True Crime Tuesday: Saskatoon Child Murders

Please read the “TCT Disclaimer,” under the True Crime tab at the top of the page before reading any true crime posts.

Well, fuck me… I haven’t posted one of these since October??? WHAT?! I’m so sorry. Where’s my head at? Reliving the same day every day since last March, mostly likely. Honestly I just don’t know where time is going. On one hand, I’m stuck in a never-ending Groundhog Day time loop and on the other hand, time is moving so quickly that I’m not sure how it can possibly be March 2021 when I’m still living in March 2020.

Welcome to Earth. It’s terrible here. 

Angry Will Ferrell GIF

I really wanted to get ahead of posts for my little corner of the internet. That was one of my resolutions for New Years’, but I’m failing miserably so far. I’m literally still catching up on reviews from last year, so it’s not really surprising I haven’t had time to research a true crime write-up. This shit takes work. But also, why get ahead of work and be organized when you can endlessly scroll Instagram and TikTok and become emotionally numb?

I guess that’s a common theme for most of us over the last twelve months.

Speaking of Instagram, this true-crime case was brought to my attention by my #bookstagram buddy Kristy (@booksontuesday.) It’s an older case so I had never heard of it and honestly, research was difficult AF. Solid information was scarce and personal history on the murderer was almost nonexistent. And you know how much I love me some killer psychology. So, that was annoying but also bizarre. Sure, it was 1975, but we are talking about someone who killed four children. What’s good, Canadian media? Literally no one has a more than a paragraph to share?

bill murray comedy GIF

So, why did @booksontuesday even mention this case to me? Because her father fucking worked with the guy! Obviously, you too would share that brand new information with your true-crime obsessed friends. And the small blurb I read about this case was enough to convince me to do a write-up for a Canadian crime I had never heard of.

This is the case of the Saskatoon Child Murders.

Trigger warning for child murder, you know, like the title says… 

June 15, 1975. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 

Dahrlyne Cranfield, 12, and Robert Grubesic, 9, are last seen together, riding their bikes along the South Saskatchewan River like little kids are going to do on summer break. Playing and being free, not a thought in their head that something bad was going to, or ever could, happen to them. The innocence of that contrasted to what happened to them is pure evil.

A little more than a month later, Samantha Turner, 8, and Cathy Scott, 7, disappeared from a suburb also close to the river while they were out playing. 

Police conducted an exhaustive search for the four missing children as Saskatoon held its collective breath, a city gripped with fear about what the fuck could have happened to make four children disappear without a trace.

Something to keep in mind that a lot of us don’t really consider in this day-and-age, is that pedophilia, or the idea of grown men perpetrating stranger abductions on children, was not something that the general public really understood or was aware of until the 1990s, even though it was definitely a thing. And I found references to “pedophilia advocacy groups” dating back to the 1950s. Do you want to know what those are? Of course you don’t, but you need to. Until the early 1990s, there were several pedophilia membership organizations that actively advocated for pedophilia to be considered a “sexual orientation” and for age of consent reform – to lower the age of consent significantly or abolish it completely. As if children’s freedoms were being unfairly restricted from just living their lives and having sex with grown men if they chose to.

donald glover what the hell is wrong with you GIF by Atlanta

In 1975, letting your kids play on their own wherever they wanted was not considered dangerous in terms of “someone might hurt my child,” because people just didn’t know that could happen. They didn’t have the information. The true crime documentary, Abducted in Plain Sight, touches on this and how even the FBI didn’t have experience with it. It’s on Netflix. It’s worth a watch just to see how fucking weird the parents are. But, I digress…

The similarities between the Cranfield/Grubesic and Turner/Scott abductions – two children taken while playing together near the river – convinced the police that something especially sinister had happened, the likes of which the city, and even the province, had never really seen before. And that’s not an exaggeration. This community was totally blindsided.

L.I.V.E. | Summer of Fear. Episode 33

As police worked overtime to find the children and catch the abductor – “We were going 14, 15 hours a day without a day off,” recalled a former detective on the case – parents were so terrified of the unknown that they refused to let their children play outside. The summer streets of Saskatoon in 1975 were literally empty and quiet.  

Today in Canada, when it comes to missing children, only 1% of the cases are due to abduction. Of those, about one-third are stranger abductions. The majority are parental abductions. I don’t know what the stats were in the 70s, but the police knew to clear the family first. After that, police turned their attention to gathering and examining the files of sex offence cases from all over Canada. 

