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Northern Ont. murder victim’s family gets closure after 36 years, plans family burial

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After almost four decades, the family of Agnes May Appleyard finally has closure.

As reported by CTV News, Ontario Provincial Police announced this week that a skull discovered 36 years ago has been positively identified as hers.

Appleyard was 71 when she vanished without a trace from her property on Highway 520 in Emsdale on April 29, 1986. Her granddaughter, Teresa Schamehorn, was nine at the time,

“I was really close to her,” Schamehorn said.

“I just loved her to death.”

About a year after she disappeared, a search of the property uncovered a skull, but the limited technology at the time meant police couldn’t determine whether it was Appleyard.

Appleyard’s 82-year-old husband, Sidney, was charged with second-degree murder in her death in 1988. Court records and testimony from doctors and paramedics show he was abusive to his wife over many years.

His attorney argued Appleyard left her husband to live in British Columbia. He was acquitted in 1990 due to no body being found. He died years later.

Agnes May Appleyard is seen in this undated family photo. Appleyard was 71 when she vanished without a trace from her property on Highway 520 in Emsdale on April 29, 1986. (Photo courtesy of Teresa Schamehorn)

Agnes May Appleyard (fourth person from the left) is seen in this undated family photo. Appleyard was 71 when she vanished without a trace from her property on Highway 520 in Emsdale on April 29, 1986. (Photo courtesy of Teresa Schamehorn)

“It’s always been an open investigation. So we were never really told anything,” said Schamehorn.

“Other than what I think might have happened, everybody else has their own opinion on things that happened, too.”

Wanting to find answers, Schamehorn contacted private investigator Ellen White, the owner and senior investigator of Pulse Private Investigations, to try and learn more.

“Teresa reached out to us in 2021,” White said.

“I think they accepted some years ago that Agnes May would have never left on her own.”

WASN'T LIVING IN B.C.

White contacted people in B.C. and discovered that Agnes May was not actually living there.

OPP never fully closed the case. Her disappearance was the subject of a book chapter written by author Tim Marczenko in ‘Gone Gold: Death and Disappearances in the Northwoods’ and the case was featured on White’s podcast, ‘Whereabouts Unknown.’

The case was re-examined in November 2019 when police requested familial DNA samples. Finally in April of this year, advances in DNA analysis confirmed the skull was Appleyard’s.

“I’m disappointed that it took so long but relieved that we can put her to rest,” said Schamehorn.

White said she can only imagine how difficult it must be for police, given the nature of their job, to be juggling multiple types of investigations at once.  

“Police do an amazing job with the resources that they have. As private investigators, we can dedicate time to a file,” she said.

“We don’t have calls coming in for break and enters, for armed robberies or assaults.”

White said her team takes on about 20 missing person cases at a time and currently 14 of them occurred in northern Ontario.

Schamehorn plans to meet with detectives next month to see if there’s any way to advance the case.

The family is exploring options of erecting a headstone and giving the remains a proper burial.

“It will be a place where we can go and visit,” Schamehorn said. 

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