This blog post is connected to a video on the case, found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0hTyDY__BU&t=6s
This was another case I first learned about from Unsolved Mysteries that stuck with me. It’s the case of nurse Cindy James, who either was stalked for years and tortured, finally to death, or she fabricated the entire thing and staged an elaborate suicide. I did a ton of research on this and the main thing I learned is that the internet is completely divided on this case. Some people are firmly convinced that she faked the entire thing, others think there is no way she could have done all those things to herself, and others think it’s a combination of both of those. So let’s get into some of the facts about the case.
Cindy was born on June 12, 1944, in Vancouver, British Columbia, to parents Otto and Tilly Hack. Cindy was the oldest of 6 children and moved around constantly as a child since her father, Otto, was a Canadian Air Force Colonel. I wasn’t able to learn that much about her childhood except that she moved a lot and that she was regarded as a sincere, warm person with a great sense of humor. Later Cindy revealed that she never felt good enough for her father and was never able to please him and she also had some kind of off putting memories like having to eat dinner in the dark at the bottom of the basement stairs which she said absolutely terrified her. That kind of stuff is a little strange, but there wasn’t all that much about her upbringing so I have no context to that. Originally Cindy wanted to go to college but her father was old fashioned and didn’t think that girls should go to college, but he did approve of her being a nurse so she ultimately decided to go to nursing school and graduated in 1966. She got married at 19 to a man who was 18 years her senior, psychiatrist Dr. Roy Makepeace who was born in South Africa. Roy is an interesting figure in this case and we will come back to him.
After she graduated, Cindy got a job at a preschool for children with behavioral and emotional issues. At work she was well liked, popular and was known for bringing her beloved dog Heidi everywhere. She was also known for always wearing velour suits all the time when she worked at the school. Cindy was described as charismatic and really enjoyed the work she did at the school. She was there for three years before she became the director of the place. That seems like a really big accomplishment and obviously she must have been good at what she did.
In 1982, after 16 years of marriage, Cindy separated from her husband Roy, and four months after this separation the terrifying ordeal began that ended in her death.
There are just as many indications that this was a murder as there are that this was some form of suicide or an accidental death, and a lot of the evidence is anecdotal, and depend on who you want to believe. If she did this herself, she was able to inflict horrific wounds that equal torture on herself, which I find really hard to wrap my head around. And in a lot of cases I get really into, there is just nowhere near enough information out there. This case is the opposite. There is so much that I just can’t put it all in here, but if you are interested, there is more out there. There was at least one book written on the subject, and I guess her sister also wrote a book but I wasn’t able to get a copy of either. In fact I’ve never seen evidence that her sister’s book was actually published, but she does have an excerpt of it on her website. There is also a very in-depth 12 part series about the case on audible that I found fascinating to listen to, so definitely go and check that out if you really want to go into this case more. I also liked that it was fairly objective and didn’t seem to make a definitive conclusion one way or another, which I read the books seem to do.
So now that we know a little about Cindy, let’s go into some of the facts surrounding the case before we examine the evidence that could point to one conclusion over another.
One and a half million dollars was estimated to be spent on investigating this case, with no substantial evidence found as a result. Over the course of almost 7 years, Cindy reported at least 100 incidents of harassment, assault and property damage. Some of the phone calls were just breathing, others were whispered threats. Her phone lines were cut. Windows repeatedly broken. Her prized garden was trashed. Dead cats and threatening notes were left in her yard. In one incident her beloved dog was found shaking with fear, with something tied tightly around her neck. She also appeared to have been beaten. Cindy’s pillow was slashed at one point. She received other threatening notes with cut outs from magazines or books. There were several instances where she was physically assaulted, injected with some kind of drug and found with a black nylon stocking tied tightly around her neck. Over the period of time in which Cindy was experiencing these instances of assault, harassment and stalking, she moved several times, changed her phone number and last name, and even painted her car however the incidents continued.
One of the police officers, Pat McBride, who worked on the case offered to move in temporarily with Cindy to help her with surveillance and ended up dating her. He actually seemed kind of obsessed with her and spent all of his time with her, on and off duty. But Cindy ended up writing in her diaries that she was feeling that he wasn’t helping her, that he seemed more interested in her than in finding her stalker. This put her off and she broke up with him. He did not experience any incidents during the time that he lived with Cindy.
