This is one of the strangest stories I’ve ever covered — and a total mystery to me. Cindy James was a 44-year-old woman from the Vancouver, B.C. area. She lived a very troubled and difficult life and, allegedly, she was plagued by a stalker who simply would not leave her alone. Over a seven-year period, she would be harassed by an unknown individual, leading to more than 100 police reports of stalking. They would call her to threaten her, or breathe into the phone until she hung up in a panic. They would lurk around her home at night, even going as far as to cut her phone line. Authorities were puzzled by the lack of evidence and many believed that Cindy was making up the whole thing for attention.
Everything would come to a head when Cindy disappeared in May of 1989. Just two weeks later, her body would be found at the abandoned house, battered, bruised, and bound. In what looked like an apparent homicide, the police would take a different approach to their investigation. They believed that this was all a part of Cindy’s mental health issues and she had likely killed herself, making it appear like murder — but Cindy’s family firmly believe that she had finally been killed by her long-time stalker and a murderer was allowed to walk free.
We’re going to walk through all of the details of this unsolved case, the background, evidence, timeline and what led to the coroner listing Cindy James’ cause of death as an “unknown event.”
Even though I’m a Canadian who is obsessed with all things true crime, I had never heard of this case! Though this story has appeared on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, and I will absolutely need to hunt down the footage after this. It’s no wonder why the show would pick this case up — in my opinion, it’s another instance of what was probably a murder, yet the police have dismissed it as not being criminal. I’d love to know what you think after you hear the details.
Cindy was born on June 12th, 1944 in beautiful British Columbia Canada to her father Otto, who was a retired Colonel with the Canadian Forces, and her mother Tillie, who was a stay-at-home mom to Cindy and her five siblings. From everything that I have read, it appears they were your typical middle-class family, living in the suburbs of Vancouver.
Cindy was known for having a very kind, sincere and warm personality, so it was no surprise to anyone when she decided to become a nurse when she grew up. While in nursing school, she would meet her husband, Roy Makepeace, who was working as a psychiatrist and was 20 years older than her. It was a very quick romance, with the couple getting married just five months into dating.
Even though Cindy and Roy had a very large age gap between them, they had a lot in common, especially when it came to their desire to help others. Roy had his psychiatric practice and Cindy enjoyed working at Blenheim House, which was a day-treatment centre for preschool-aged children with behavioural and emotional problems. Even though Cindy absolutely loved children, the couple would have none of their own — and in fact, with their busy work schedules, it wasn’t long before the marriage became tumultuous.
In July of 1982, while Cindy was working as a nurse at the Richmond General Hospital, she decided to separate from Roy after 16 years of marriage. She found her own place to live and she was really excited to have some independence. Though it was short-lived because three months later is when the nightmare would begin.
And before you automatically jump ahead and say “obviously the ex-husband did it”, you’re going to want to hear the full story. The pair continued to date while they maintained their separation and reportedly they were really trying to work it out between them and avoid a divorce. But the weird events to follow would make things difficult.
It started with those strange phone calls from a voice that Cindy didn’t recognize. Now, this was back in the 80s, so it was a lot more complicated to try to trace who was calling. Sometimes the person on the other end of the line would whisper her name — and sometimes, they would stay completely silent other than their heavy breath on the other end of the line. This was the first time that Cindy had ever lived on her own, and she was terrified — so when the mysterious phone calls kept coming, she went to the police right away.
A report was made with the Vancouver Police Department, but the calls kept coming and over the next few days things began to escalate. Cindy would say that she heard someone attempting to open the back door of her rental, but they ran off when she went to look. Then, she reported that someone had thrown a rock through her window. The following week, she alleged that someone had entered her home while she was away and slashed her pillowcase. Nothing else was damaged or taken — and she said she only noticed the slashed pillowcase when she went to bed that evening and pulled down the sheets.
