It was the summer of ’05 and Ashley White was a few months shy of her fourth birthday when her pregnant mother, Liana, was stabbed to death.
The attack happened, allegedly, in their family home in North-Central Edmonton. That’s right — allegedly — because there are two versions of what went down that fateful day:
1 – Police claim the victim was murdered in the master bedroom, directly across the hall from where her daughter was sleeping.
2 – Ashley’s father, Michael [who would be convicted of the crime] maintains nothing like that happened.
About a week later, Liana White’s decomposed, semi-nude body was found near the top of a shallow ditch beside a dirt road, about a kilometre or so away.
The couple’s unborn son died as well.
Michael White was promptly charged with murder. The following year, a jury found the heavy-equipment mechanic guilty, and off to prison he went — for a long time.
The former Canadian soldier is now in a minimum security penitentiary near Gravenhurst, north of Toronto.
After all these years, White still maintains his innocence.
Michael and Liana’s daughter isn’t a kid anymore. Ashley White turned 18 on November 16, 2019.
For the first time, the person at the epicentre of one of Canada’s most sensational murder cases tells her story …
THE CRIME, THE FUNERAL
It was a warm day in July 2005 when scores of friends and co-workers of Liana White filed into a funeral home in downtown Edmonton to say goodbye to the 29-year-old hospital worker.
I was there, reporting for CHED Radio.
The service wasn’t especially long, but it was more depressing than most. I recall mourners sobbing … and at the front of the small, crowded room, Liana’s closed, brightly varnished coffin adorned with fresh flowers.
Not an easy assignment.
There was a mixture of sadness and anger. Everyone had the same thing on their mind: who the hell did this?
Absent was Liana’s 28-year-old husband, Michael White. White was behind bars at the Edmonton Remand Centre, sharing a jail cell with a smiling police plant who was doing his best to weasel incriminating information from him.
The snitch got zip.
Homicide detectives slapped the former soldier with two charges: first-degree murder and offering an indignity to a human body.
In an exclusive jailhouse interview, I heard Michael White out. We talked for about half an hour.
The takeaway was that White said he loved his wife and would never harm her, let alone kill her.
Few believed the guy — especially the jury. Twelve men and women didn’t take long to decide that Michael White was guilty of 2nd degree murder. A judge then sent him packing — to a federal prison, with no chance of full parole for 17 years.
The police theory is that Liana White was stabbed repeatedly with a serrated [kitchen] knife in the master bedroom of the family’s four-level split on Warwick Crescent.
Michael White maintains his wife left the house that morning and, far as he knew, she was off to her job as a unit clerk at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
It’s unclear if Liana went instead straight to her mother’s house — and that’s crucial. If Liana visited with her mother that morning, Maureen Kelly was therefore one of the last to see her daughter alive.
Liana often dropped by her mother’s small, rented house — a few blocks north — to wake her up so she could get to work too.
In any case, Liana never showed up at her job that morning.
A few years ago, I received this email from a woman whose sister had worked on the same unit with Liana:
“The Royal Alex said she was always on time and became concerned when she didn’t show. My sister said it was common for her to arrive late.”
“At first, she didn’t believe it possible that he [Michael] would hurt her. She said Liana didn’t have a bad thing to say about him.
“My sister knew about the military discharge but Liana hadn’t shared this in any way to discredit her husband.”
After White’s appeal was rejected, a veteran private detective examined the police evidence and went through court transcripts — but more important, he uncovered important NEW evidence — in favour of White.
To say PI Bruce Dunne ran a bulldozer through the Crown’s case would be an understatement.
Dunne’s conclusion: Michael White was a thief, but not a killer.
In a comprehensive three-binder report, Dunne revealed irregularities and sloppiness with both the police investigation and the murder trial. Further on in this post, you’ll find a link to a story with a list of things that — according to Dunne — just don’t add up.
Edmonton lawyer Marilyn Burns then dropped a bombshell that turned everything on its head. She revealed that a woman known to Liana and Michael — someone suffering from mental illness, with a history of violent knife attacks on people close to her — has owned up to the murder. Read that sentence again.
How would jurors have voted if they’d known that?
According to Burns, the woman confessed to her psychiatrist that it was she who killed Liana. It’s all on paper, the lawyer reveals, in a file in a shrink’s office.
The attorney had access to the file because she represented Ashley in a child welfare matter. I heard about the confession over and over because I knew the lawyer well … and I was doing stories on the White case.
I was one of more than half a dozen people with whom Burns shared her knowledge of the murder confession.
LIVING IN ONTARIO
Ashley left Alberta more than a decade ago.
She now lives in a small town in Ontario with her paternal grandmother, Carol and Carol’s husband, Larry Forbes. [Sorry, won’t disclose the location.]
The pretty teen is currently enrolled at a college where she’s taking a medical course that’ll help prepare her for nurses’ training.
