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St. Thomas University professor murdered

by Archives November 4, 2008

FREDERICTON (CUP) – The St. Thomas University community is mourning the death of John McKendy, a long-time sociology professor and peace activist.
Police say they discovered McKendy’s body at his home on the outskirts of Fredericton after receiving a phone call at around 5 a.m. on Friday. McKendy was 60 years old.
His daughter, a fourth-year student at St. Thomas, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Late Friday afternoon, police had released photographs of McKendy’s son-in-law Nicholas Wade Baker, 27, and issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest, on charges of first-degree murder.
Later that day, Baker was found dead in a rental car, outside a motel in Moncton, N.B. On Sunday, the RCMP said foul play had been ruled out in the death of Baker and that there were no other suspects in McKendy’s murder.
The RCMP have released no details about Baker’s death since then, and they say they likely never will.
“I realize the public would like to know, and we would almost like to advertise what happened, but we have to be concerned about the family,” Cpl. Claude Tremblay said.
“We have two families here – the suspect’s family and the family of Mr. McKendy. Is it going to help anyone at the end of the day if this evidence comes out? No, it’s not going to do anything for anyone.”
Tremblay adds he is certain Baker was the only one involved in the murder.
“We were able to connect the evidence we had on Saturday at all the scenes that we had, plus the scene in Moncton in the car, and all these tied in together,” he said. “There is no doubt in any of the investigators that this is the suspect in question.”
Classes at St. Thomas were cancelled on Friday and university administration sent members of staff and faculty to inform members of the campus about McKendy’s death before they heard it on the news.
At 4 p.m. on Friday, faculty, staff, and students gathered in the St. Thomas Chapel to hold a vigil in McKendy’s honour. VP academic Patrick Malcolmson, a friend of McKendy’s, spoke to reporters who had gathered outside the vigil.
“John was a professor here for over 30 years and he was one of the most loved and most valued professors we had,” Malcolmson said. “He exemplified the spirit of St. Thomas. As a Quaker, he was a great representative for social justice which is a part of the mission of the university, and he was also a great teacher, and a good scholar, so in many ways he exemplified all the things a professor should stand for.”
Registrar Larry Batt, who knew McKendy since his arrival on campus in 1974, says he was a good man and a fine teacher.
“I bonded with him because of his strength and his dedication to students,” Batt said.
“He had this great balance of academic rigour and of mercy and justice, and because I had an opportunity to talk to him outside of the academic environment, I will always remember how much he talked about and loved his family.”
Fourth-year sociology student Megan Ford, who had a class with McKendy last year, says he was the kind of professor students remember throughout their lives.
“I will always remember his smile. It was just permanently on his face,” she said.
“He was just the kind of guy that cared about and remembered everybody. I mean, my brother had him 10 years ago and he remembered him. He was just one of those people.”
Most of McKendy’s work at St. Thomas involved searching for alternatives to violence.
He was a member of the Fredericton Peace Coalition, he regularly visited Dorchester Penitentiary to counsel inmates, and he was planning on making a prison visit this past weekend.
He also had recently taken a leave of absence starting in January so he could return to Burundi, a small African country torn by civil violence, where he has helped to build AIDS clinics and counseled inmates in the country’s prisons for the past two summers.

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