was an aggressive and more importantly, unpredictable alcoholic who often drank to the point where he would become violent against those around him. He also had a taste for LSD, a psychedelic drug known for its psychological effects and hallucinogenic properties. But altering one’s perceptions to get high can come with unforeseen consequences…
Early into his drug abuse, Dale became so depressed that he attempted suicide. Though the event was unsuccessful, he still spent two months at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam recovering and getting clean. His sobriety was short-lived however, and the subsequent months would see him revisiting a number of addictions in order to get through rehab.
Beers and Buds
In September of that year, Dale Nelson drove into Creston where he purchased six beers and a bottle of vodka at the liquor store. Looking for a place to drink it all, he headed to the nearby Kootenay Hotel and drank eight more beers with friends while they chatted about the upcoming hunting season…
His friends didn’t notice anything unusual about him. If anything, he seemed less violent than usual. It wasn’t until much later that they would realize his uncommon geniality was simply the calm before the storm. After leaving the pub, he traveled to his friend Maureen McKay’s where he reclaimed the 7 mm caliber bolt action rifle he had loaned to her.
A Few Too Many
After reclaiming his borrowed weapon, Nelson drove back to Creston, purchased ammunition for the gun, and bought some more alcohol. He then went to the King George Hotel, drank six more beers and joined his friends in a hotel room to drink some more. If it sounds to you like he was drinking a bit too much that night, then congratulations, you’re not crazy…
He drank until just after midnight when he got it in his head to drive to the home of his distant relative, Shirley Wasyk. He knew her husband Alex wasn’t home and he had decided that he wanted to spend some time with her. It’s not clear what happened when he arrived, but it’s assumed Shirley rebuffed his drunken advances and in retort he beat her with a fire extinguisher.
Shirley was dazed but alive. He tied her hands behind her back and left her on her bed before heading into the house to find the rest of his three young relatives. He managed to take 8-year-old Charlene and 7-year-old Tracey into the room with Shirley, but in his drunken state, had forgotten all about 12-year-old Debbie…
Awakened by her mother’s cry for help, Debbie peeked out of her room to see Nelson dragging Charlene into Tracey’s room. She crept in, untied her mother’s hands, then took the fire extinguisher and ran to her own room where she used it to break her bedroom window and escape.
Debbie ran to Maureen McKay’s house nearby and quickly called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When they finally arrived at the Wasyk home, they found Nelson’s truck still parked outside, but no sign of him. Shirley had been beaten to death, Tracey had died from multiple stab wounds, and little Charlene had been set free in the nearby woods. Little did they know, Nelson was far from done…
What they hadn’t realized was that in their haste to find and save Charlene, the Mounties hadn’t noticed that Dale Nelson was still at the scene of the crime. What’s worse was that he had taken his car and driven away with Tracey’s body in tow. They didn’t know why he’d taken the seven-year-old’s body, but they would soon find out the horrible truth.
It was shortly after this that, Isabelle St. Amand, who lived only a few miles down the road, called the police to warn them that a man with a gun was in their house. The Mounties arrived to find Isabelle, Ray, Paul, Brian, and Roy, who was only 18 months old, all dead. They had to find Cathy before she met the same fate as little Tracey…
The Canadian Mounted Police immediately launched a massive manhunt. Bush pilots were called in to scour the entire countryside for any sign of Nelson’s truck. The next afternoon, the vehicle was finally located in a ditch. It had become stuck and Nelson had abandoned it and gone off into the wilderness, taking Cathy with him.
Hammer and Remains
Inside the truck, police discovered a bloody hammer. As they searched the area, they located what was left of Tracey Wasyk’s remains. Nelson had apparently torn out her internal organs, though they wouldn’t find out why he had dismembered and eviscerated her until a day later when they finally located Dale Nelson…
During the course of their search, the Mounties had the 150 residents of West Creston moved into Creston for their own safety. On the afternoon of September 6th, 1970, they came upon a shack in the woods. It was close to where Nelson and his family had lived. Inside was a distraught and bloodied Nelson, nursing a two day hangover. He surrendered to them without incident.
Nelson explained that eight-year-old Cathy Rose St. Amand was dead and that he had sodomised her before he killed her. He pointed to the location of her body on a map and confessed to killing the other seven people as well. He also explained that the reason he’d eviscerated Tracey was so that he could try and eat her organs. Clearly, the man was insane…
Limits of Sanity
It was this clear evidence of his insanity which defense attorney M. E. Moran used to try and defend Nelson at his trial. Yet, despite a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity brought about by years of heavy drinking and LSD use, Dale Nelson was still found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of throat cancer in 1999, but the legacy of his night of terror lives on.
Many believe that were it not for the combination of his existing mental illness and substance abuse, Nelson may not have acted out in the way he did. The lethal combination of alcohol abuse and depression, coupled with a deep-seeded and implacable rage, was more than enough to send him over the deep end.