On May 25th, 1989, Cindy was on a break from work and was running some errands when she disappeared. Her car was found abandoned in a Safeway parking lot and there was blood on the drivers side door and the contents of her purse were strewn around inside and under the car. It would be two weeks before Cindy’s body was fond in the front yard of an abandoned house a mile and a half away from her car. She had the signature black nylon around her neck that was used in several other assaults on her, she was hogtied and had died of a drug overdose. It is believed that she died the same day that she went missing but some signs point to her body only recently having been placed in that location.
I can’t go through all of the incidence but I will present some of the evidence that points to Cindy fabricating it or harming herself and the evidence that suggests that there was another person who systematically tortured her to death.
Evidence for Suicide:
It is clear that Cindy did suffer from mental health issues, but she said that this was the result of prolonged fear and terror along with not being believed. In fact she said that the worst part was being accused of faking this. She was at different times diagnosed with anxiety, depression, paranoid disorder, suicidal ideation, PTSD, and a personality disorder. She was suicidal at times, attempted to commit suicide, and wrote in her journal that she wanted to die. She felt hopeless and helpless and didn’t think that this would end until she was dead. She was also hospitalized for a time and refused to speak to anyone or eat.
Every time there was surveillance on her house there were no incidents. Sometimes it appeared that windows that were broken were broken from the inside, not the outside, and in one incident where Cindy had been impaled through the hand, the door was still locked. We’ll discuss this incident more in a little bit.
There was a time when her house was set on fire in the basement. Police said the only access to the basement was through a window that would have been impossible to go through without disturbing the dust around it. Cindy claimed that a piece of paper that was on fire was thrown through the window but the tall weeds outside the window were undisturbed. Cindy’s friend and husband were sleeping upstairs. Cindy was not home at the time when the fire started as she had taken her dog for a walk. Police and others found it very strange that Cindy would go walking around outside at night by herself when she reported how frequently and intensely she was being terrorized. To police this contributed to the idea that she was staging these incidents.
Police were convinced that Cindy was being evasive when questioned. They became suspicious of her demeanor and that she would always seem to be holding back information. She later did admit that she had recognized one of her assailants but had not revealed who it was because he had threatened her mother and sister. She also later said that she suspected that her ex husband Roy was behind the harassment and attacks. Publicly she claimed that he would not have destroyed her garden, but she privately noted that this tipped her off that it could have been him, since he had done this at some point during their marriage as well. For much of the time she did seem evasive and to know more than she would say, but later Cindy said that although she did feel like she knew who was committing these acts she was afraid to reveal it to the police. I’m not sure though how that is different from reporting all these events to the police and hoping that they catch the person. I feel like if she knew more she should have said what she knew if she really was trying to get help from the police.
One officer claimed that she had rapid shifts in demeanor regarding certain lines of questioning and indicated the wrong arm for where she had been injected with drugs as evidence that she was making it up, but to me that isn’t totally indicative because she was questioned sometimes very shortly after violent attacks where she was dealing with the effects of being injected with drugs, choked or hit and other things that could cause her to be disoriented and confused on what exactly happened and where. The police that think she faked it said that some of the attacks could have also been failed suicide attempts. A female officer stated that she seemed to be seeking the attention and protection of the male officers and because of this she felt that Cindy was disingenuous and was making all of this up for attention and protection and to manipulate others. I felt like this officer’s testimony regarding Cindy was extremely cold and even callous.
Another point that could suggest that this was suicide is that Cindy was known for hoarding any prescriptions she was given so she could have had the drugs that were found in her system when she died.
When Cindy was hospitalized she began to question if she was in fact responsible for the attacks on herself. She wondered if she may have unconsciously been committing these violent and terrifying attacks on herself without knowing that she was doing it. One of the therapists there thought she had multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder) and possible schizophrenia, in addition to uncovering childhood trauma and feeling that she was not good enough from her father.
After leaving the hospital, Cindy seemed to improve for a time. She was being medicated and was under the care of a therapist. She seemed more hopeful and less depressed. There was an approximately three year hiatus where she did not receive threatening notes, calls or have incidents of assault or vandalism.
