The Amanda Power Murder

On a Friday afternoon in June 2008, four local boys were doing what local boys do in the summer – screwing around and looking for a way to fill the day. Stand By Me, (a dumb movie with a stupid premise), depicts the discovery of a dead body as some kind of rite of passage, but the reality is much grimmer. These four local boys stumbled across a suitcase. In the suitcase was most of Amanda Power’s body, which is a sentence no one should have to write.

Parents of the boys said at the time that they feared for their children’s mental health going forward. Paula Williams, mother of one of the boys, said her son could not stop throwing up a few hours after the discovery. When asked what she was worried about going forward, Williams told reporters at the time, "If he's going to have nightmares in the nighttime, if he's going to wake up crying. He's not having them now, but he might have them later on down the line. You don't know."

The boys found the suitcase in a wooded area around Warbury Street, in the west end of the city off Hamilton Avenue, where they would often play. Imagine how surreal that has to feel, to find a suitcase containing a human torso just a few meters behind your house.

I spoke with someone who lived in the neighbourhood at the time, who recalled the extensive search for Amanda's remains. They asked not to be named in this story. "They combed the river behind our house up and down, for days," She told me. She also recounted one of the grislier details of the story, about White's freezer. "I remember they found her head in his freezer. Just awful."

When police showed up to investigate, it did not take long for them to discover more than the boys had already found. Two book bags and a hockey bag contained more of Power’s dismembered body, and only a few short hours after the investigation began, they made their first and only arrest in the case.

Image borrowed from  CTV News

Image borrowed from CTV News

Police went to the residence of Warren White, who had fled initially but returned a few hours later. He told police as they escorted him out of the dwelling, “You might as well drive me downtown. I got to admit to you I killed somebody.”

White, who was 35 at the time of the murder, met Power while both were in rehab recovering from opiate addictions. Power's father said shortly after the murder, "For the last while, she was trying really hard doing the methadone treatment and everything to get her life straightened out." By all accounts, Power had her life back on the right track. She was staying away from drugs and trying to be the best mother she could for her two children, aged 10 and 12 with another on the way. Yes, as if the killing was not enough to turn your stomach, Power was pregnant when she was murdered.

White, on the other hand, had not successfully kicked his addiction. Part of the argument his defense team made was that white was, "White was high on drugs at the time he strangled Power with his hands and told [Justice James] Adams that White is filled with remorse." Not guilty by reason of intoxication is a legal defense, however, there is generally a distinction drawn between voluntary and involuntary intoxication. I think we can all agree that, tragic as our opiate epidemic is, addiction is hardly a defense for murdering your pregnant girlfriend.

White was sentenced to life in prison, and Justice Adams said he could not apply for parole for a minimum of 17 years. If you were not already upset, then the next bit of information will surely send you over the edge.

See, White was no stranger to law enforcement. He had previously served federal time for armed robbery and was pending a hearing for assault and uttering threats as well as a misdemeanor shoplifting charge. He had appeared before the court in May, and a judge ordered him to come back for his hearing on June 11, 2008. Amanda Power’s body was discovered on June 6, 2008. Had the court simply held White, a convicted felon, for the weeks between his hearings, Power would probably still be here today.

This brings us to a disturbing reality about this case, something that is present in many domestic homicides. White had a history of violent criminal activity dating back to the 1990s, and our criminal justice system still found a way to let him go free in between hearings. The sentencing for his pending charges was surely a stressor for White, and it would be no stretch to say that this stress was at least in part responsible for his decision to murder Amanda Power that day. To look back and see that White could have been sitting in jail instead of home, falling back into addiction and posing a threat to those around him is a sobering thought.

Constable Suzanne FitzGerald, domestic violence coordinator for the RNC said in a 2017 interview with The Southern Gazette, “Unfortunately, the way to try to figure out domestic violence prevalence and the severity of it, what it looks like in a jurisdiction, we look at homicides because you have the constant factor of death in an intimate partner relationship.” While there were no official reports of domestic violence before the murder, it comes as no surprise that Power bore the brunt of White’s violence in this case. Of the homicides investigated by the RNC from 2002 to 2011, FitzGerald’s report found that 66 percent of them were domestic homicides. One hundred percent of the victims of first-degree murders in the province over that period were women.

If nothing else, the takeaway from this case should be that much, much more work needs to be done in preventing domestic violence. As of 2016, domestic violence accounted for 26 percent of all reported violent crime, and 79 percent of the victims were female. The numbers may actually be higher, as experts estimate that roughly one in five women actually report domestic violence to police.

This is ultimately a case of poor judgment on the part of the courts. Letting White out of custody between his court dates, while cheaper for the province was certainly a contributing factor in the murder of Amanda Power. Hopefully, the justice department will have learned from their mistake, and better assess whether or not a defendant should be allowed to leave custody before a court date.