Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Story of Colin and JoAnn Thatcher

A Bitter Battle

JoAnn realized that she could not effectively fight for custody of her children from Brampton. Immediately she moved back to Moose Jaw and accepted the offer made by her friends for her to live with them while she began her court battle. As soon as she could, JoAnn enlisted the help of her lawyer J.R. Rushford to assist her in obtaining visitation rights to her children.

The judge, Mr. Justice MacPherson, was appointed to oversee the case and eventually allowed JoAnn private visitation of her children on the weekends. Regardless of the court decision, Colin was determined to prevent JoAnn from being close both physically and emotionally with her children ever again. He had his own agenda, fueled by hate that no court could interfere with.   

In November 1979, with the assistance of her lawyer, JoAnn filed a motion to the court to secure control of the home on Redland Avenue and custody of Regan and Stephanie. The judge ruled in her favor.

Colins rage was further exacerbated by the judgment. However, there was little he could do legally except appeal the decision. He could also make JoAnns life miserable outside of the courtroom, which he set about doing.

During the court battle, Colin made sure JoAnn remained in a state of fear, hoping that it would dissuade her from continuing with the suit against him. He continuously harassed her by stealing her car, making threatening phone calls and at one point even slashing her tires. The emotional war waged against JoAnn was far more distressing to her than the actual court battles. JoAnn feared for her life and for the well being of her children, yet remained determined to see the divorce through. She had nothing else to lose. 

In December 1979 Colin was invited by his friend Dick Collver and his wife to spend part of the holidays with them at their Arizona ranch. During the visit, Colin appeared incensed by JoAnns breech of loyalty. It seemed as if out of anger toward her, he began to subtly turn the children emotionally away from their own mother.

Siggins states that Dick Collver was concerned with how Colin referred to his wife, especially in front of the children. Apparently, Colin and the babysitter Sandra consistently referred to JoAnn as the bitch in the childrens presence, although later he adamantly denied doing so. Siggins further states that Dick was even more concerned when on three occasions Colin made reference to hiring someone to kill his wife. Worried about the possible legal ramifications, Collver informed his lawyer of the threats and was told that he was not obliged to contact the authorities concerning the matter.

It wasnt long before the children began to show signs of anger and distrust against their mother, likely fueled by Colins intense anger toward his wife. On the weekends when JoAnn went to visit the children, Greg refused to remain in the house and would instead stay at his paternal grandmothers home until the visit was complete.

Regan Thatcher
Regan Thatcher (CBC)
 

Regan was also beginning to become confused with his feelings toward his mother. The problems were further compounded by Colins abusive verbal attacks against JoAnn in the presence of the children during her visits. JoAnn began to worry about the childrens over exposure to Colins obvious hate toward her and his increasing violent behavior.

That summer, Colin received a blow when he learned that his appeal for custody of Regan and Stephanie was dismissed.   In anger, Colin encouraged Regan to run away from his mothers home at every chance he got. The confused boy was eager to please his father and continuously ran away from home to be with him. When the court learned of Colins unorthodox persuasive techniques to turn Regan against his own mother, the judge prohibited any further communication between Colin and the boy. The ruling gave JoAnn a chance to repair her relationship with her war-torn son, but it was too late for her oldest boy.    

Months earlier, JoAnn had gone to pay her children a weekend visit at the house on Redland prior to her being granted the property. At the time of the visit, the babysitter Sandra was there, watching the children. Sandra, who sided with Colin in his views concerning JoAnn, felt a great deal of animosity toward her. When JoAnn attempted to take Stephanie to visit a playmate, Sandra told her that she was not supposed to take the child from the house, according to Colins orders. JoAnn ignored the girl and Sandra went upstairs to fetch Greg.

As JoAnn was about to leave with Stephanie in her arms, Sandra and Greg came tumbling after her shouting and ordering her to leave Stephanie at the house. When JoAnn refused to listen, Sandra grabbed her wrist in an attempt to stop her, but lost her grasp. Greg then tried to physically prevent JoAnn from leaving the house with his sister and began to struggle with his mother. Fearing Stephanie might get hurt, JoAnn let her go and the child distanced herself from the fight.

Bird states that on several occasions Greg pushed his mother to the ground, causing her to smash her face into a chair and a nearby closet. After a long and violent struggle that lasted several minutes, JoAnn found herself locked out of the house without her daughter. It was then that she realized the extent of her sons hatred toward her. Her fear of Colin having poisoned her children against her had become a brutal reality.

Deny, Deny, Deny
Deny, Deny, Deny

That summer the incident was later brought before the court during the custody trial. It was clear to the judge that Colin had played his children against their own mother. According to Wilson and Wilson in Deny, Deny, Deny, the judge believed Colins purpose was to destroy his wife in the minds of their children. In doing so, he had come a long way toward destroying the children themselves.   The incident proved to figure prominently in the courts final decision for the two younger children to remain with their mother. Unfortunately, Colin had other plans.

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