News Local

Elderly woman slain in Sandycove Acres in 2014

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Richard William Dowdell pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of a Sandycove Acres woman in May, 2014.

Richard William Dowdell pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of a Sandycove Acres woman in May, 2014. MARK WANZEL FILE PHOTO

INNISFIL -- A man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of a Sandycove Acres woman.

Just over two years ago, Bonnie (Yvonne) Brooks, 81, was struck and killed in her own home at 14 Recreation Dr. in the small lakeside community in Innisfil.

South Simcoe Police officers were called to the home May 30, 2014 and entered to find a woman inside suffering from serious injuries. Simcoe County paramedics were unable to save her and she died in her home.

Richard Dowdell, 56, was arrested at the home and was initially charged with first-degree murder.

Vernon Bates and his wife Gladys still live kitty-corner to Brooks' former home, which has since been sold.

Remembering the incident, Vernon said he had just finished a conversation with Brooks when Dowdell showed up.

"I had said 'hi Bonnie' and we were yakking and then I saw Rick (Dowdell) coming up around the corner," Vernon said Wednesday afternoon. "I went around back and maybe 20 minutes later, I saw all the cop cars arrive and wondered what was going on."

Vernon, a former general with the Salvation Army, had previously met Dowdell who mowed lawns for local residents.

During that spring before Brooks' death, Dowdell had asked Vernon to pray with him.

"I said sure, I don't judge people. So we knelt down and bowed our heads and he prayed, but the words he was saying didn't make a lot of sense. I was still kneeling when I heard the lawnmower and looked up and he'd left to mow a lawn," Vernon said.

Vernon said he was subsequently called to give his testimony in court when the authorities were trying to determine if Dowdell was mentally capable of standing trial.

On Tuesday, Dowdell pleaded guilty to Brooks' murder and will hear his sentence in Barrie, June 30.

"We've been in touch with the family of Mrs. Brooks throughout the investigation and trial process," said Det.-Sgt. James Buchanan, "and we appreciate that they finally have closure on this tragic event."

The quiet community was shaken by the police presence throughout the first week of June in 2014, but many have moved on after the initial mourning.

The Brooks house was sold about one year ago, said Gladys, adding she always felt safe in Sandycove Acres and still does.

"You really can't judge the neighbourhood by the one incident," Gladys said. "We were shocked at the time because nothing like this ever happens here."