Why I Wrote Murder in the Schoolhouse: Sudbury Ontario's Last Hanging

by Bill McLeod

I first wrote about the 1954 murder of Steve Klapouschak, the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse in Dalton, Ontario and included the story in the "Murders and Disappearances" section of my book on the Chapleau Game Preserve.

Like the other murder stories, I would have very much liked to have examined the court transcripts of the trials. However, in spite of what I thought was an exhaustive search, I was unable to locate those documents. I finally decided that they had been destroyed, closed my file on the case and sent the book to the printer.

However, two surprising events occured a couple of years after the Game Preserve book came out. The first of those surprises was a call right out of the blue from an official at the Archives of Ontario in Toronto. Somehow the caller had heard that I had been searching for the court transcripts of some old Ontario murder trials. To my astonishment, I was informed that the transcripts could be found in the National Library and Archives in Ottawa. When I contacted the people at the Archives I was told that indeed the transcripts of murder trials in which there had been a conviction were stored in Renfrew. I was able to make arrangements to examine the Klapouschak file and also that of the trial of Glen Nevers and George Groulx who were tried for the 1948 murder of Jack Hargis at Amyot, Ontario.

I started to get the feeling that the transcripts, that ran to over 2,500 pages, would constitute enough material for a stand alone book about the Klapouschak murder.

About the same time, I learned that a Sudbury acquaintance named Bill Whitehouse had some material about the Klapouschak murder that he thought would be of interest to me. Bill Whitehouse is the son of the late Sam Whitehouse who had been a very senior official in the Ontario Provincial Police. While still a young sergeant, Sam had played a big part in the investigation of the Klapouschak murder. In that capacity he had amassed a huge file on almost every aspect of the investigation and that file was in the possession of his son Bill. After some negotiation and with the approval of the Ontario Provincial Police, I was given unrestricted access to all of the material in the file. At that point it became very clear that there was enough new material for a book on a fascinating case that culminated in the 1956 execution of Robert Bruce Ducsharm. Ducsharm was the last person hanged in the Sudbury jail.

Although I didn't realize it at the time I was writing "Murder in the Schoolhouse", quite a number of people who had lived in and around Dalton in the 1950s felt that Ducsharm was not the killer and that the shooting had been done by one John "Red" Naegel, an employee at Renabie Gold Mine. Renabie was about 20 miles from Dalton and Naegel had apparently taken up with Klapouschak in a homosexual relationship. I could find no evidence that the police even suspected Naegel and one of the unexpected benefits of writing this book was my ability to show that Robert Bruce Ducsharm was indeed the guilty man. Unfortunately Naegel was killed in a mining accident shortly before Ducsharm's preliminary hearing. He would have been a fascinating witness.

Old ideas sometimes die hard and there are still people who insist that Naegel was the murderer. They live in their own little worlds where they don't want to be confused by the facts.

Why I wrote The Chapleau Game Preserve

Why I wrote Chapleau: Retrospective