One of the longest mysteries in recent Ontario history finally reaches an ending in a provincial courtroom. Here’s a timeline of the Robert Baltovich case.
June 19-20, 1990
Twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Bain leaves home to check a schedule at the U. of T.’s Scarborough campus. When she doesn’t return, her worried mother calls police.
June 22-24, 1990
Fears grow after the missing woman’s car is discovered at an auto body shop not far from her home. A large bloodstain is ominously found in the backseat, but there’s no sign of Bain. Cops immediately turn to her boyfriend, 24-year-old Robert Baltovich. He’s questioned by detectives for hours, but some of his responses arouse their suspicions. There are massive searches for the absent woman during most of that summer, but her body is never found. Police conclude she’s been murdered.
July 11, 1990
A heartbreaking public appeal is issued by the Bain family, asking for any clues to Elizabeth’s whereabouts. Included in the plaintive plea: a message to her suspected killer to at least let them know where her body can be found. The request goes unanswered.
July 25, 1990
Police zero in on Baltovich as the main suspect in the crime. They search his home and his car, and are seen leaving the area with numerous pieces of potential evidence.
November 19, 1990
Robert Baltovich is arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Bain’s disappearance, despite the fact police don’t have the body. It’s been exactly five months since she walked out the door of her house, never to return.
February, 4, 1992
The accused boyfriend’s first trial starts, with more than 100 witnesses taking the stand. The Crown drops the charge to second-degree murder, painting Baltovich as a spurned lover who became murderously angry when Bain tried to end their relationship. Baltovich continues to insist he’s innocent, offering a not guilty plea. His lawyers claim there’s significant evidence someone else may have committed the crime, introducing witness testimony about a blond man seen near her before she vanished. It comes at the same time the so-called “Scarborough Rapist” is on the prowl, and will later lead to speculation that Paul Bernardo could be a viable suspect.
March 31, 1992
Baltovich is found guilty of second-degree murder and receives a life sentence.
Baltovich hires a new attorney and files an appeal. Legal documents cite a number of suspect issues with the trial, including the judge’s address to the jury and the fact that some witnesses were hypnotized to aid their memory recall.
February 17, 1993
Paul Bernardo is arrested and accused of being the Scarborough Rapist, among other crimes. When Baltovich’s lawyer hears about the arrest, he hires a private investigator to probe the suspect’s background. The P.I. claims to have found evidence that may tie Bernardo to Bain.
May 16, 1996
Baltovich’s appeal is filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal. Although it doesn’t name Bernardo, it does contain references to the Scarborough Rapist as one of the main reasons the verdict may be in doubt. The court is supposed to hear the case in February of the following year, but it gets put off with no timetable for resumption. Baltovich remains in jail, still swearing his innocence.
The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted takes up the case, filing its own documents with the Court of Appeal. For the first time, Paul Bernardo is directly named in a legal brief as a possible main suspect. The group demands Baltovich be released while the appeal is considered. He’s been behind bars for eight years.
March 31, 2000
The court agrees to review the case and frees Baltovich pending the appeal. A judge appears to agree with at least one major contention from the appeal – calling the conviction wholly ‘circumstantial’ and admitting it needs a second look.
September 20, 2004
After endless delays and more than a decade after his guilty verdict, The Ontario Court of Appeal finally reviews the Baltovich case.
December 2, 2004
The Ontario Court of Appeal sets aside the Baltovich conviction and orders a new trial. The court agrees there were significant errors made in the first case, but refuses to acquit the accused outright, opting to let another jury decide.
July 15, 2005
The Attorney General’s office confirms it intends to retry Baltovich on the murder of Bain. Once again, they’re pinning second-degree murder charges on him.
June 7, 2007
Toronto Police secretly travel to Kingston to interview Bernardo on the Bain murder. He denies any involvement.
October 15, 2007
In a case already fraught with so many delays came yet another one. On the day jury selection was set to start in a new trial, the judge who was going to hear it was appointed to a new court – and the proceedings have been stopped.
March 31, 2008
The long awaited resumption is set to begin with jury selection underway. The actual trial may not start until mid-April.
April 22, 2008
Jury finds Robert Baltovich not guilty of second-degree murder in Bain’s death minutes into the retrial.
May 16, 2008
Attorney General Chris Bentley confirms he won’t call an inquiry into the case because it won’t help the administration of justice.