Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Story of Colin and JoAnn Thatcher

Tangled Webs

When JoAnn received the court documents giving her custody of the children, Regan ran away once again to his father. Colin and his mother made sure that Regan would not live with JoAnn again and secretly ushered the boy off under a pseudonym to his grandmothers home in Palm Springs, California. Against court orders, Regan lived with his grandmother until the following summer.

JoAnn was beside herself with grief at the loss of her son to her soon to be ex-husband. She and her new lawyer, Gerald L. Gerrard, set about trying to enlist the courts help in getting the boy back. In a rare move, Judge MacPherson appealed to the media to help in the location of Regan. On September 26, 1980 Colin decided to give his own press conference. During the media coverage Colin stated details about his and JoAnns relationship, her affair and his belief that Regan had no rights concerning his future.

That same day Thatcher was ordered by the court to undergo a discovery examination into the whereabouts of Regan. While being questioned by Gerrard, Colin refused to answer questions concerning the boys location. The judge that oversaw that matter, Mr. Justice Edward Noble found Colin in contempt of court for his lack of compliance. Colins lawyer, Tony Merchant, immediately appealed the ruling, tying the case up until the spring of the following year.

JoAnn became increasingly disillusioned with the legal system.   In many respects it appeared as if Colin was above the law and able to do whatever he wanted when he deemed fit. Just when she began to lose hope, Colin was ordered to pay JoAnn $820,000 for her share of the matrimonial property.  At the time of the judgment, it was believed to have been one of the largest settlements in Canadian history. However, once again Colin put a freeze on the payment by appealing the judgment. She would have to wait not only for her child, but also the money owing her.

The only thing that seemed to be working for JoAnns during the height of her divorce case was her relationship with forty-six-year old Tony Wilson, who she met in the spring of 1980. The two became acquainted while JoAnn was decorating the offices of Interprovincial Pipe and Steel Company where Tony worked as vice-president. After several dates, the two became increasingly intimate and began to spend a great deal of time together.

Tony had proved to be an immense support for JoAnn throughout her tumultuous time with her divorce. The two developed a very close and loving relationship. Moreover, Tony and Stephanie had also begun to develop a close father-daughter like relationship with one another. Tonys two sons from a previous marriage also seemed to bond with Stephanie and JoAnn, thus creating a happy home life for the merged families. JoAnns only wish was that her sons could be included in the new life she was establishing. Colin made sure that it would never happen. 

Colin himself was also involved in a relationship with thirty-year-old Lynne Dally, who he met in Palm Springs in October 1980. Lynne had come from a prosperous family, was well educated and strikingly beautiful. She and Colin spent a great deal of time together in Palm Springs and on occasion she would visit him in Moose Jaw. In November 1980 Colin invited Lynne to the opening of the legislature in Regina.

It wasnt long before Colins true nature began to shine through. As the relationship progressed, Lynne began to notice extreme fluctuations in Colins moods. He was often unpredictable and would frequently fly into violent rages. Later in the relationship Colin even began to physically abuse Lynne, as he had JoAnn. The extreme behavior Colin exhibited caused the relationship to fluctuate much like his moods. Lynne believed that the cause of Colins anger stemmed primarily from his ongoing divorce battle with JoAnn.

To Lynne, it appeared as if Colin had become obsessed with JoAnn. Throughout their relationship Colin continuously talked about his contempt for JoAnn. According to Bird, Colin mentioned on several occasions to Lynne that he wanted to kill JoAnn or hire a hit man to be rid of her. Little did Lynne know that around that time Colin was already on the lookout for someone to murder his wife.

During the fall of 1980, Colin contacted Gary Anderson, who was known for his explosive temper and having spent a considerable amount of time in jail for crimes such as assault, impaired driving and possession of firearms. Colin asked Anderson to meet him at his abandoned farm in Caron to discuss a business proposition. The two met shortly thereafter at the location.

During the meeting, Colin quite blatantly asked him if he would be interested in killing his wife for a fee. Colin offered a total of $50,000 to be made in a series of payments lasting over three years. Although the money was attractive, Anderson was not the killing sort. He declined Colins offer but later suggested another man, Charlie Wilde, who also declined the offer.    

Eventually, Colin was directed to William Cody Crutcher. According to Bird, Crutcher also had no intention of murdering anybody, but he saw an opportunity to make money from Thatchers desperation. Crutcher and the other men Colin had solicited to murder his wife set devised a plan that would prove to be profitable at Colins expense without anyone getting hurt physically.

Colin instructed Anderson, who acted as an intermediary between him and Crutcher to go to JoAnns house and shoot her. Colin passed on the keys to JoAnns car and her picture to be given to Crutcher. Colin gave Anderson $15,000 down payment, which he, Crutcher and Charlie divided amongst the three of them. They were to receive another $35,000 upon completion of the job. The men were further instructed to kill JoAnn during the Christmas holidays while Colin was in Palm Springs, but instead the men just pocketed the money and left JoAnn alive.

Lynne never knew about Colins plans. She did not take his angry remarks concerning killing JoAnn seriously but began to tire of Colins constant talk about her. It quickly became a sore subject for Lynne who wanted to focus more on their relationship instead of Colins previous marriage. Unfortunately for Lynne, Colin was unable to emotionally let go of his wife even though the divorce was granted in December of that same year. He was determined to put an end to her once and for all.

On January 3, 1981 JoAnn and Tony were married after a ten-month courtship. The couple resided with Stephanie in Tonys house located on Albert Street. Despite the threats from JoAnns ex-husband and the problems with her sons, JoAnn was the happiest she had been in years. She was looking forward to making a new start and anxious to move on with her life.

Shortly following JoAnns marriage, Colin contacted Anderson to find out why his ex-wife was not murdered over the holidays. Anderson informed Colin that Crutcher was unable to perform the job because of some problems he was facing. Colin accepted the excuse and told Anderson that he expected Crutcher to follow through with the killing in February after he returned to Palm Springs. Colin knew that if he were not in the country during the murder it would be difficult to pin it on him.

As time passed by, Colin realized that the men had duped him again, even though he offered them even more money. To Colins dismay, there was little he could do but to accept the fact that he had been outwitted. However, Colin refused to let the incident deter him from his goal of killing JoAnn.

Colins rage against JoAnn began to grow even more during the beginning spring of 1981. His anger was fueled by the fact that he was ordered to pay all of JoAnns legal bills and a fine of $6,000 for refusing to reveal Regans whereabouts. He had narrowly escaped being sent to jail for his contempt of court. Regan was eventually returned to Moose Jaw but showed no interest in continuing a relationship with his mom. JoAnn had won the legal battle, yet she had lost her two oldest children emotionally.

At around the same time, Anderson purchased a .303 rifle for Colin from an acquaintance in Moose Jaw. Colin continued to try and convince Anderson to kill his wife, but he adamantly refused. Colin realized that if he wanted his wife dead he would have to take matters into his own hands.

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