In 1997, after their children were grown, Steve and Marlene made an incredibly courageous decision. Hoping for the presence of detectable DNA residing in the exhibits from the original 1959 trial, they hired lawyers to conduct a search, in hopes of coming up with DNA evidence that would clear Steve's name.
The shocking discovery that all of the exhibits had been destroyed smashed any hope of DNA testing to free Steve of the horrendous burden he has carried every day since June 11, 1959, when he was arrested and charged by the OPP. At the same time, Steve and Marlene began working on a program with the Fifth Estate, a CBC investigative journalism program. The documentary went on air in March 2000, and that was the first time I had heard or seen anything about Steve in over 30 years.
I was half-heartedly watching TV one night, while reading the evening paper, when I heard the introduction to the program mentioning Steve's name. I sat bolt upright, stared with disbelief at the screen, and said out loud, "Oh, my God! I cannot believe this!"
After so many years of silence in the media, never hearing or seeing anything about Steve, this was an incredible moment for me. Watching the program unfold, I was in tears, realizing that I was about to see Steve as an adult, find out how he survived the horror of what happened to him at 14 years old, maybe learn where he's living now and maybe something about his family...
The documentary began.
The producers of the piece had filmed the first few minutes of the show in black and white, with young kids acting out the various people in his life back then. The images played across the screen...a teenager on a racing bike, with a younger girl riding double on the handlebar of his bike, riding down a country road, over a bridge and out to a STOP sign at the intersection of the highway.
The girl hops off the handlebars of the bike and the boy heads back towards the bridge. He stops on the bridge, looks back towards the highway and sees the girl getting into a 1959 Chevy with teardrop tail lights and some kind of sticker on the rear bumper. The car pulls away from the STOP sign, disappears down the highway and the boy continues to peddle his bike, heading home.
The camera zooms slowly in for a close-up of the boy's shoes.
Then, the black and white changes to colour, the boy's shoes change to a man's track shoes, and as the camera slowly draws away from the shoes, I know that we are going to meet the grown-up Steve, finally, after all these years.
The stunning thing is that he doesn't look any different to me. From the grainy black and white photos that I remember seeing in the papers in the '60's, this guy's face looks the same.
I watch as the man rides his bike along the gravel road, and I listen attentively as Lyndon MacIntyre, the show's host, shares the story we are about to see.
Steve, his wife Marlene, their children Lesley, Ryan and Devon are introduced to us and it is with such joy that we learn that there is a loving family surrounding Steve...his wife plainly adores him, his kids think he's the best thing since sliced bread...It's an awesome thing to watch this family share their very private and personal memories and stories with the world this night.
There are so many poignant moments on this program...moments that show clearly the burden of the last 38 years etched in this man's face. Moments that are intensely private but the family allows us to sit quietly to one side, listening as they talk about the years of their lives with each other.
There has been a family decision made to go public and move heaven and earth to clear Steve's name. From the unsuccessful DNA testing to Marlene's encyclopedic knowledge of each single second of the case, there is an overwhelming obviousness that this is the right thing to be doing at this time in their lives.