In 1997, Danny Gaulton left Labrador City and went out west for work, like many before him.
Four months after he moved to Grande Prairie, Alta., he went missing, and for more than 20 years his family had no idea what happened to the 27-year-old on the night of Nov. 24, 1997.
But recently that changed. New information about Gaulton’s disappearance was uncovered after an Ontario-based podcast called "Whereabouts Unknown" was asked to look into the case.
“Witnesses described Danny’s unconscious and seemingly lifeless body being dragged by these men down a hallway and from the hotel,” "Whereabouts Unknown" host Ellen White said in the podcast.
White and her group, which specializes in cold cases involving missing people, were contacted by one of Danny's sisters, who was hoping the group would look into her brother's disappearance. The team behind the podcast put out a call on social media for any information on what might have happened to Danny Gaulton.
A large number of tips came forward, and they interviewed more than 90 people, including people who supposedly saw Gaulton in an altercation with a biker that night at the Park Hotel bar in the town, which has since been demolished. According to the podcast, once the fight began, the biker’s associates got involved.
In the podcast, White says witnesses told them that within days of these events a man’s body was seen on the roof of the hotel, “where it lay wrapped in a mattress in the bitter cold.”
The information has been forwarded to police. Cpl. Deanna Fontaine, media relations officer for the Western Alberta District RCMP, told SaltWire Network they have no comment because the case remains under active investigation.
Fontaine also said that a historical homicide and missing persons unit looked into the case, and Gaulton’s DNA and dental records have been compared against unidentified human remains, with no match found.
“It was compared against the national database and that means if any remains are found moving forward, that will generate a hit,” she said.
Ellen White, a retired private investigator, told SaltWire that her volunteer group was glad they were able to help get some answers for the Gaulton family. They mostly do cold cases, and White said they’ve found new information in every case they’ve worked on.
In this case, White said, an hour after they sent out a targeted social media post someone contacted them saying they were a witness to the bar fight involving Danny Gaulton.
It just snowballed from there, she said, and in this case, timing was everything, from the right people seeing the post to them being ready to finally talk.
“More people than I can count said to me, ‘This has really impacted my life, it has destroyed my life, I haven’t been able to sleep well in 23 years, my conscience has never let me forget this,’" she said. “It was burdening people, and this gave them an opportunity to reach out and get things off their chest.”
Gaulton’s other sister, Josephine Gaulton Rowe, told SaltWire that after so many years, they knew something bad had happened to their brother, but it was still disturbing to learn some details.
“We knew it wasn’t a good end — we never believed he had just up and left and not told anyone,” she said. “It was disturbing, but we knew it wouldn’t be pretty. No matter what we hear, nothing is more painful than 23 years wondering, every single day of your life.”
All that was known previously was that Gaulton, who was working two jobs, had left his shared apartment, telling his roommates he was going to work. It was later discovered he had called in sick that night. Neither he nor his car was ever seen again.
The family had never stopped looking for him though, and made trips to Grande Prairie over the years to speak to people and try to find out what happened. The family even posted a $100,000 reward for any information leading to his whereabouts, but got nowhere.
“It wasn’t going to make anyone rich, but that’s a tidy sum of money,” Gaulton Rowe said. “We thought if anyone knew anything that would entice them. But, even then, nothing.”
Gaulton Rowe told SaltWire they heard rumours of a bar fight, but never got any concrete details or witnesses, or even proof that Danny was involved.
Now, with potential witnesses and a plethora of new information they’ve forwarded to the RCMP, Gaulton Rowe said they’re hopeful it can provide answers to her family.
“For the first 10 years, we thought, we don’t know what happened, and we always had hope. When you don’t know, there’s always hope,” she said. “For the last number of years, we just were resolved to the fact that Danny was murdered, but we do need to put him to rest and get some closure. He deserved better than this.”
Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram