By Denis Gibbons
At one time, Don Edwards was a proud Canadian, thrilled to represent his country at the 1981 Canada Cup. However, its increasingly soft justice system, in his eyes, has driven the former NHL goalie to leave his homeland and try to start a new life with his family.
Born in Hamilton, Ont., Edwards has been living in Florida for the past seven years, where he has worked as the director of sales and marketing at Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero. He said dealing with Canada’s legal system had a huge impact on his decision to move to the U.S. It may have put his parents’ murderer in prison for the past 24 years, but he has little faith it’ll keep the killer there as he seeks parole for the third time. “There are faults in the Canadian justice system,” Edwards said. “This individual killed two people. I anticipate we will have to go through another parole hearing. I would not wish this on anyone. There are much tougher courts in the U.S. Here, life means life.”
On March 21, 1991, Edwards was at home getting ready to go to work at his real estate office in Buffalo, the city he’d starred in as a goalie for the Sabres and where he won the Vezina Trophy in 1980. Just before 8:00 a.m., he received a call from his brother-in-law. Edwards’ parents had just been murdered. “It was just shock and horror,” Edwards said. “We called our neighbors to ask them to keep an eye on our house. We called (my wife’s) parents in Caledonia, Ont., because we needed them to come down and be home when the kids got off the bus from school, and we called a friend who worked for U.S. Customs and Immigration.”
Within 20 minutes, Edwards and his wife, Tannis, were in their car headed for Canada. “By that time there already was a lockdown at the border looking for the killer,” he said.
About a month earlier, George Lovie had been released on bail after holding his ex-girlfriend – Edwards’ sister, Michelle – at knifepoint for more than five hours. On that fateful day in March, Lovie hid for four hours under Michelle’s porch in Glanbrook, a suburb of Hamilton, just across the street from her parents’ house.
When Michelle came out to go to work, Lovie pointed a rifle at her. Fearing for her life, she ran across the street to her parents’ house, with Lovie on the chase, shooting at her before she entered her parents’ home. When he got there, he forced his way in then shot Don’s mother, Donna, and stabbed his father, Arnold, five times in front of their daughter.
Lovie was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, as well as one count of attempted murder, and was sentenced to 25 years to life. He is serving his sentence at the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont.
That day still haunts the family. Edwards has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Relatives don’t reveal their addresses, and their homes are wired with security alarms. Even now, nearly a quarter century later, Edwards and members of his family are often looking over their shoulders to see who may be following them. “My wife, son, daughters, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, neighbors, friends and supporters, together we share the same serious concern, that George Harding Lovie will once again devastate our lives and follow through with that next promise…the promise to kidnap and kill other family members, and possibly kill other innocent victims in a community,” Edwards said in a victim’s impact statement at a hearing in June. “Nightmares, waking up in the night, finding yourself in a hot feverish sweat dreaming that you had just re-entered a caring and loving home, but instead to find a place of childhood that had been devastated with shattered glass, bullet holes throughout the kitchen door, kitchen cupboards, walls and window, pools of blood where you know our father and mother had been killed.”
And those nightmares aren’t over. In 2014, after serving 23 years, Lovie was granted escorted temporary absences. With the supervision of a corrections officer, he did community service work in Gravenhurst.
Then, this past April, Lovie sought permission two visit a halfway house in Sudbury. At a recent hearing, the Edwards family fought to have the request denied. They were successful – Edwards and the family managed to keep him from seeking parole to a halfway house in Peterborough a couple years ago, too – but it’s only the beginning of what could be a lengthy battle, with another parole board hearing set for February 2016. For now, Lovie remains in prison. But as hard as Edwards has fought to keep him behind bars, he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll stay there. Ultimately, the family hopes Lovie will be declared a dangerous offender and never be set free. “The incident has changed our lives entirely,” Edwards said. “We’ve been to two parole hearings. It just doesn’t go away. It’s always on our minds and something we have to deal with.”