A friend alerted a Delhi merchant to trouble outside their store on the afternoon of March 30.
The store owner gathered it was serious but had no idea it would become part of a murder investigation.
The owner of the shop, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed there was an incident in the parking lot the same day Michael Shawn Murray, 54, of Delhi, was found dead at a residence on King Street.
“The person who died – I know the family,” the store owner said. “It was outside. I know they (police) came for video but no one in the store actually saw what happened.”
The merchant was on the road March 30 collecting inventory. While away, the shopkeeper received a phone call reporting a heavy police presence outside the store.
In a news release, Norfolk OPP said they attended a residence on King Street around 2:30 p.m. March 30 to investigate a report of a death. Murray’s body was examined at the Office of the Chief Coroner in Toronto. Authorities concluded the death was a homicide.
At the time of the determination, Norfolk OPP asked Delhi-area residents to check their properties for discarded items of clothing or backpacks. As part of their investigation, police also requested surveillance footage from home-security cameras. The store owner added that police went door to door in the area of Orchard Avenue in Delhi inquiring about the crime.
On April 14, Norfolk OPP confirmed a man had been arrested in connection with Murray’s death.
Murray, a native of LaSalette, is the third homicide victim in the former Township of Delhi in the past 16 years.
Dan Hall, 76, of Burlington, was beaten to death in a cottage in Turkey Point in 2005. A neighbour – Dennis Uhrig, 66 at the time of Hall’s death – was convicted of first-degree murder in 2007. A resident of Kitchener, Uhrig was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
In 2010 Brian Rose was charged with murder in the shooting of his grandmother, Janina Kurzyna, 85, of Vanessa.
A court ruled in 2013 that Rose, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was not criminally responsible for his actions. Rose was 32 years old at the time. Following a course of treatment, a panel of experts agreed to his release from a mental health facility in 2016..
The reaction on social media to Murray’s death suggests he had many friends and was well-regarded. Many posts cite his kindness and gentleness.
“He had a great love for hockey and spent many happy years playing and volunteering hours, refereeing at the arena (and) forming life-long friendships,” says an obituary notice on the Murphy Funeral Home of Delhi website.
“Michael was loved by all who knew him and was an incredibly kind, caring and gentle soul. Michael loved his family, friends, his many animals and his plants.”
A video photo collection of Murray also appears on the Murphy Funeral Home site.
Good friend Cheryl Lamont, of Tillsonburg, echoed similar sentiments recently. She came to know the Murray family while growing up on a farm in LaSalette.
“Right up to the very end, he called me ‘sis,’” Lamont said. “He was like a brother to me.
“He was into horticulture. He loved plants, nature, dogs. He liked to be outside more than inside. He was a very caring person, always willing to help. I’m still grieving. I will grieve for the rest of my life.”
While describing Murray as gentle and easy-going, Lamont added he also had a strong sense of right and wrong.
“Michael wouldn’t let anyone just walk over him,” she said. “He always stood up for what was right.”
Lamont has not been apprised of the circumstances of Murray’s passing. Maybe someday, she said, she will approach the family privately and seek closure.
The Murray family did not respond to a request for an interview. However, Murray’s connections appear to reach across the Atlantic into Ireland. A posting at Murray’s Facebook page says a mass in his memory was held at St. Patrick’s Church in Cullyhanna, Ireland on April 12. Murray’s ashes were interred at Delhi Cemetery during a private family gathering.
Robert Lee Ballard, 27, of Norfolk County, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Murray’s death. Police report Ballard is being held in custody and will answer the charge at a later date in the Ontario Court of Justice in Simcoe.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Norfolk OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers of Haldimand and Norfolk at 1-800-222-8477. Callers to Crime Stoppers who help solve a crime are eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.