Among the files was a case from 1972, the murder of a 16-year-old girl in Lethbridge, Alberta. David Threinen was the only suspect in that case. He had been 24-years-old but already had a history of sex crimes and other offences on a long juvenile record. Dating back to 1965, when he would have only been between 16 and 17-years-old, some of the charges on Threinen’s juvenile record include Common Assault, Indecent Assault on a Female (x2), Assault Causing Bodily Harm, as well as drug and robbery charges. 

How CTV Saskatoon covered 5 crimes that gripped Saskatchewan | CTV News

So, in 1972, Threinen was charged with the murder of the Lethbridge girl (name unknown,) but the charge was eventually dropped because the cause of death could not be established with enough certainty for Crown prosecutors to proceed to trial. What’s more, at the time of that murder, Threinen was on parole from the charges of Robbery, Break and Enter and Theft, and Possession of a Weapon Dangerous to the Public Peace. According to some sources, Threinen told at least one friend that he was guilty and got away with the Lethbridge murder. 

In 1975, now a 27-year-old truck driver with two children – YES, this guy was a father – Threinen had moved to Saskatoon and was known to local police for the shady criming piece of trash he was. He was picked up by police for questioning in the two abduction cases and within 24 hours he had confessed to raping Dahrlyne Cranfield, strangling all four victims and disposing of their bodies. Threinen led police to the two separate locations where he had tried to conceal the young bodies.

In court, he pled guilty, telling the judge he wasn’t sure he could stop himself from killing again. Because of his plea, there was no trial and he skipped ahead to the sentencing hearing where a judge gave him life in prison. At his sentencing, the judge said Threinen should “never again be on the streets and roadways of our country.”

Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives, Mar 9, 1973, p. 1

For those of you reading outside of Canada, a life sentence doesn’t necessarily mean life in every circumstance. Legally, all offenders serving life sentences are eligible for full parole after 25 years. Even for first-degree murder. Will they get parole? Unlikely. But it’s their legal right as dictated by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to go before a parole board and plead their case for freedom. There are other legal caveats involved for multiple murders, or “dangerous offenders,” that may see someone’s parole factor extended to the point that they would die in prison before ever reaching eligibility. So, there’s that. 

Threinen was remanded to the Mountain Institute in Fraser Valley, about 100 kilometers outside of Vancouver, B.C. 

In 2000, 52-years-old Threinen was up for parole. He appeared before a parole board and told them, “I will spend the rest of my life in prison. I will die here. I’m where I belong.”

His prison psychologist agreed, describing Threinen as a “fixated pedophile” with “predatory and homicidal tendencies.”

During his brief appearance before the 3-person panel, Threinen told the board members he was only there to ask for their help in changing the rules around treatment programs he felt forced to attend by Corrections Canada. While the Correctional Services of Canada say these programs are not mandatory and prisoners are not forced to attend, Threinen argued that participation in the programs rewarded prisoners with money for things like commissary and personal items. The only way to get the money is to attend the courses.


grow up crying GIF by Big Brother Canada

Threinen, in fact, was an advocate for 112 other prisoners at Mountain Institution who would likely never be released from their life sentences and also wanted the rules around these programs changed. 

Threinen told the parole board: “They’re still forcing me to take programs geared for release, a release I don’t want, and I’m getting tired of it…They have nothing for people like myself, people that will never be released… Sitting in a group, hearing about a street that we’re never going to see, that’s counterproductive.”

He said he’d taken every program the prison had to offer twice-over during his time in prison.

The parole board declined to help, stating it was outside their role because the law separates the board from Corrections Canada. For their part, Corrections Canada released a statement saying their mandate was clear. “Our objective for every offender is to prepare him for his eventual reintegration into the community,” said spokesman Dennis Findlay. “Certainly, there are prisoners who will never be released and the programs offered do try to help them deal with incarceration.”

In an interview following his parole hearing, Threinen said, “Even though I know if I was released today I would not re-offend, my thing is I don’t deserve to be released. My family doesn’t get another chance. The victims’ families don’t get another chance. The victims don’t get another chance. Who the hell am I to get another chance? I’ve had my chance.”

As much a formality as anything, Threinen’s parole was denied. Sometime around 2019 or earlier, Threinen died in prison. 

I don’t know about you, but it’s kind of ridiculous to me that a man could be charged with murder but let go on a technicality, only to have no real restrictions that hinder him from murdering four more children in a different province.

Today, Dahrlyne Cranfield would be 58. Robert Grubesic would be 55. Samantha Turner would be 54 and Cathy Scott would be 53.

Stay safe. Be Kind. But, take no shit.

Later, Murderinos ✌️🔪

Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Source 4

2 thoughts on “True Crime Tuesday: Saskatoon Child Murders

  1. Thanks for writing this. I found your site because I had just been reading the original newspaper clippings of this case from a scrapbook I had put together in 1975. I was the same age as Ms. Cranfield in 1975 and lived in Saskatoon. Just to clarify a detail, the two young ones (Samantha Turner and Kathy Scott) were taken from a playground in Sutherland , and were not by the river. A good friend of mine and her playmate were approached by a man in the same area a week earlier. The name of the 16-year old girl who was murdered in Lethbridge was Angela Huemer. Threinen was acquitted of this crime because Mr. Justice A.J. Cullen of the Alberta Supreme Court decided that the evidence was only circumstantial, and because the prosecution couldn’t prove the cause of death. (?!??) Ms. Huemer went missing June 27 and her body was found July 14 in a ditch in an advanced state of decomposition, therefore the pathologist couldn’t determine much of anything. Maybe sometimes circumstantial is good enough. Hooray for A.J. Cullen, said no one in Saskatoon.


  2. Thank you for this post and thank you, Veronica, for noting the correction about Sam and Kathy. The story of this murder is something that I have carried with me for decades. I was friends with Kathy Scott. She lived on my street at the corner of 108th St and Egbert Avenue. I was at the Sutherland Park Paddling Pool the day that Kathy and her friend Sam left the park to go to get ice cream at the Igloo which was on the other side of the brickyard. I had no idea that day would be the last time that I saw Kathy alive.

    The post accurately describes the social context of the time. We were allowed to freely come and go and play without adult supervision – as early as aged 4 or 5. Once we could demonstrate that we were able to safely cross the street, we were good to go on our own. After the disappearance of these kids, our world changed. We were still allowed to play in the parks but we were given more rules and, without a doubt, our parents were extremely stressed. I will never forget how evening after evening parents walked up and down the alleys in Sutherland calling Kathy’s name. At the age of 7, I thought that Kathy must be lost. I will never forget my mother telling me, even before Thrienen was caught and admitted to the murders, that someone kidnapped my friend. It was a terribly confusing time.

    What I have never read anywhere is about the impact of this sort of murder on the friends of the victims and the community in general. There is no doubt that Kathy’s parents were devastated. How does a person recover from that? Well, the family moved to another house but life is forever changed. I was still in regular contact with Kathy’s mother Marian until about 15 years ago. She was a sweet and gentle woman who once told me that Kathy is in heaven with the angels. But, what did she think about me? Here I am alive and well and her daughter was killed so brutally. Yes, I have survivor’s guilt. So do many of my friends.

    Something went wrong after the murders were discovered. As children, we were not officially told what happened to Kathy.
    At the age of 7, I would not have understood what it meant to rape someone. However, where there is a gap in knowledge, people often start to fill in the blanks with speculation. I heard many horror stories about what people thought might have happened. As it turns out, one of the stories I was told was true. All were absolutely unimaginable for a child. I noticed that these stories had a real impact on many of the children. The neighbourhood also became mean. I don’t know what else to call it. However, from the age of 7 for several years thereafter, I became the subject of horrific and frightening violence, stalking and bullying by neighbourhood children. Something turned inside those kids and made some of them into monsters. Here I am, 53 years old and I am still trying to come to terms with Kathy’s murder and the episodes I was exposed to in the years that followed. What I think is that some kids started to feel vulnerable and they acted out on other kids who were relatively defenceless and somewhat reminded them of Kathy. I’m not a psychologist, but this is how I have come to make sense of it all.

    I hope that as time goes on, people will remember what happened with Thrinen and no more murders will be allowed to run free to go on to murder again. I also hope that people will realize that these sorts of incidents bring a lot of pain to the bigger picture of the community in which they occur. I have no idea where most of those kids who lived in Sutherland in the 1970s are today. What I wonder is how many of them carry around some sort of hurt because of what all happened that terrible summer.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s