Police officer recalls high-profile homicide case – on her second day in uniform

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She was a young Ontario Provincial Police officer thrown into the deep end on her second day on the job.

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ST. THOMAS – She was a young Ontario Provincial Police officer thrown into the deep end on her second day on the job.

Testifying Friday at the first-degree murder re-trial of Boris Panovski, 79, now-Det. Const. Amanda Maure said she was so green when she started at the Huron County detachment, she didn’t understand the role of the forensic identification officer who showed up to take photos of a frightened woman’s injuries at Clinton Public Hospital.

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She and a senior officer had raced to the Hullett Wildlife Conservation Area to investigate a suspected shooting on Sept. 13, 2014. And their role was to attend to Eva Willer Frigo, the wife of Donato Frigo, 70.

“I felt very bad for this lady,” Maure said, testifying through a remote feed from Thunder Bay.

The Frigos were ambushed and shot while they were riding horses with their dogs during a well-known bird-dog trial at the nature preserve north of Clinton. Toronto-area businessperson Don Frigo died from his injuries.

Maure rode to hospital with Willer Frigo. She later found herself holding up a ruler to measure the buckshot injuries to the woman’s face while now-Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Myatt took photos.

Panovski pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder at the beginning of the re-trial, which began last week.

The shooting and the circumstances behind it made Frigo’s homicide one of the most-high profile and bizarre investigations in recent Huron County history.

Instead of a jury hearing the case, as it did in Goderich in 2018, Justice Marc Garson is presiding without a jury at the six-week re-trial being held in St. Thomas. Panovski in 2021 successfully appealed the original guilty verdicts to first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

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All the court officials are different from the original Goderich trial. Assistant Crown attorneys Elizabeth Brown and Kelsey Good are presenting the prosecution case, while Toronto lawyer Margaret Barnes took over the defence earlier this year.

Panovski elected to have the case tried by judge-alone just days before a jury was slated to be picked. Once again, he requires simultaneous translation of the proceedings by two Macedonian interpreters.

The Crown is arguing Panovski, a one-time high-flying bird dog breeder, had a long-standing grudge against Frigo, sparked by an embarrassing incident in Waynesboro, Ga., the bird-dog capital of the world, during a prestigious competition.

Panovski had a solid reputation in the lucrative dog world and had sold Frigo a prize-winning dog until the incident was publicized.

To get a sense of how long the homicide case has lingered, Maure is now a detective with a decade of service. But her second day on the job must have been jarring for the rookie officer.

Maure, under questions from Good, said she and a senior officer were dispatched to the crime scene amid fears there was still an active shooter in the woods. They opted to arm themselves with police-issued long rifles.

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Over the radio came the dispatch from other officers already at the shooting scene: “Send Amanda to get the female out.”

Maure said she walked down Conservation Road to a mud road, where she could see a woman with an oxygen mask over her face being treated by paramedics. Maure said it was Willer Frigo, and she had blood on her face and hands.

Maure remembered Willer Frigo was “shaking, hyperventilating, her eyes very open.” When she saw Maure, she grabbed the young officer’s hand and “kept trying to pull her oxygen mask off to speak,” Maure testified.

“She looked like she was in quite a bit of shock,” Maure said.

She said during Barnes’ cross-examination that WIller Frigo was “blurting things out” at the scene.

“She was trying to tell me what had happened and how to help,” Maure said, adding she held the woman’s hand as she was placed in the back of an ambulance, the young officer then riding in the front seat to Clinton hospital.

Maure recalled Willer Frigo being told her husband was dead.

“She was heartbroken. She was very upset,” Maure said. “I just remember her calming down when I told her someone was with him.”

The doctor cleaned Willer Frigo’s hands and face and Myatt arrived to retrieve evidence and take photos. Willer Frigo was treated for hours, with one tooth extracted due to buckshot damage.

The Crown also called Warren Harper, who was involved in the bird-dog world and spent the first part of his testimony explaining the competitions and the fact that it can be a profitable business.

The trial continues.


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