This time, she demands that a police officer is dispatched to have a look at her home and document any evidence. Officer Pat McBride from the Vancouver Police Department responds to the call and takes a report. He records everything that Cindy has reported and appears to be empathetic with her situation. He also takes down information regarding her husband Roy, because as true crime enthusiasts know, it is usually the husband — especially if there is a separation and possibly impending divorce. Cindy completely refused to believe that Roy would ever do such a thing — the two were still seeing each other, and in fact, he was the one that told her to call the police after she found her pillowcase slashed.
At the time, there wasn’t really anything that the police could do — other than to tell her to be diligent and to call 911 if she had any more issues. She would have many more issues, with things seeming to get worse by the day.
The random phone calls continued — and now Cindy felt like whoever was behind them was also watching her. She reported one call where after hanging up the phone, she closed the blinds for privacy — only to have the creepy caller phone back to tell her that there was no use in her hiding because he knew that she was in her living room. Truthfully, I’d probably be moving the hell out of my home after getting a phone call like that, but Cindy tried to stick it out.
Over the next several months, Cindy would say that she heard people lurking outside of her home, trying to open windows and doors. She said that there was a strange note left on her porch that had been created using cut-out letters from a magazine — like those ransom notes you see in movies. She also said her phone line had been cut, her outside lights had been broken, her dog had been attacked AND there were three dead cats left outside of her home — all in the span of just three short months.
Cindy would continue to call the police to report how she was being terrorized in her own home and officer Pat McBride was always the one to respond — meaning they ended up spending quite a bit of time together, with Pat even installing deadbolt locks on Cindy’s doors as a personal favour to her. In a strange turn of events, Cindy and Pat began dating and he even moved into the home. This all happened within a matter of weeks — and obviously, it’s not very professional for an officer to start dating one of the victims he’s helping, but I’m going to guess that Cindy felt much more comfortable having him there. And I would also guess that Cindy’s husband, Roy, wasn’t all that happy with the arrangement, particularly because the couple was supposed to be dating and working things out.
Fortunately for Roy, the relationship between Cindy and Pat was very short-lived and Pat would move out of the home, though not before there would be an incident between the two men. Pat was living at Cindy’s house, and he would say he discovered Roy in the alleyway behind the house with two guns in his possession. When Pat asked Roy what the hell he was doing, he said that he was just providing surveillance and protection for Cindy because of the stalking that was happening. So was Roy really just watching out for Cindy’s safety, or was he caught in the act stalking her home? We don’t know.
Again over the course of the next few months, things escalated. Cindy would allegedly receive more strange phone calls of heavy breathing, she would receive more menacing notes, including one that said, “Soon, Cindy”, and she would find a picture of a corpse that had been cut out of a book and placed under the windshield wiper of her vehicle. She would also allegedly have her phone line cut in five different places, but authorities were clueless as to who was behind it all. There weren’t any clues to point to an individual who was stalking her — actually, there wasn’t really any evidence at all that she was being stalked — only Cindy’s claims.
Cindy and Pat would break up and Pat would move out of the home — but the harassment would continue. Cindy asks her telephone company to install a wiretap on her line so that they can trace where the hell the calls are coming from. Unfortunately, because of how short these calls are, there isn’t any valuable information garnered. A few of the calls are traced to the outer Vancouver area, but nothing more specific than that. Additionally, Cindy reports that she continues to receive threatening letters and really disturbing photos of dead bodies in her car and on the porch of her home.
And then, the first physical incident happens.
On January 27, 1983, Cindy’s friend, a woman named Agnes Woodstock, stopped by for a visit. Instead, she was horrified to find Cindy lying on the floor of her garage bleeding and with a black nylon stocking tied around her neck. Agnes helps Cindy up while she calls 911.
According to Cindy, she was at home when she heard a knock at her back door. When she went to answer the door, there was a man standing there who grabbed her and dragged her out to the garage, where an accomplice was waiting. The two men attacked her, with one slashing at her with something sharp while wrapping the stocking around her neck, choking her. Cindy tried to fight back but she passed out from being choked. She only regained consciousness when her friend Agnes showed up and began to help her. She didn’t remember exactly what the two men had done to her, but she said she remembered possibly being raped with the knife and she had over a dozen cuts to her hands, arms and legs.
