YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Did a killer strike twice in 32 years?

The cases, 750 miles apart, are eerily similar: unwed couples, secluded beaches, gunshots, Bibles.

July 22, 2007|Peter H. King | Times Staff Writer

Tofino, Canada — For man is born for trouble, and sparks fly upward. -- Job 5:7


This goes back 35 years. Yet what happened on Radar Beach that summer reverberates even today -- kept alive by detectives who came up empty, by living ghosts left behind and, more than anything, by the possibility that three summers ago, on a distant beach in Northern California, it happened again.

The story begins in that tumultuous epoch known collectively as the Sixties. Each summer, the west coast of Vancouver Island was swarmed by thousands of American draft resisters, hippies, Jesus freaks, nudists and assorted other shaggy-haired foot soldiers of the era. In short, it was a scene.

Makeshift lean-tos, shacks and tents covered the run of rugged beaches south of Tofino, now a popular tourist destination, but then a quiet village of fishing families and loggers. Drugs were everywhere, and shoplifting in town was epidemic. Most of the visitors traveled around by thumb.

Ken Gibson, a retired dock builder, would often pick up hitchhikers "if they didn't look too squirrelly, just to talk to them: 'What's this all about? What's the kick? What are you hoping to get out of this?' "

Joseph Henry Burgess came late to Tofino's freewheeling period, arriving on the island in May 1972. Tall, skinny and bearded, the 25-year-old Burgess had fled to Canada from New Jersey in 1968 after failing to report for induction into the Army.

He hung around Canada's eastern cities for a few years. He held down odd jobs. He bounced checks. He trained as a bush pilot. He also, according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police synopsis of his movements, was not a stranger to drugs.

On his way west, authorities recounted, Burgess purchased a Gevarm rifle, a .22-caliber, semiautomatic that could be fitted with a 20-round clip and broken down to carry in a duffel bag. Later, he bragged about his marksmanship.

Born in Jersey City to a prominent Catholic family, Burgess attended a Jesuit college and taught Bible classes. By the time he reached Vancouver Island, he had plunged headlong into more unconventional spiritual thickets. He had become, as one acquaintance told police, "a Jesus freak."

As a police summary said: "Witnesses that had contact with BURGESS at the time stated that he would quote the Bible and speak of the 'Wrath of God,' always ending his conversation with 'Amen.' "

Burgess, who earlier had assumed the surname of Burke, now called himself Job Weeks or just Job -- from the Old Testament figure whose faith was so fiercely tested. He moved into a small, one-house Children of God commune in Port Alberni, but barely lasted a week. The Gevarm rifle made his housemates nervous.

So the self-proclaimed "prophet of God" bought some ammo and moved to Radar Beach, a few miles south of Tofino. As he left the commune, he vowed to live as a hermit until he "heard from the Lord." In his week on the beach, according to Canadian police reports, Burgess was seen with outdoor survival manuals. He was seen beside a stream, attempting to teach others to pray. He was seen cleaning his rifle.

He also made a rather awkward, and unsuccessful, pass at a sunbathing woman. "She was in the buff," recalled Dan Creally, a retired Canadian police investigator, flipping through his original case notebooks, "and he was quoting from the Book of Job, and all the while he was sizing her up."

Burgess complained to this woman about a newly arrived couple -- young, Christian and unwed -- who had set up camp together near the communal water hole back in the woods, a short walk from the beach.

"He did not approve," she told investigators, of their "being together."

About two days after this exchange, the bodies of Ann Barbara Durrant, a Canadian who had just celebrated her 20th birthday, and Leif Bertil Carlsson, a 19-year-old exchange student from Sweden, were found in their camp by the water hole.

Clad in T-shirts and nestled together under a single sleeping bag, they appeared to have been asleep when struck at close range by rounds from a .22-caliber rifle, later determined to be a Gevarm. Durrant had been hit five times, four shots to the head and one that passed through her hand and hip. Carlsson was shot four times, all in the head.

By the time the bodies were found, Burgess was gone. In what appeared to be a hasty evacuation, he left behind a Canadian health card, biblical verses on scraps of paper and a rifle-cleaning kit.

Along the trail leading away from the beach, Mounties also discovered a snapshot of Burgess flashing a peace sign that was torn into pieces, a guitar, prescription glasses, a roach clip, a shoe, a bag of clothes and a Bible. Inscribed in the Bible was the name Job Weeks.

Los Angeles Times Articles