Police find missing dancer’s fiancée in garage with his car’s engine running

By Dan Nolan -- Crime Reporter, The Spectator Stoney Creek. January 8, 1998.

Police investigating the disappearance of exotic dancer Sheryl Sheppard plan next to closely examine an apartment on Queenston Road and two vehicles owned by her fiancée, Michael Lavoie.

Lavoie - who proposed marriage to Sheppard on an ONtv/CHML-Radio simulcast New Year’s Eve -- is in hospital after being found by police in his car with the engine running, locked inside a rented storage garage on the east Mountain in Hamilton, yesterday morning.

“In 1998, I’d like to ask you to marry me, Sheryl,” Lavoie asked as thousands watched on TV and listened on radio during the New Year’s Eve bash.

“Yes,” she replied, before they hugged and kissed.

Hamilton-Wentworth police suspect foul play in the disappearance of Sheppard, 29, whose family and friends last heard from her on the telephone a week ago today. She was reported missing Monday after she failed to pick up her mother at Pearson airport Sunday.

Police are obtaining search warrants for the couple’s seventh-floor apartment in Eastgate Towers, just east of Centennial Parkway and across from Battlefield Square.

Sheppard’s wallet and identification have already been found in the apartment.

Police say Lavoie moved in with Sheppard a few months ago. He used to live on the Mountain in Hamilton.

Inspector Dave Bowen, head of investigative services, expects officers to be at the apartment for about a week. Six investigators are now working on the case. They are also going to examine Lavoie’s car and van, which were seized yesterday. On Tuesday night, police scoured the garbage transfer station on Kenora Avenue in Hamilton, but found nothing useful.

When police located Lavoie at his mother’s home on Mohawk Road East in Hamilton on Monday, he told them he would come in to speak to them early Tuesday, but he did not show up.

Lavoie, 26, who police say is unemployed, was interviewed by Staff Sergeant Steve Hrab of the major crime unit yesterday morning, but Bowen said Lavoie wouldn’t answer questions and says he last saw Sheppard when he dropped her off to work at the Concord Hotel in Niagara Falls last Friday.

“He wouldn’t talk about what happened (at the storage garage) and said we should talk to his lawyer,” Bowen said. “And he said he has no idea where she is. He says she doesn’t know. We don’t know where she is and we urgently ask for the public’s assistance to help us find Sheryl Sheppard.”

The Concord manager told The Spectator yesterday the dancer was not scheduled to work his establishment last Friday, and he has never seen her. He said he told that to two Hamilton-Wentworth police officers Monday night.

Police found Lavoie about 1.30 a.m. at the Multi-Storage facility on Stone Church Road East at Upper Ottawa Street. He was taken to Henderson Hospital in serious condition, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lavoie is now being kept in hospital, with a police guard, under provisions of the provincial Mental Health Act.

When asked about the man’s condition, Bowen said, “He’s fine. We’re all startled and amazed.” He said Lavoie had rented the garage Tuesday afternoon and, “It looks like he was in there for a few hours.”

Police credit acting Sergeant Ian Matthews of the Mountain station for helping locate and rescue Lavoie.

Matthews had noticed a car near the storage centre Tuesday afternoon and ran a computer check on the licence. The check showed nothing unusual. Later in the day, while off duty, Matthews learned Lavoie was being sought. He remembered the name, returned to Multi-Storage and found Lavoie in the garage unit.