Fugitive charged in Edmonton murder lived under stolen identity: investigators

Facial comparison software and DNA in a chewed piece of gum helped lead Edmonton homicide investigators to an American fugitive who had been living under a stolen identity in Canada and is now charged with first-degree murder in the death of an Edmonton limousine driver.

  Robert Aubrey-Maxwell has been missing since September 2012. Police believe Jason Steadman assumed Mr. Aubrey-Maxwell's identity shortly after his disappearance

Robert Aubrey-Maxwell has been missing since September 2012. Police believe Jason Steadman assumed Mr. Aubrey-Maxwell's identity shortly after his disappearance

Investigators say Jason Steadman, 41, had assumed the identity of 27-year-old Robert Aubrey-Maxwell, an Ontario man missing since 2012. Mr. Aubrey-Maxwell still has not been located, but his grandmother, Judy Bateman, said police told her, "it doesn't look good for my boy."

"They said something bad had happened, but they didn't know what it was," she said.

She added that police showed her a picture of her grandson and one of Mr. Steadman, and the two men "looked like twins," except for their eye colour.

Edmonton police issued a warrant for Mr. Steadman's arrest in October, 2015, but it was not made public until an extradition document was unsealed in U.S. District Court on Friday. Mr. Steadman is in custody in the United States, and proceedings are under way to return him to Canada to face the murder charge in the death of Dwayne Demkiw.

The case put together by Edmonton homicide investigators is laid out in a court document from the U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Homicide investigators believe Mr. Steadman waited for Mr. Demkiw outside his Edmonton workplace, Revolution Entertainment, early on the morning of May 31, 2015, then overpowered him, killed him and drove to Calgary, disposing of his body and phone along the way. The victim's car was found on fire in a Calgary C-Train parking lot late that morning, with his blood inside.

The document says there was "friction" between the two men because they had both dated the same woman. The woman identified a photo from a surveillance video of the suspect near Mr. Demkiw's burning car as her ex-boyfriend, Robert Aubrey-Maxwell, who had also disappeared. His truck was found a month later in B.C. When police investigated further, they discovered that the man was not Mr. Aubrey-Maxwell, but had assumed his identity 2 1/2 years earlier.

Ms. Bateman said she last heard from her grandson, the real Mr. Aubrey-Maxwell, on Sept. 6, 2012, shortly after he moved to B.C. Six days later, Mr. Steadman used two pieces of Mr. Aubrey-Maxwell's identification to get photo ID in Vancouver. In November, 2012, he got a drivers' licence and a Canadian passport in Edmonton under Mr. Aubrey-Maxwell's name.

Ms. Bateman said she reported her grandson missing later that fall, but an RCMP officer called her back within hours saying he had been located, and did not want to talk to her or have any contact with his family. Although it seemed unusual, she said, her grandson had struggled with issues in the past, and she thought he needed space.

The next time she spoke to police, she said, they told her that her grandson's identity had been stolen, and that he had likely been killed within days of speaking with her in 2012.

A facial-comparison computer program matched pictures of the man known in Edmonton as Robert Aubrey-Maxwell with pictures of Mr. Steadman in Washington State Motor Vehicles Division records. Mr. Steadman's DNA was also matched to a baseball hat found beside a machete sheath outside Revolution Entertainment, and to a chewed piece of gum in the bed of the truck found in B.C.

Mr. Demkiw's remains were found in the woods in central Alberta in April.

The extradition documents say Mr. Steadman was also previously known as Stephen or Rory Preston, but legally changed his name to Jason Steadman. According to The Seattle Times, he previously served time in prison for sending threatening letters containing white powder to the newspaper, and for putting a fake pipe bomb in a newspaper rack.

He had been on supervised release for those offences when he disappeared in the summer of 2012.

Ms. Bateman said she hopes Mr. Steadman's arrest means she may one day find out what happened to her grandson. She says she keeps his picture with her, and talks to him every day, saying: "Where are you, Robbie? Tell me where you are. I'll help you. I'll find you."