When they found six-year-old Michael Kent (inset), he was motionless, lying face down in the muddy snow on the west side of the parking lot of the arena in Elmvale, a small community 120 kilometres north of Toronto. The fair-haired boy, one of five Kent siblings, was still wearing his navy blue and white tuque and his navy blue ski jacket but it was now covered with mud and blood. Michael had been stabbed seven times, four times in the abdomen and three times in the back. There was no indication he had been sexually assaulted. Police later surmised that the small boy’s face had been held down in the mud while he was killed on that winter day, February 11, 1966. A half century later, Michael’s murder remains unsolved.
It is possible the killer is now dead. Perhaps he’s in prison, serving time for other offences. Or, perhaps he got away with one of the most heinous crimes, despite an intensive police investigation and despite the fact that footprints were found and the murder weapon was located immediately. A fishing knife with a four-inch long steel blade was found on the roof of the curling rink, roughly 50 feet from the spot where Michael’s body was found. Within weeks, dozens of investigators had interviewed more than 3,000 people and interrogated 50 suspects. One hundred and twenty people who were in the area of the rink the night of the killing were interviewed. Investigators went door to door to the hundreds of homes in Elmvale with a photograph of the murder weapon. Police were clearly frustrated at their inability to solve the terrible crime.
“There is no apparent motive to this senseless killing,” Insp. James McBride, of the Ontario Provincial Police, told the Globe and Mail newspaper in an interview weeks after the murder, as the investigation dragged on. “A murderer, that’s all we’re looking for, and you tell me what a murderer looks like. As for suspects … well, everybody’s a suspect. I’m the only one I’m really sure about.”
McBride said Michael’s wounds were deep, clearly inflicted with considerable force, suggesting that the attacker was older and was not a child.
The Kent family, who lived in nearby Port McNicoll, had gone to the rink that evening because son John, 12 had a game. Michael knew the rink well. He played there on Tuesdays. On Feb. 11, mother Ann Kent took her two youngest children, infant Kevin and daughter Allison, 3, to the stands while her husband went to the dressing room to help John dress for the game. In the confusion, Michael disappeared. When John Kent joined his family in the stands, they realized Michael was missing. His body was found in the parking lot, roughly an hour after they had arrived at the rink, by a family friend.
“I searched all around the arena – inside, that is,” John Kent later told a reporter. “Who would have thought to look outside? I mean, I just figured he had wandered off somehwere; you know, he was so familiar with the place.”
Police later said they confirmed that Michael was in the dressing room and talked to teammates on his brother John’s team. He was also seen in the arena lobby.
A $5,000 reward was offered at the time for help in solving the crime. Investigators were flooded with tips, many of them anonymous. The Ontario government is now offering a $50,000 reward.
Perhaps the most cryptic lead surfaced roughly one month after the killing, in March 1966. The Globe and Mail reported that someone claimed to know the identity of the killer. A brief story appeared in the paper on March 10, 1966:
A letter was shoved under the door of the Penetanguishene office of the Midland Free Press Herald yesterday from a person claiming to know the identity of the murderer of Michael Kent, 6. The boy was killed at Elmvale Arena on Feb. 11 while a brother played hockey. His body was found in the arena yard and later a knife, believed to have been the murder weapon, was found on a section of the arena roof. The letter to the weekly newspaper was unsigned, and the writer said he wishes to remain anonymous because of personal danger.
The Ontario government reward poster still available on the website of the Ontario Provincial Police: