ONTARIO COLD CASE: Tracy Kundinger was strangled just metres from her front door:Late-night shortcut put the 18-year-old lifeguard in killer’s path

The problem was that Tracy’s body, left in the area that is now the park behind Simonston Boulevard’s German Mills School and Jeannine’s childhood school, St. Michael Catholic school, was reportedly left undefiled.

In the wake of the murder, York Regional Police launched a large-scale investigation, the type designed to not only identify the individual responsible but to calm a community shaken by the details — an innocent 18-year-old girl murdered after dark in a public place with no obvious motive.

In the end, the investigation might have uncovered more questions than it answered.

When described by the remaining Kundinger sisters, Tracy’s upbringing sounds idyllic, almost like a storybook.

The Kundinger girls, along with their mother and father Mary and Ray, spent their winter weekends and summer breaks up at their Mansfield, Ont., chalet.

Tracy and the others would ski all winter and run free in the summers, in the protective custody of the 50-odd generational chalet-owners who surrounded them.

“It was a blessed type of childhood and it kept us out of trouble,” said Jeannine. “It was a safe environment and we knew and trusted everyone.”

Tracy is remembered by her sisters as being artistic, kind, smiley and caught up with the hippie 1970s.

“She was very pretty, long straight hair and brown eyes and a trademark smile,” said Sharon. “She was crazy about art, drawing and painting. I remember her doing sequins all over her bell-bottom jeans.”

Lee-Ann said she and Tracy would fantasize about their futures; Tracy’s involved becoming an art teacher and living on a farm with her future husband.

Sharon said she remembers looking up to Tracy, who was four years older making her eligible to wear makeup and date boys.

“She was all the things you want to be when you’re a preteen girl,” she said. “I would sit in her room and talk to her about her boyfriend and her job lifeguarding.”

But not all Tracy’s stories were about her crushes, flower power and platform shoes. Tracy would also discuss the uglier side of her relationship with her then boyfriend, Jamie Fenwick.

Fenwick, two years younger, attended North York’s George S. Henry Secondary School alongside Tracy.

“She definitely verbalized that he was jealous and didn’t want her speaking to other guys,” she said. “I think they broke up a couple of times, they had a volatile-type relationship.”

Sharon said at the time, she was only 14 and too young to understand this information might have been something serious enough to share with an adult.

“I knew nobody knew those details,” Sharon added, “but to me, to be up that late and talking to her was a thrill anyways. It’s not something you tell your parents.”

This was not the only troubling part of Tracy’s life.

The St. James Town facility, then named the Ottawa pool, where Tracy worked as a lifeguard, wasn’t the safest place for a teen in the best of times.

“The pool was surrounded by buildings,” Sharon said. “One guy tried to manhandle her into a bathroom cubicle, luckily another male saw and helped her. Tracy didn’t want my mom to worry, so she told me all these stories when I sat in her room.”

Sharon said there were also a couple of instances of men paying her unwanted attention and “coming onto” her around the pool, where she’d be sitting tanned and clad in a bathing suit.

Then there was the mysterious disappearance of Tracy’s moped, the vehicle she used to drive from the bus stop to her home so that her parents wouldn’t worry. It was stolen from the Don Mills Road’s Cliffwood Plaza only four days before she was murdered, meaning Tracy would now have to walk home after getting off the 25 North Don Mills bus at Steeles.

Tracy’s parents were not comfortable with this nor with her cutting through the field as a shortcut.

“None of us were allowed to walk through that field,” Sharon said. “We were expected stay where the light is and my mother had specific conversations with us.”

Jeannine recalls the day she and her parents heard that Tracy, who had just that year been allowed to stay home alone while they went to the chalet, was unreachable.Tracy’s new boyfriend arrived at the chalet on his motorcycle to tell her parents he was unable to contact Tracy.

“My mother knew something was awry immediately,” Jeannine said, recalling conversations her mother has shared since Tracy’s murder. “When she heard this my mom was very quick to say, ‘let’s go home’ and even left the dishes in the sink.”

Just eight years old at the time, Jeannine remembers being one of the first into the home before hearing something that initially put her mind at ease.

“We were all worried,” she said. “I heard the toilet flush and I said ‘oh she’s here’ and then (her boyfriend) came down the stairs. That was a big let down.”

Jeannine remembers the days following as being a constant stream of police entering and exiting the home, neighbours visiting with food and someone from York police attending to the home’s phones.

Sharon remembers coming home early from California where she and her sister Lee-Ann had been staying with their aunt and uncle for a month.

Tracy would be buried in the pearl necklace the girls purchased for her while down south.

In a bid to maintain their family’s sanity, their own relationship and the safety of their three young girls, Mary and Ray did their best to carry on and put the tragedy behind them.

“They had three girls to raise and that was the priority,” said Sharon. “I’m so glad my mom and dad didn’t have that rage. If anything, it’s brought us together. We are a close family.”

Lee-Ann believes their parents did their best to let go of the resentment by refusing to dwell on the intricacies of the case.

“I admire them so much that they had three more girls and the fact that they didn’t wrap us in bubble wrap is amazing,” she said. “For my mom, she slept a lot, that’s how she dealt with depression, but I know they were always protective of each other’s feelings.”

It wouldn’t have been easy to remain so resolute. The girls remember crank calls to the house asking if “Tracy was home” and the mother of another murdered teenager calling their mother to speak with her.

“Dad said no revenge, no anger will bring her back,” Lee-Ann added. “(The murderer) has taken enough … don’t let him take more. He saw how that anger and not letting it go can destroy lives.”

Some 14 months following the murder a man was arrested.

John Ferguson, 34, from Toronto, was single, unemployed and on welfare.

In a number of newspaper articles at the time, he was described as a former mental patient pointing out that his behaviour following the murder was “bizarre.” The case fell apart before it reached trial due to some key evidence of the Crown’s being disproved by his defence.

Decades after Tracy’s murder though the three daughters began to ask questions.

Despite Tracy’s name being out of the headlines since the ’70s, Tracy’s memory continues to burn bright in many people’s minds.

Brenda Glover still thinks of her “wonderful, kind” friend, and dedicated a bench in her memory in the field, which is now named Simonston Park, where she lost her life.

“I never forgot, I hold Tracy very close to my heart,” she said. “The family was shocked that I would come out of the woodwork years later.”

The park bench reads: “Though death leaves a heartache no one can heal; Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”


This article was originally posted here