Calgary Mystery: Who killed Don and Roxanne Carlson?

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When Don Carlson met Roxanne Watson, it was love at first sight. Don, then in his 20s, was a league umpire when Roxanne showed up at a ballpark to watch her brother’s baseball game. They married a year later and had three children together — Graig, Laura, and Danielle.  

Don graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing from the University of Calgary and worked several years at Gulf Oil before becoming the longtime manager at Albert Coin & Foreign Exchange, Ltd.

He loved hockey and was an active coach and player. He also coached children’s hockey and soccer teams for many years. As a lifelong goalie, he played hockey weekly with the Calgary Sharks and had traveled to Las Vegas, Montreal, and Phoenix for tournaments.

Roxanne was a psychologist with the Calgary Board of Education. She taught school for several years but wanted a better career for herself and her family. She decided to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology from the University of Calgary. 

Going back to school was no easy feat because she was raising her children at the time. Nevertheless, according to the couple’s obituary, Roxanne was an active parent and a proud “dance mom.”

Roxanne enjoyed reading and was a member of a local book club.

Don, 59, and Roxanne, 56, enjoyed the beautiful life they created and the perks of having grown children; they recently took a Caribbean cruise and visited New York and Ottawa. They also made numerous trips to Banff, Hawaii, and Seattle.

The couple loved traveling and had visited California, Florida, Hawaii, and Mexico with their children. They were looking forward to upcoming trips to Barbados and Quebec.

Unfortunately, those trips never happened.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, Graig Carlson arrived at his parents’ home in the 12000 block of Lake Erie Road Southeast for a visit and found Don and Roxanne dead inside; he called 911 around 1 p.m.

Don and Roxanne Carlson: house with crime scene tape
The Carlson’s home/CTV News

For some strange reason, emergency personnel initially treated the Carlson home as possibly contaminated with carbon monoxide. 

A possible explanation could be that Graig Carlson found them unresponsive in their bedroom without apparent signs of trauma on their bodies.

The fire department arrived and had to clear the scene before a medical crew could enter the premises. Unfortunately, police did not label their deaths as suspicious until the following morning. 

Investigators ruled the couple’s manner of death to a homicide on Tuesday, Feb. 18, after a medical examiner performed the autopsies.

The Calgary Police Service remains tight-lipped about the cause of death, and there was no apparent motive in the killings. 

However, early in the investigation, an investigator said, “To state that it is random, would be wrong at this time.” Authorities believe an unknown person or persons gained access to the home and murdered the couple that morning.

The Carlsons were last seen at 9:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.

The police said their children were not suspects, but it is unclear why investigators ruled them out. After their parents’ murder, the Carlson children released a statement:

Both were loving parents and will be terribly missed by all those who knew and loved them. Our parents were wonderful and well-respected people, known for their love of family, involvement in their community, and their professional accomplishments.

Calgary Herald, Feb. 19, 2014

According to CBC, on the first anniversary of the deaths, Calgary police released sketches of two men seen in the area believed to be connected to the Carlsons murder. Police have been unable to identify the men.

A witness spotted the first man on Lake Erie Road on the day of the double murder and described him as Caucasian, in his 40s, with long dirty blond hair and a slim build.

Another witness saw the second man in the 200 block of Lake Erie Road S.E. on Valentine’s Day 2014. The man was Caucasian, in his 30s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair.

In 2016, investigators released a grainy photo of a person of interest. Their investigation led to a recent-model gray or silver pickup truck, possibly a Toyota, seen in the neighborhood near the time the bodies were discovered. They determined the man had rented the truck using fraudulent identification and credit cars.

The police appealed to the public seeking information on this man, but no one came forward.

Seven years later, the police still refuse to discuss details of the case and never arrested anyone in connection with the murder.

The Carlsons resided in Calgary’s Lake Bonavista neighborhood, filled with large family homes and tree-lined streets. The neighborhood is considered quiet and safe, with many longtime residents like the Carlsons.

The last murder in the area was in 1998 when math tutor Ian Gordon slaughtered his common-law wife Lin Kreis, 41, and his children Kayla Gordon, 14, and Liane Gordon, 9, blocks from the Carlsons home. He is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 23 years.

Friends of the beloved Carlsons established a $25,000 reward shortly after their deaths.

If you have any information regarding the Carlsons’ murder, tips can be submitted to the Homicide Unit directly athomicidetips@calgarypolice.ca, by phone at (403) 428-8877, or anonymously to Calgary Crime Stoppers (800) 222-8477.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I’m assuming Graig Carlson mentioned carbon monoxide on the 911 call. Otherwise, why did authorities initially think the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning? I find that a bit odd. But then again, I am suspicious of everyone. 😀

The police initially said this was not a random attack, although they could not rule it out. Then, a year later, we have the sketches of the two separate men. We also have the photo of the 3rd man seen near the Carlson home on the day of the killings. I think this guy slightly resembles one of the men in the sketch, but there is no way he is in his 30s, more like late 40s or so.

So, if the police investigation led investigators to believe the killings were not random, how do these men fit in? Why haven’t they come forward? I don’t think all three were involved. Maybe one, but I don’t believe this was a random killing. 

While the Lake Bonavista neighborhood is nice, it does not appear to be what I would call “upscale.” So, if you wanted to rob a home, why would you choose the Carlsons? It’s nice, but there are bigger, more expensive homes and neighborhoods in Calgary. Also, if the motive was robbery, I’m sure police would have already said that.

Don and Roxanne were an average, quiet couple with many friends. Whoever killed them stood to benefit in some way. 

I want to know why investigators ruled the Carlson children out. They certainly gained financially from their deaths, I imagine. The couple had great jobs, so you know they had life insurance policies. 

What about the couple’s siblings? Did someone hire the killer?

But what is the damn motive here? Police either genuinely do not know, or they do know but are not saying. Did the killer(s) steal anything from the Carlson home? I’m always leery when investigators release little info. How is knowing the cause of death going to jeopardize the investigation? 

The Carlsons were last seen at 9:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. By who? Where?

I’m curious why the police are not releasing the cause of death. Why so secretive? The killer did not shoot or stab them to death because their deaths were initially treated as carbon monoxide poisoning, so there must not have been any blood. So, I’m guessing strangulation or suffocation. 

So many unanswered questions with this case. Hopefully, the family has answers one day.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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