When Roy turned over a recorded message that he had on his answering machine that said “Cindy… Dead… Meat… Soon…” the police analyzed it and determined that although distorted it was a woman’s voice and was most likely Cindy’s voice, however this may have been as the result of their pre-existing bias in the case because they had already firmly decided that Cindy was faking the attacks since it would be difficult to determine the exact origin of the distorted voice even if they could definitely say that it was a woman’s voice. However it may have been the voice of a woman, but not Cindy.
After her death there was an inquiry in which the police officer that lived with her gave testimony. According to him, he and his partner had used Cindy’s telephone, then left the house for a while. When they came back the phone line had been cut. The officer, Pat, stated that he checked his tools, which he had just cleaned, and found some wire cutters appeared to have just been used, and had residue on them which they shouldn’t have had since they had just been cleaned. He was convinced that at least in this incident, Cindy had cut her own phone line.
When Cindy’s body was found, she had been choked with a nylon stocking and hogtied. This seems difficult but someone was able to demonstrate that it would be possible to do to oneself. One account also stated that the knot used to tie the hogtie knots were the same as a particular way in which Cindy tied her shoelaces.
So that was some of the evidence that suggests that Cindy could have been responsible for her own death. Here is some of the aspects that suggest that she may have been telling the truth and that she was a victim of stalking and homicide.
Cindy claimed that she believed her ex-husband Roy was behind the attacks, and there is a theory going around the internet that he was running a prescription drug ring. This would give him access to the drugs that were found to be the cause of her death. This theory states that Roy had some of his patients carry out the attacks for him. It was also mentioned that twice during their marriage Cindy had found the drugs and flushed them, which greatly angered Roy. Cindy had also told another friend that on a trip to another country she witnessed her husband standing over two bodies of a man and woman he had just killed and threatened her not to tell anyone.
During the almost 7 years, Cindy's ex-husband Roy randomly showed up a few times at her house unannounced and it seems kind of creepy. Like he came in the middle of the night to tell her that he had received threatening phone calls and wanted to tell her in person. He also invited her to move back in with him and reportedly got upset when she refused. There were also some allegations that he was physically abusive to Cindy during their marriage, and he admitted that he hit her a few times during their marriage but denied that there was any ongoing abuse. He claimed that the incidents were probably related to the mob who were possibly family members of a child or children at the school she worked at. I couldn’t find my evidence to suggest why he said this, apart from him citing the incident where her pillow case was cut as a mob tactic. There were a couple strange occurrences that possibly could be traced back to Roy, such as someone with an accent who called to ask about how many floors the hospital had, if there was security on the emergency unit and similar things that struck the person working there as very odd. She initially thought the called had an new Zealand accent but when she heard the south African accent that Roy had she stated that was the accent she had heard.
Cindy hired a private investigator at one point, which seems odd if she was doing this all herself. Why would she hire someone who could reveal her and call her out and spend all that money when she wasn’t making all that much? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
There were several times that Cindy was physically attacked in ways that could have resulted in here death. She had stockings tied so tightly around her neck that the person who found her thought she was dead at first. She had a note pinned to the floor through her hand. That’s intense, and messed up. Who could do that to themselves? The private investigator who found Cindy after this attack stated that he did not believe there was any way she could have inflicted that injury on herself given the angle of the knife, etc. The police were kind of phoning it in at this point so although there was no evidence of an outside person ever found, after a while they weren’t looking too hard either. In this incident they did not even check for fingerprints like on the knife or the note that was pinned to her hand with the knife.
In another incident, Cindy was found outside, confused and suffering hypothermia after an attack. These were very serious injuries. She even ended up in a coma once after an attack. Any of these could easily have resulted in her death if she had not been found when she was.
Some accounts I found said that Cindy passed polygraph tests about if she inflicted the wounds on herself and if she was behind the notes that were written but the test showed that she was being evasive and withholding information. I have probably said it before but I don’t put too much stock in polygraph tests, but it is interesting to note. Roy was also asked to take a polygraph test but he was not able to because of some medical reason. It is also interesting to note that apparently during the few months when Roy was being actively investigated by police, Cindy’s stalker went quiet. There were no phone calls, notes or assaults during this time.