At this point, the police were actually skeptical about her story. The wounds she sustained were mostly shallow and superficial, and there was no evidence of her being sexually assaulted with a knife. Cindy was asked to take a polygraph test before the investigation moved forward, and she failed — twice. Of course, this would be a red flag for the police, an indication that she wasn’t being fully truthful, though lie detector tests are not 100% and cannot be used in court — so do with that information what you will.
Cindy had an explanation for the failed lie detector tests — she said that she was too afraid to tell the full truth because she had actually recognized one of the men who attacked her and she was terrified he would try to kill her or come for her family next if she told the police his identity. The police are skeptical.
Cindy decides that she can’t stay in that house, so she moves back into her marital home, while her husband Roy finds another place to stay. The two are still not committed to fully repairing their marriage. Because of the tax, Cindy is able to claim $4,250 from the Criminal Injury Section of the Workers’ Compensation Board, which to be fair — isn’t a ton of money for someone who has to take time away from work after being attacked.
Even back in her marital home, the calls continued. Cindy would decide to move again in the spring in an attempt to get away from whoever was harassing her. The calls continued, and Cindy would move again. This would be the fourth time she had to move in less than a year — and she would say that throughout each point of living in a different house, whoever was watching her continued to call and leave threatening letters on her doorstep.
Things would escalate again in the fall when Cindy began to find dead cats hanging from trees in her yard. They appeared to be strangled, and one was accompanied by a note that said, “you’re next.” She continues to file a report with the police with each incident but says she doesn’t believe her husband is the one behind these events — even though he is the number one suspect police are watching. She didn’t really think the police were taking her all that seriously or looking where they should be — so Cindy hires a private investigator named Ozzie Kaban.
Ozzie would become a key witness to what was happening to Cindy. He decided to buy her a two-way radio so that they could better keep in touch. Ozzie thought maybe he would even be able to catch the perpetrator in the act. And he almost did.
On January 30, 1984, around 6 pm in the evening, Cindy calls Ozzie on the two-way pleading for his help. Ozzie responds immediately and it takes him about 15 minutes to get over to her home and kick in the door, where he finds Cindy lying on the floor with a knife wound to her hand and another strange note beside her that read, “It read, “NOW YOU MUST DIE, C — .”. Just like with the first physical attack, there was a black nylon stocking tight tightly around her neck.
Cindy was unconscious and would say that she didn’t remember anything about the incident. She would have a head injury from being hit with an object and there was a needle mark on her arm. A toxicology report would reveal that she had no drugs in her system, so it’s unclear what the needle was used for.
When the police arrive at Cindy’s home to document any evidence of the attack, they take note of a few important things, namely the fact that there did not appear to be any forced entry. So how did the individual get in? Cindy was known to always ensure her doors and windows were locked. They thought if anyone would go through this much effort to stalk her, scare her and attack her — it had to be her husband Roy. There wasn’t anyone else affiliated with her that would have a motive.
But Roy says he has no idea who is stalking Cindy and he has a solid alibi for most of the bigger events, like the physical attacks on Cindy. When he was questioned by police, he does offer up an alternative theory and suspect. He proposes that maybe it is someone affiliated with Cindy’s job. Remember, Cindy worked with troubled children who came from difficult backgrounds. Maybe it was someone she had previously worked with or maybe it was one of their family members. Police agreed to look into it, but really they were baffled by how this continued to go on. It was so unusual for a stalker to be so brazen in these repeated attacks.
During the summer of 1984, there were more attacks on Cindy’s home, including one incident where Cindy arrived home to find her back door open. Inside the house, her dog had been beaten and tied to the table with a rope that was similar to the rope used to hang the cats. There was also a very explicit birthday note found in her kitchen and a cigarette butt in the ashtray of a brand that Cindy did not smoke.
This is very elaborate, so there are two trains of thought here. Either someone really hates Cindy to the point of being completed dedicated to making her life hell and not afraid to get caught — or Cindy is so mentally unwell that she is hurting herself and her pet to prove a point. Either way, it’s disturbing and people around Cindy, her family, her friends, and her coworkers, all began to notice that her demeanour changed. She looked tired and stressed out all of the time. She began to lose a ton of weight from not eating. She definitely was not acting like her usual self. The local police department was also fatigued. They had spent so much time, energy, resources and money monitoring the situation. They had investigated every tip, lead and angle that they could — they had officers surveilling the area around Cindy’s different homes, and yet they had no idea who was behind it.
In July of the same year, Cindy would report that she had been abducted by a stranger. She awakes on the side of the road with no idea where she is and stumbles over to a stranger’s home to get help. She had that same black nylon stocking wrapped around her neck and needle marks on her arm. She said that the last thing she remembered was being stopped on the street by a bearded man and a blonde woman in a dark green van. They asked her for directions and she didn’t remember anything after that point until she woke up in the ditch. Again, there are no drugs found in her system despite the fact that she has needle marks on her arm.
The private investigator she had hired has an idea that he wants her to try — hypnosis. Perhaps she is suppressing information from her memory and hypnosis would help to dig up those details. She undergoes hypnosis a few different times and says a few interesting things. In one session, she says that she once witnessed a double murder, but she provides no other details and doesn’t remember ever saying it once she woke up. In another session, she claims that her former husband killed and dismembered a young couple when they were on a yacht trip in 1981. This story can not be corroborated and even Cindy’s sister, who was also on the trip, says that nothing happened.
Clearly, Cindy is struggling with something internally, but nobody knows what it is. In the summer of 1985, Cindy attempts to take her own life by overdosing on painkillers. After she is released from the hospital, she promises to go stay with her brother for a bit so that he can keep an eye on her, but instead, she returns to her home. This is strange to me, if you’re struggling so badly with what is going on in your life, why would you want to return to the place where people are watching you and want to harm you?
As you can imagine, the stalking continued. She alleged to have received more phone calls, and more nasty letters — and even reported that she was delivered a large makeup case full of rotten meat.
And then, someone attempted to set her home on fire. Actually, this would be the last of three arson attempts on her home — or at least, that’s what it initially looked like. She had her best friend and her best friend’s husband move in with her because she was too afraid to live alone. One evening, she ran into the couple’s room in the middle of the night screaming about a sound she had heard. When the friend’s husband went downstairs to investigate, he discovered the basement of the home completely on fire.
Thankfully they were able to call the fire department in time and have the flames extinguished and an extensive investigation was launched. A fire is a serious escalation. But when authorities took a closer look, they discovered that the fire had been started from inside the home. Someone would have had to break into the home to set it, either through the doors — which were locked — or through the window — where there was no evidence of anyone climbing through. This was kind of the turning point where the police really began to believe that Cindy James was doing all of this to herself. They didn’t believe there was a stalker at all. They believed she had staged everything because she was suffering from a break from reality. This time, they had her admitted to a psychiatric facility for further examination where she would spend 7 weeks.
According to the series, Unsolved Mysteries, while in treatment, Cindy would write in her journal the following:
“I still feel suicide is my best option in an unbearable situation and as soon as I get out of here I will carry out my plan.”
Additionally, the doctors who treated her there also wrote in their reports that they believed she was sending herself the letters, attacking herself and setting fires in her home.
When she is released from the psychiatric institution, she moves to the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. It’s December of 1985 and it’s freezing outside. While on her lunch break at work, Cindy would be found wandering around the area with no jacket or shoes on. She was completely disoriented and had a black nylon stocking tied around her neck. Again, there is a needle mark on her arm and the police believe that she is faking it. This time, they give her an ultimatum. Either she goes into therapy or they will press criminal charges for wasting their time. Cindy agrees to continue her therapy treatment, though she does not admit that she is behind all of the harassment.
In the beginning, the majority of people who knew Cindy completely believed that what she was saying was true — that someone was stalking her, threatening her and attacking her. But now, most people believed that she was mentally unwell and harming herself. Her friends begin to distance themselves from her and the police pretty much stop taking reports. If she is lying about what has happened, she has wasted an inconceivable amount of police resources.
