RENEE WILLMON

helping the dead tell their tales

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I am a biological anthropologist and cold case investigator, striving to help the dead tell their tales.

By day, I work with some of the world’s leading experts and use cutting-edge technology to study how 3D analysis of ancient skeletons can help us understand diseases that continue to affect human health. By night, I investigate unsolved cold cases, and work alongside police and coroners on cases involving human remains and clandestine graves.

I am driven to promote the value of Anthropology in understanding the social and biological aspects of human health, to provide answers to victims’ loved ones, and help serve justice to perpetrators.

Announcements

December 8, 2014
New “Postcard” Collection

While keeping up with the blog has slipped over the past several months, I have started a new series of “Postcard” entries that will highlight some of the day to day aspects of life in Bordeaux. An update on the “3rd International Congress on Biomedical Sciences and Methods in Archaeology” that our lab hosted last month is also in the works, and I look forward to highlighting some of the fantastic work done by my French colleagues in the area of 3D imaging in bioarchaeology. Enjoy!

August 11, 2014
Countdown to France

I’m excited to report that although I’ve been MIA on the blog for the last few months, the plans are well underway for my first four month research trip to Bordeaux, France, to work in the “Paul Broca Biological Anthropology Lab”, directed by my supervisor Dr. Olivier Dutour. In the meantime, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with the STTARR imaging group based in the MaRS tower of Toronto’s Medical Discovery District on my dissertation research, and look forward to exploring my research results with the help of image reconstruction experts in Bordeaux. Tune in for news from France!

April 30, 2014
Progress in Canadian approaches cold case investigations

The Vancouver Police Department is posting case file information on unsolved murders, and inviting members of the public to make like a TCAK Squad Member. Anyone can now review the available information, then apply their own experience, insights and areas of expertise to shed new light on these unsolved cases. Read my take on it on the blog.

April 28, 2014
New Guest Post on the Blog!

The TCAK Squad’s investigation into the unsolved murder of Nadine Gurczenski revealed troubling trends in the lack of reporting on acts of violence towards women involved in the adult entertainment and sex work industries, and offered a glimpse into the world of adult entertainment and sex work professionals. Guest blogger Claire Venet-Rogers explains the problems associated with criminalizing sex work, and suggests how we might address the issues of violence against marginalized and exploited people in these professions at their root cause.

Related: Celine Bisette, a sex worker for nine years offered her perspective on the Nordic model in today’s National Post.

April 25, 2014
TB research featured on CTV London

Jan Sims of CTV London came to visit the Bioarchaeology Lab at Western University this week to learn more about my PhD research, as I try to catch a killer of another sort – the bacterial pathogen second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent: Tuberculosis. Watch the clip here.

April 7, 2014
“To Catch A Killer” now available on iTunes and Rogers On Demand!

If you’ve wanted to tune in to “To Catch A Killer” but don’t have access to the OWN network, you can now watch the show by purchasing individual episodes or a “Season’s Pass” in the iTunes Store. If you’re a Rogers subscriber and missed the episodes, you can now find TCAK in the On Demand section.

March 24, 2014
Visiting Researcher Appointment: Master of Digital Media program, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone
&
World TB Day

I’m very excited to announce that I will be spending the next several months as a Visiting Researcher at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone! The DMZ is one of the largest startup incubators in Canada, connecting entrepreneurs with mentors, networks and funding opportunities in an innovative and tech-filled space in the heart of downtown Toronto. I will be exploring new ways of using 3D imaging and paleopathological data to detect and interpret evidence of ancient disease in consultation with the Master of Digital Media Program and other Ryerson experts.

Today is also World TB Day. Although humans and TB causing bacteria have co-existed for thousands of years, Tuberculosis is very much a modern disease with a real impact. Every year 9 million people get sick with TB, and of those, 3 million don’t get the diagnosis, treatment or care they need.

Follow the blog to see how my work at the Ryerson DMZ contributes to our understanding of TB and human interaction since prehistory.

March 24, 2014
New Post on the Blog
Behind the Scenes of TCAK: Forensic Facial Analysis

Jacqueline English was just 15-years-old when she disappeared after working the evening shift at a local snack bar in London, Ontario in 1969. Her body was found floating in a creek days later. Her case is notorious for the string of incidents linked to the murder, in particular several strange attacks on a witness who gave police information about a strange man seen speaking to Jackie several days before her disappearance.

When the squad identified several witnesses, we were disappointed not to be able to ask the witnesses opinion as to whether or not they resembled the man seen speaking to Jackie. This blog post details how Facial Perception Research was applied to find out, even though the witness has passed away.

March 16, 2014
New Guest Post on the Blog

Go “Behind the Scenes of TCAK” on the blog: A guest post by renowned semiotician Dr. Marcel Danesi.

“In David Buller’s paintings, there were definite clues to his state of mind and his apprehension of impending doom. It is clear, to me at least, that the signifiers (clues) that Buller left are clues that investigators can use retroactively.” – Marcel Danesi

March 14, 2014
New Blog Post!

Check out the blog for my latest post on the Canadian National DNA Databank and how it is used to solve crime!

Stay tuned to the blog for an upcoming guest posts by renowned semiotician Dr. Marcel Danesi on his innovative semiotic analysis of David Buller’s last works, and how they provide insight for investigators.

March 13, 2014
Episode 3: David Buller

Art professor David Buller was stabbed in his office on the University of Toronto campus in 2001, and his killer has never been caught. Tune in on Saturday March 15th to see how the squad takes on this horrific campus cold case.

March 5, 2014
Episode 2: Margaret McWilliam

On Aug. 27, 1987, 21-year-old Margaret McWilliam left her apartment to go for a jog in Warden Woods Park in Scarborough, Ontario. When she didn’t show up for work the next morning, her manager called police.
Margaret’s body was found in the park later that afternoon by police tracking dogs. She had been beaten, raped and strangled to death. Twenty-six years later, the squad thaws this cold case using modern methods to unearth new clues.
Episode 2 airs this Saturday, March 8 at 8 pm EST on OWN (Canada).

Click HERE to watch a clip from the episode

If you missed Episode 1: Donna Jean Awcock, catch it on OWN (Canada) at 9 pm EST Thursday March 6, or 12 am EST Friday March 7.

February 27, 2014
To Catch A Killer in the news

Interested in learning more about To Catch A Killer before our big premiere on Saturday evening? Check out some of the press coverage, then tune on Saturday at 8pm EST on OWN Canada!

CBC News Toronto’s Steven D’Souza speaks to TCAK investigators and the victim’s family about the David Buller Case

Mike Arntfield tells Global TV Morning about To Catch A Killer

Post Media’s coverage of To Catch A Killer in the Calgary Herald

February 21, 2014
Countdown to the To Catch A Killer premiere: 8 nights!

Tune in at 8pm on March 1st to the OWN network to watch Mike Arntfield and his team of six civilians (including yours truly) as they tackle the first of eight Canadian cold cases. Donna Jean Awcock deserves justice. Share the show’s twitter handle @ToCatchAKiller_ and like the facebook page to share these victims’ stories.

February 18, 2014
UWO Scholars use their skills “To Catch A Killer”

The University of Western Ontario journalism master’s student David Ingram speaks to Renee Willmon and Mike Arntfield about their participation in To Catch A Killer in the Western Journalism Review.

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