At one point Cindy’s house was set on fire and many of her belongings were damaged or destroyed. Her friends Agnes and Tom were staying with her at the time and when Tom ran out to find a neighbor he saw a man just standing there outside of the house. Tom asked the man to call 911 but the man turned and took off running down the street without saying a word. That is kind of weird and sketchy but not definitive proof of anything.
In one kidnapping incident Cindy was taken from a public park in a green van and injected with something. She was found hours later, near death. Under hypnosis she mentioned that she had heard the voice of her ex husband Roy in the van and that he had used a South African term.
After being released from the psychiatric hospital, Cindy went to the police and told them that she believed her ex-husband Roy Makepeace was responsible.
Cindy kept diaries and these repeatedly mentioned the person who was stalking her. If she was making it up she definitely went through a lot of effort to maintain it by writing in her diary blaming someone else. She also frequently expressed frustration with the police and their response and how they did not take her seriously or accused her of perpetrating the assaults on herself.
The private investigator, Ozzie Kaban, reported being suspicious of the police officer whom he said was obsessed and infatuated with Cindy, Pat McBride. Ozzie found his behavior really creepy and off-putting, but he was investigated as a suspect and eventually ruled out by all parties. Once Pat was ruled out, Ozzie felt the only real suspect left was Cindy’s ex husband, Roy. A co-worker of Cindy said he saw Roy with another woman shortly before they split and several times said that Cindy came in bruised on her face or around her eyes before Cindy and Roy separated and that Cindy said that Roy had done it.
Cindy was very close to death from several of the attacks prior to the one that killed her. She suffered concussions, memory loss, hypothermia and even spent time in a coma as a result of some of the previous attacks.
When her body was found it was in an area that had heavy pedestrian traffic so it is unlikely she would not have been seen or smelled by people in the area. She was fully clothed, lying on her side with her hands and feet tied behind her back. She was also covered in wounds and bruises and had been injected or ingested with a high dose of morphine and Flurazepam, which is a drug similar to Valium. There was no needle found at the scene, however Cindy was found with a needle mark on her arm. The death ultimately was not ruled as an accident, suicide or murder, but was listed as an “unknown event”. The abandoned house was also frequently inhabited by squatters and some teenagers had two small parties that week, so it’s difficult to believe that they would not have discovered her body if it was still there.
The hospital that Cindy worked at was very strict with Morphine and Cindy would not have had access to this drug through her work. It is unknown how she would have been able to obtain it at all.
Cindy’s parents, sister, private investigator and ex husband all believed Cindy that she was being stalked and harassed by someone else. Roy Makepeace denied having any involvement but insisted that Cindy was not making it up and that there were others after her.
In researching this case I went so back and forth. There was a lot of compelling evidence both ways. And that’s kind of where I ended up landing. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you”. I just cannot fathom that she would have been capable of repeatedly drugging and assaulting herself to the point of near death. I also don’t know that she would have killed cats, hurt her dog that was by all accounts very important and treasured to her, or destroyed her garden which she took so much pleasure in. Stabbing herself in the hand seems too brutal, as well as almost dying of hypothermia and all the wounds and injuries she endured throughout the course of the seven years. Especially her death, the facts just don’t add up to her being able to perpetrate this on herself. She at the very least would have had someone helping her and moving the body there after she died.
But it is also clear that Cindy was suffering from mental health issues at times over the course of the seven years. The diaries she left show someone who was intensely struggling at times and the anger and hatred that she felt for her ex husband. Could she have fabricated some of the incidents to get the police more involved? Maybe she became frustrated when they weren’t able to find any answers and she wanted to keep attention on the case because she felt scared. Ultimately I am not sure we will ever know. If this was a homicide, the main suspect Roy, who Cindy herself named as the perpetrator, died in 2013, so we might never be able to get answers.
Ultimately I think it’s less important who did it and more important what this woman had to endure over those almost 7 years. Whether self inflicted or not, she did not receive the help that she needed, in the form of protection from herself or from others. I also think that had this happened in modern days we would have had cameras everywhere and we would probably have more answers.
Like I said, people are all over the place on this case and they can get really passionate in believing one thing or another. The inquiry determined that her death was the cause of an unknown event, so it was not ruled to be an accident, suicide or homicide. So I really want to know what you think. Do you think Cindy James faked 7 years of torment and ultimately took her own life, or do you think that she was being stalked and toyed with by someone else who eventually killed her?