Peter Frumusa was not a double killer. Why would the police trust a drug dealer nicknamed ‘The Serpent’?

When Peter Frumusa learned that he had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a Niagara Falls couple while they slept, he collapsed on his face on the prisoners’ dock and lamented: “I did nothing, I did nothing, no I did nothing”. I’m doing nothing “.

It took his lawyer Leo Adler five minutes to get him to his feet.

It took another nine years to prove that Frumusa was telling the truth and to release him.

At the time of Frumusa’s trial in Niagara Falls in the fall of 1989, he was a 29-year-old cocaine addict with some shady associates.

The murdered couple were retired autoworker Richard (Hop) Wilson and his wife Annie.

The Wilsons had been married for less than five months in August 1988, when someone broke into their home on Niagara Parkway and beat them to death in their beds.

Theirs was a marriage of convenience. The Wilsons met at a Niagara Falls nursing home, where Richard, 70, was a patient and Annie, 48, one of his nurses.

The marriage meant that Richard, a childless widower, could live out his years in his family’s home on Niagara Parkway with 24-hour medical care. He had been using a wheelchair after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery and suffered several strokes.

Annie’s marriage to him meant that she was guaranteed more than $ 50,000, plus a home for herself and her daughter, Brenda Smith, who was in a relationship with Frumusa.

All Annie had to do was bathe, dress, and care for Richard until he died.

Not long after their marriage, one of the groom’s friends stopped by and Richard sadly asked, “How could I have been so stupid?”

On the morning of August 23, 1988, Smith was unable to reach his mother by phone, so he sent Frumusa to search the house.

No one opened the door and Frumusa called the police. He was waiting in his car outside when the officers arrived.

Within hours, Frumusa was told he was in custody. “Don’t say that,” he told the officers who arrested him. “Do not tell me that. You can’t tell me that. “

No physical evidence was presented at the Frumusa trial linking him to the murders; Not a trace of blood was found on Frumusa or on her clothing, experts told the court.

That’s despite the fact that Annie Wilson’s blood was splattered on the eight-foot ceiling of her bedroom, on the walls, and on a mirror ten feet from her body, Const. Terry Ward of the Niagara Region Police testified during the trial.

Blood was also sprayed on the ceilings and walls of Richard’s bedroom, as well as on a television screen about six feet from his body.

Nothing at the crime scene, including fibers, fabrics or fingerprints, linked Frumusa to the crime scene, Ward testified.

Adler, Frumusa’s attorney, said this was inconsistent with the personality of his cocaine-addicted client. “Wouldn’t a bum leave forensic clues?” he asked the court.

Testifying against Frumusa was a 29-year-old cocaine and heroin trafficker from the Niagara region, nicknamed “The Serpent.”

La Serpiente was in a detention center facing burglary charges when Frumusa was charged.

The Serpent claimed that Frumusa confessed to him over the phone that he killed the couple, even though he and Frumusa did not know each other particularly well.

The Serpent’s story began to unravel after Frumusa was sent to prison.

Four years after the murder, a cook at a Niagara Falls restaurant run by a mobster told the Star that the murder was carried out because of the debts of Annie Wilson.

The cook said he heard that the murders were being plotted and that he tried, unsuccessfully, to alert the police.

Frumusa “was tricked all the time,” the cook told the Star, shortly before hiding from his former associates.

The Niagara Falls mobster who ran the restaurant where the cook decided to make an example of Annie Wilson about her debts, the cook said.

“She’s going to pay the maximum price,” the cook recalled saying a mobster connected to the restaurant.

Richard Wilson was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that is, in his own home, the cook said.

The theft charges against Snake were dropped after he testified against Frumusa.

Later, a former girlfriend of the Snake told the court in the murder trial of prostitute Monique Cloutier of Hamilton that she had doubts about the Snake’s story about Frumusa.

“I asked him why he testified against Peter Frumusa,” he testified. Why would Pete trust him when they weren’t even friends? He said, ‘Pete didn’t do it.

“He was lying to try to get a guilty plea from the police so he wouldn’t have to go to jail,” he explained. “I asked him why he would do something like that. He said ‘I couldn’t go to jail because it would be NG, no good, a stool pigeon.’

The Serpent admitted in his testimony at the same Hamilton trial in April 1990 that he had been in medication and in psychiatric treatment since early childhood due to his violent behavior.

Frumusa later told the Star that he was nearly stabbed to death on his first day in the general population at Millhaven Penitentiary near Kingston.

“I came out of my cell, I turned left and, bang, I felt this sensation, a kind of numbness, not realizing at first that there was blood,” Frumusa told reporter Tracey Tyler.

While behind bars, Frumusa recruited Toronto defense attorney James Lockyer, who worked on the case with co-attorney Michelle Levy.

A new trial was ordered based on new evidence from Snake’s old girlfriend and the cook.

Lockyer argued in court that Snake could have been involved in the Wilsons’ double murder.

“He received extreme favors from the police in exchange for his testimony,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer noted that Snake also testified for the Crown in the Hamilton murder trials in 1992 and 1993, with each time the charges against him were dropped. That included charges of robbery, assault and making threats.

Prisoners like the Serpent are known in prison circles as “priests”: they seem to be constantly hearing confessions.

Lockyer called the Serpent the prime suspect in one of those murders before testifying for the Crown.

“The odds of the same person having crucial information from the murderer in three murder trials must be extremely high,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer described Snake as a violent drug addict who had racked up 37 convictions in 1993 and “had killed at age 15 during a robbery.”

The cook said that the Serpent also bragged about cutting off a man’s leg with a chainsaw.

The Serpent “was almost in a position where he seemed to have a license to commit crimes,” Lockyer told the court. “In essence, he has played with the court system like a child with a toy.”

Ultimately, the attorney said, Snake “was included in the witness protection program at the expense of the Ontario taxpayer.”

In June 1998, at the age of 39, Frumusa finally obtained an apology from a judge and her freedom. “To you, Mr. Frumusa, on behalf of the court and our justice system, I apologize for what has happened,” Judge Paul Forestell told him in a Welland courtroom.

Now you are free. Go ahead and enjoy life. Please accept our apologies, ”said the judge.

Forestell told Frumusa that he was lucky to have the help of attorneys Lockyer and Levy. The judge also praised the “courage” of Crown attorney Michael Quinn in dropping the charges and accepting the blame.

Quinn then apologized.

He also told the court that Frumusa would not have been prosecuted for the double murders if the recommendations made by retired Quebec judge Fred Kaufman in the investigation into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the 1984 murder of Christine Jessop had been in effect in 1984. time.

After the Kaufman investigation, there were also new guidelines for Crown attorneys regarding the use of informants in prisons.

Those guidelines require a record of when jail whistleblowers are used and supervisor approval before a whistleblower is used as a witness by a crown attorney.

Kaufman also cautioned that prison informants, like the Serpent, must be handled with care.

“Systemic evidence from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and the United States demonstrated that the dangers associated with prison informants were not unique to the Morin case,” Kaufman warned. “In fact, a number of judicial errors around the world are likely to be explained, at least in part, by the false and self-serving evidence provided by those informants.”

So who beat the Wilsons to death, if it wasn’t Frumusa?

The cook said there were four men involved, including Snake, and they stripped off their bloody clothes at the Niagara Falls restaurant when they finished the job.

One of them compared violence to getting rid of unwanted puppies, the cook said.

“It’s over,” said another of them.

The whereabouts of the cook and the Snake are unknown.

The murders remain unsolved.

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