"His three wishes are to be free, to have no compulsion to commit crimes when he needs money, and to have a family."
--Dr. Murray Brown, Saskatchewan Penitentiary
In May 1999, there was a media frenzy when Ty Conn, a convicted bank robber, broke out of Kingston penitentiary, one of the most heavily secured correctional facilities in the country. The police finally caught up with him two weeks later in a Toronto apartment. Out of sheer desperation, facing the balance of a forty-seven-year prison sentence if re-incarcerated, Ty Conn shot himself fatally in the chest.
Who Killed Ty Conn follows the story of Conn’s tragic life, which took him from a childhood of abuse to a life of crime, finally leading to his death at the age of thirty-two. By the time Conn had reached the age of two he had already been abandoned by his father, mother, and grandparents. Ontario child protection services intervened and allowed an affluent but unsuitable family to adopt him. The breakdown of Ty’s home life led to foster homes, insecurity and petty theft. As Conn’s sense of personal loneliness and abandonment escalated, so did his criminal activity. Multiple convictions for armed robbery and escaping prison eventually brought him to Kingston Penitentiary. Once again alienated and facing a hopeless future, he devised an ingenious escape plan. On May 7, 1999, he went over the wall.
When the police finally tracked him down after a full-scale search, he chose death over prison. At the moment he shot himself, around midnight on May 20, 1999, Conn was on the phone with Theresa Burke, associate producer of CBC’s the fifth estate. Burke and Linden MacIntyre, a fifth estate co-host, had met Conn in a Saskatchewan Correctional Institute in 1994 when they featured him on a show dealing with the effects of child abuse. In their opinion, Conn was not a hardened criminal but a man trying to come to terms with a life of rejection, and a danger to no one but himself.