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Trapper Gunter Lishy vanished from his cabin in 1981. In 1985 his bones were found near Oros’ cabin at Hutsigola Lake. Photo courtesy of the book “Descent into Madness”.

Homicide. Jury confirms crazy Mike theory

A coroner’s jury has concluded Michael Eugene Oros, nicknamed “Crazy Mike” or “Sheslay Free Mike” killed Lischy sometime around August 21, 1981 at Hutsigola Lake, located just south of Teslin Lake, where Lischy had been building a cabin.

By Whitehorse Star on August 15, 1986

ATLIN - Gunter Hans Lischy, the 52-year-old reclusive trapper who vanished without a trace almost five years ago, was shot fatally in the back by a paranoid woodsman who was once his friend.

The jury was presented evidence from an archaeologist indicating that after Lischy’s death, his body was wrapped in plastic and buried in sand under the waters of Hutsigola Lake.

That evidence explained why extensive police searchers of the area in September and October, 1981, and again - with dogs - in May, 1982, failed to come up with any signs of Lischy’s body.

Archaeologist Mark Skinner of Vancouver, B.C. said in a report that before the bones were found in the mossy woods near Oros’s Hutsigola Lake cabin in late August last year, they had probably been exposed on the ground for at least two years.

The jury’s verdict means Oros killed two people in the some 12 years he roamed the wilderness of northwestern British Columbia.

In March, 1984, he ambushed an RCMP tactical squad on Teslin Lake that had set out to arrest him for breaking into a cabin.

Before being shot dead by the police, Oros, 33, gunned down and killed 27-year-old RCMP dogmaster Michael Buday of Terrace, B.C.

Many had long suspected Oros was behind Lischy’s disappearance. Part of that suspicion arose out of knowledge of Oros’s behavior. Witnesses at the inquest testified Oros talked about cheese in grocery stores being poisoned, and about planes flying overhead spraying “castration spray”. Atlin pilot Dick Bond testified he believed Oros was capable of killing someone.

A psychiatrist’s report submitted to the inquest described Oros as a person suffering from paranoid delusions, but who was not “certifiably” crazy.

Though Lischy and Oros were once good friends - Lischy had a photograph of himself and Oros together pinned on the wall of his cabin - tension apparently developed in 1981 when Lischy decided to move and started building a cabin near Oros’s on Hutsigola Lake.

Oros was known to be a jealous guardian of his turf, and disliked having people around him.

On Sept. 10 of that year, the German Lischy - a 6’2”, bushwise loner who had come to Canada after spending time in a Second World War Russian prison camp - failed to show up for a pre-arranged pick-up with a pilot. Oros, a sandy-haired man with a pony tail who had apparently come to the area in 1972 from a commune in New Mexico and was raised in Lawrence, Kansas, met the pilot instead.

Oros said he didn’t know Lischy and hadn’t seen him. Nearby was Lischy’s half-finished cabin.

Lischy’s disappearance and Oros’s behavior triggered an unsuccessful police search for both men in the woods near Atlin that year.

At the time, it was noted Lischy had been dropped off by the pilot on July 31, and was to be picked up 41 days later. Yet the cabin he had been building had only about 21 days worth of work done on it.

When police caught up with Oros in March, 1982, back at his Hutsigola Lake cabin, they found he had Lischy’s pistol, some of his camera gear and his building logs. They arrested him and charged him with possession of an unregistered weapon and possession of stolen property.

However, a lack of evidence of a theft resulted in Oros being acquitted of the charges.

So the Lischy mystery remained, and after Oros’s death, police continued searching for clues to solve it.

In late August 1985, Atlin RCMP Col. Barry Erickson and Teslin RCMP Const. Jack Warner were again combing the area near Oros’s cabin - the same area that had been scoured by police at least three times since Lischy’s disappearance. They were back to clean up details of the report on the Oros shoot-out.

Erickson was wandering off one path when he happened to spot, through “pure, dumb luck,” a skull and other bones lying in the moss.

He told the jury the bones were scattered as if animals had been at them.

In total, a skull, jaw bone, pelvis, and bones from upper legs and shoulders were found over a 50-square-metre area bout 350 metres south of Oros’s cabin, and near the shore of the lake’s shallows. Fabric from a shirt, and some plastic, were found close to shore.

Archaeologist Skinner noted there was no evidence of any burial site nearby, no cut marks on the bones to indicated dismemberment, and plenty of chewing marks on them to indicate animals, probably bears, had been eating the body.

He said the inside of the skull was anaerobic and damp, and had little bacterial decay, which he said indicated it had been buried deeply in water or wet soil before becoming exposed to the elements on the land’s surface.

The body probably wasn’t buried on land, Skinner said. If it had, the burial site had to be far away because there was no signs of one in the area. But it didn’t appear the body had been dragged a great distance at all, he said, because pelvic girdle was still intact and was found near the skull.

He said the evidence at the site pointed to a lake burial. “The clothing item and plastic found at the lake margin with one of the shoulder blades is consistent with the body having come from the lake wrapped in plastic.” Skinner wrote.

He added it was surprising no rope was found that would have been necessary to tie up the plastic. That raised the possibility the body had been buried in the west sands under the lake’s water.

“This scenario would account for the indicated ‘wet burial’ evidence, for the lack of a rope to tie up a bag, and for the absence of an obvious grave which would have had to been nearby,” Skinner wrote.

At some point, at least two years before Erickson found the bones, Lischy’s partially decomposed body became exposed, and from there was scavenged by animals. Skinner said the scavenging explained why many of the trappers smaller bones were missing.

After the bones were found, Erickson sent them off to the RCMP crime lab in Vancouver because he noticed a “suspicious” hole in the right shoulder blade, or scapula.

Forensic pathologist Dr. J.A.J. Ferris said in a report the hole was regular and circular and about 85 mm in diameter.

“This probably represents a bullet hole and would be consistent with a high caliber missile in order of a nine mm or .38 caliber bullet,” Ferris wrote.

The jury was told it appeared the bullet had entered from the back. Ferris said it was reasonable to conclude the gunshot wound caused Lischy’s death.

“A bullet travelling through that part of the body would severely damage the structure of the upper right chest including the upper lobe of the right lung and the main branches of the aorta to the right side of the neck and right arm. These injuries would cause extensive hemorrhage into the right chest cavity and it would be anticipated that without immediate surgical treatment death would ensue rapidly.”

Before the jury, made up of five Atlin men, went out to deliberate, they were warned by the coroner’s lawyer, Bob McCarroll, that while they could make a finding of homicide, they could not make a finding of murder.

He said the jury was limited under the law to determine whether or not one person killed another, but not whether that killing was right or wrong.

Homicide is simply the killing of one person by another, whether it is justified or not, while murder is unlawful killing of one by another.

After hearing testimony from Dave Wiebe, the Atlin pilot who was supposed to have picked up Lischy, Dick Bond, another Atlin pilot who had flown Lischy around and who knew Oros, RCMP Cpl. Peter Bird, who’d investigated Oros after Lischy’s disappearance, Erickson, and a dentist who verified from dental records that the skull and jaw bones were Lischy’s, the jury deliberated for just over an hour.

By Becky Striegler, Star Reporter

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