I think by now you’re getting the sense that this is a cycle, everything is basically repeated. So the arson continues, the letters continue and the alleged attacks continue. Only a handful of Cindy’s network actually believes and supports her that this happening — so she begins to get desperate. She points fingers at her husband Roy, who she had always maintained was innocent. She is let go from her job and again becomes so depressed that she is put on suicide watch. The fear of her doctors is that she will attempt to take her life in a way that looks like a murder, and then blame it on her husband. She is admitted to the hospital for more treatment and this time it does appear that she seems to be doing better.
When she is released, she decided to change her name to Cindy James, where previously it was that of her husband’s last name. She buys a new home to move into and for a while, the attacks seem to stop, or she has finally given up the gig. Cindy is doing so well, that she even finds a new job that she loves, working as a nurse at the Richmond General Hospital.
In May of 1989, Cindy takes a five-day vacation from her job. Overall, things have been quieter than in previous years, though she still has reported an incident here or there. The frequency of the harassment does seem to have slowed way down.
On May 26th, she runs around town doing a few errands, including cashing a check and buying a birthday present for a friend’s child. Then she went to the beauty salon to get a makeover and stopped at the grocery store. She had plans that evening to have some friends over to play cars, but she wouldn’t make it. That evening when her friends dropped by, she wasn’t home and her car wasn’t in the driveway. No one knew where she was and this was a time before phones, so it made it all that more difficult to get a hold of her.
Her friends and family called around, and no one had heard from Cindy. Eventually, her abandoned car is discovered in the parking lot of the Grocery store she had visited. There is blood on the driver’s side door. Her purse and her wallet, along with groceries and that birthday present she had bought, are all left behind in the car but Cindy is nowhere to be seen.
It would be almost two weeks before Cindy was found. Her body would be discovered by a maintenance worker who found her lying on the ground near an abandoned house, about a mile from where her car was found. She was fully clothed and her hands and feet were bound behind her back with rope.
An autopsy would again find fresh needle marks in her arm — only this time, they would discover morphine and other drugs in her system. Her cause of death was determined to be an overdose and as a result of an “unknown event”.
If you’re not getting the visual here, she was found lying on her side, with her feet tied together and tucked under her bottom, then her hands also tied behind her back. It would be a difficult position for someone to put themselves in, though not totally impossible. Police believed it to be a suicide. They had an expert witness who determined that the drugs would have taken 15 minutes to kick in and Cindy could have tied her hands and feet like that within 3 to five minutes. She could have bound herself before the overdose happened.
Her close friends and family were not convinced. To them, this made it abundantly clear that Cindy was telling the truth this entire time. That she had not been attacking herself — someone else was out to get her, and ultimately killed her.
Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the police really honed in on suicide and so there wasn’t a thorough homicide investigation done. And I can understand why they would feel that way, this is a woman who they believe has been setting up situations just like this for years. Her psychiatric team was all aware that she could do this to herself in one final attempt to get the police to listen to her.
But her friends and family have questions — like why did she do this to herself if she had plans for that day? Things had been going well, she had a great job and had just cashed her paycheck. She just picked up groceries, a birthday present and even had a makeover. Would she really go through all of that trouble if she just planned to take her own life? And would she really be able to tie herself up, both her hands and her feet, if she had that many drugs in her system?
We don’t know. This happened in the 80s and we still don’t know. Despite all of the police reports that Cindy filed over the years, all of the witnesses who saw her bound, beaten and unconscious, the police ruled it a suicide and so there wasn’t really an investigation done.
Could Cindy have done this herself? Sure. Maybe. Was someone stalking Cindy for all of those years until they finally went through with their plan? Possibly. That’s exactly what her family believes — that there is a killer walking free today. Unfortunately, no one — including Cindy’s husband Ron — has ever been named a suspect, and we will likely never know the truth.
But as always — I’d love to hear what you think! Was the stalker real? Or did the stalker live in Cindy’s head?
About the Author
Nikki Young is the host of the international true crime podcast, Serial Napper. Each episode features a different true crime story, told succinctly the way it happened. Serial Napper is available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.