A Barrie man awaiting trial in the stabbing death of a young mother has been granted bail.
Robert MacQueen is scheduled to stand trial on second-degree murder in September 2024 in the 1994 killing of Katherine Janeiro.
MacQueen was charged with first-degree murder in January 2021, more than 26 years after the body of the young mother was discovered in her Dunlop Street West apartment. He was 58 years old when he was arrested. The charge was reduced to second-degree murder following a preliminary hearing in December.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.
His release on bail by a Superior Court justice last Thursday is drawing criticism.
“We are saddened and disappointed to learn that the accused killer of Katherine Janeiro has been released on bail. After waiting decades for an arrest to be made and a family that had no resolution to this tragic murder, once again a woman’s death is given low priority and meaning within the court system,” said Teresa MacLennan, executive director of the Women and Children’s Shelter Barrie.
Gender-based violence, she added, continues to be a serious societal issue.
MacQueen’s lawyer stressed that he has not yet been tried and therefore he continues to be presumed to be innocent.
“He has lived his entire life in Barrie and the surrounding areas of Barrie … He’s always worked and contributed to the community,” said his lawyer, Mary Cremer, adding that he remained in the community during all the years police investigated the case. “It is our constitutional right, for any Canadian, to have reasonable bail.
“He had been in custody for quite some time before he did make bail," she added. "This is a person who has a very loving and supportive family and he’s got a number of friends in the community, a number of co-workers in the community, who believe in him and support him.”
Janeiro, 20, was found dead by friends on Oct. 10, 1994. At the time, police said she suffered multiple stab wounds. Her two-year-old daughter had been visiting her grandparents at the time.
The initial Barrie police investigation included help from the Ontario Provincial Police's forensic identification bureau. While the OPP took over the case in October 1999 to utilize an unspecified investigative technique, it was turned back to Barrie police in February 2012.
Police say investigators then tapped into newer forensic tools through the Centre of Forensic Sciences to re-examine some of the existing evidence.
MacQueen was charged on Jan. 13, 2021. Police at the time said new information had come to light about a year earlier. Janeiro and McQueen, police said, had known each other.
“Her daughter is now an adult and has lived without her mother to nurture and love her," MacLennan said. "The pain for this family must be overwhelming to know that the accused killer walks free while the family mourns and tries to maintain hope that justice will someday prevail.
“The nature of this young woman’s death was horrific and parallels the many women that are murdered every day in Canada," she added.