Sometimes, Bonnie Thomas watches a court case come to conclusion on television and hears the family of a murder victim testify that they forgive their loved one’s killer.
She swears she couldn’t do it.
Certainly not for the people she believes murdered her 13-year-old son Kevin Martin.
“God forgive me for saying that, but that’s how I feel,” she says. “There will never be any forgiveness from me to them.”
Kevin went missing on May 19, 1994 – 25 long years ago. And while forgiveness may never happen, Thomas believes justice should.
“There’s no reason they should be walking free,” she says of the person or persons responsible for his death.
Kevin was 13 the day in May he had run away from his house on MacKay Street in Stellarton. It wasn’t the first time he had left home without permission and his family had no reason to believe it would be his last. According to retired Stellarton police officer Hugh Muir, who became involved in the case early, Martin had fallen in with a bad crowd about six months to a year before this day. Muir was familiar with Kevin because he had gone to school with Muir’s older boys, and remembers him as a nice, polite kid.
Thomas recalls how Kevin had been bullied at school and craved acceptance. He wanted to be part of the cool kids and so when they skipped school, he did too.
“He was a great kid. He just got in with the wrong group of kids,” Thomas said. “He was a follower.”
A few years earlier Kevin had also lost his older brother Olin in a house fire. They had only been 10-months apart in age and shared a room. The fire was determined to be have been caused accidentally, but had a lasting effect on Kevin.
“I don’t think Kevin ever got over losing Olin,” says their mother.
Initially, police treated Kevin’s disappearance as a missing person’s case. Muir has seen many cases like it. A young person runs away from home as the warm temperatures begin, only returning when the weather worsens or food runs short. But when days started turning to weeks and weeks to months, the police officer knew something wasn’t right.
Every once in a while, police would get a tip about someone spotting Kevin. Some were nearby. Some out west. Some from strangers. Some from friends. Often Martin’s grandmother would receive calls and then pass that information on to Muir. Together, they would travel around the county trying to find answers.
Then came a degree of closure they had hoped not to find. Commercial loggers working in the Burnside area of Colchester County – near Upper Stewiacke – discovered Kevin’s remains buried in a shallow grave. While police have never released how they believe the teen died, physical evidence found at the scene was enough to determine his death was a homicide. They believe he was killed shortly after he disappeared in 1994.
While he’s no longer involved in the investigation, Muir personally thinks there had to be more than one person involved, particularly to dispose of the body. He believes the people responsible also likely had a familiarity with the area where Kevin’s body was found. He is sure there are people still alive with information that could solve the case and prays they think of a 13-year-old being brutally murdered and of a family still suffering without answers.
“He would have been possibly married and a father of his own now,” Muir said.
Thomas is confident she knows who the guilty people are. Based on information she said someone gave her and that was passed on to police, she believes there were three people directly involved.
The News spoke with that person who gave Thomas and police the tip. Her first name is Debbie, but she requested her last name not be used. Debbie says her information came from a relative who says she knows the people responsible, where it happened and how. Debbie said she’s shared what she knows with police, but to date no arrests have been made.
Just a few weeks ago, Thomas said she heard another good tip came through. The family hopes it might lead to an arrest, but they’re not counting on it.
“We’ve learned over the years not to get our hopes up anymore,” she said.
It frustrates her that police have been unable to use the information they’ve been given to make an arrest.
“The monsters who did it to Kevin are still able to live free,” she said.
Heather Fairbairn, speaking on behalf of Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice, said the case is still part of The Rewards for Major Unsolved Crimes Program.
“The program helps to raise awareness and encourages potential witnesses to come forward with information that may be helpful to investigators,” she said. “Sometimes a single piece of information may be what police need to conclude their investigation and help bring closure to grieving family and friends.”
Any information received through the program is turned over to police for investigation. Because Martin’s body was found in Burnside, the homicide investigation is the responsibility of the RCMP.
“No single piece of information is too small and may be all that is needed to help tie a case together,” Fairbairn said. “We encourage anyone with information about this case or others to call the Rewards for Major Unsolved Crimes Program at 1-888-710-9090.”
RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke confirmed the case is still active.
"The investigation remains open and there have been no arrests or charges laid in the matter," Clarke said.
While the family waits for justice, they make sure not to forget Kevin. Every year Thomas and her family make a trip back to Pictou County from where they now live in Prince Edward Island, to visit his grave and pay tribute to him. They talk about his favourite things – orange pop, jalapeno chips and the song “Whoomp! (There it is) by Tag Team.
“Kevin was a funny little fella,” Thomas said. “He always was there for his sisters. He helped one of his sisters tie her shoes and one drive a bike.”
This year, his family will be dedicating a memory bench in his honour near the gazebo by Jungle Jim’s in Stellarton at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 19.
More than anything they hope that this anniversary and the publicity around it may bring the conclusion they’ve been looking for.
“It makes me so angry because I know they’re still walking free and probably not a care in the world for what they’ve done,” Thomas said. “We’re the ones that have been suffering because of it. We’re the ones that have been dealt a life sentence.”