Ashley’s goal is to become a registered nurse.Ashley also ‘connected’ with her maternal grandfather, Mario Roseto [Maureen Kelly’s ex] who has been living in Arizona for a number of years.
Twice he has flown to Ontario to spend time with his granddaughter.
Mario reveals that he divorced Maureen Kelly after she attacked him with a kitchen knife at their South Edmonton apartment, slicing his hand open. The incident — unprovoked, he claims — was not reported to police.
The life-threatening attack nose-dived that relationship. Does it every time.
After that, Mario slept in a separate bedroom with a chair pushed up under the door knob. What followed was a lock on the door — and divorce papers.
And then came Mario’s lucky day. He may not have picked the right woman, but he picked the right lottery numbers and won a million dollars. Arrivederci Edmonton.
Ashley has broken her long silence on her father’s murder rap. I spoke with her by phone on Sunday morning, December 1st, 2019.
I was in Alberta, she was in Ontario.
Ashley describes her dad as “very affectionate,” and she agrees with investigator Bruce Dunne that he didn’t do it …
Transcript [edited for clarity]
Ashley: “I don’t think he did it either. ”
Author: “What makes you say that, Ashley?”
Ashley: “When you know dad, he’s not the aggressive-type … he’s like a Teddy Bear … [that describes] him, really.
“From the sounds of it, he really loved my Mom.”
Author: “He has a hearing coming up early in the New Year for unescorted passes, a mild form of parole. Do you plan to talk to the Parole Board?
Ashley: “Yeah, I wrote a letter, and I’m going to be attending …”
Author: “What did you say in that letter … if you could condense it …”
Ashley: “I would talk about how I’d love to have my dad with me because I don’t have my mom … and I’d like to have my Dad in my life.
“I’m really close with him and supportive of him.”
Ashley effectively disputes public statements made in 2005 by Maureen Kelly [her maternal grandmother], who alludes that Ashley heard and saw everything [Liana’s murder].
Keep in mind that Ashley was just across the hall when all hell supposedly broke loose: her mother screaming for her life, the attacker yelling, the skittish family dog barking and going nuts …
How does one sleep through something as wild as that? Was the child deaf?
Or could it be that the vicious, blood-smattering attack didn’t take place where police said it did?
A long list of inconsistencies in the Michael White murder case is included in a previous blog story, Whitewashed?? Click here to view that piece [warning: not a quick read]
ASHLEY WHITE, RN
Liana White had been a unit clerk at the Royal Alexandria Hospital — and now her only child dreams of working in the medical field as well — as a trauma nurse.
Ashley explains why she wants to become an RN …
[Clip runs :40]
Transcript [edited for clarity]
Ashley: “I like helping people and I’m interested in the human anatomy.
“[I worked] as a ‘co-op’ student at the hospital, and I really enjoyed it. And so I decided this is what I want to do …
“I was in day surgery, and that’s like right after [pause].
“I help prep people for surgery, follow the nurses, wake up patients — but I don’t give out medications or do charting.”
ASHLEY WHITE TODAY
Ashley White is living the life of your average teenager.
She earns money by working part-time at a grocery store, lives with loving grandparents, has a boyfriend she’s known for several years, the latest smartphone — and she’s gung-ho about basketball and English-style horseback riding.
More good news … she has no time for video games.
And this fall, Ashley got what every teen dreams about — a driving licence.
A CHILDHOOD FROM HELL
Ashley had an early childhood that, for a year or so after her mother’s death, can be best described as a nightmare.
After her mother was murdered, she stayed briefly with her maternal grandmother, Maureen Kelly. But that didn’t last long. Ashley was soon removed from Maureen’s care.
The child then went to another home in the Edmonton area before Alberta Social Services got involved and placed her in foster care.
To this day, Ashley says she still fears ‘grandma Maureen’. She claims the woman recently threatened her. [more on that coming up]Ashley lived with two sets of foster parents in South Edmonton. Both had a rough go of it because they had to deal with complaints of sexual misbehaviour — false and malicious, they countered.
And who filed those complaints? Maureen Kelly.
Carol and Larry Forbes [Michael White’s mother and step-father] applied for full guardianship of Ashley. Thanks to the work of lawyer Marilyn Burns, they got it.
Ashley eventually relocated to the Forbes farm in Ontario where she began a whole new life. She enjoyed the fresh air, the wide open spaces, helped out with chores on the farm, and settled in to a new school where she made friends.
The Forbes did a remarkable job of rescuing this child.
It wasn’t long before Ashley was travelling to see her dad at the prison near Gravenhurst. She’s now met with Michael numerous times.
According to Ashley, they “connect really well.”
Michael White — who had been incarcerated in a medium correctional facility — has now been moved to minimum. More freedom, fewer restrictions, less tension.
A READJUSTMENT OF INFORMATION
While Ashley has done well since leaving Alberta, there have been some hiccups. One happened in August 2012 when Maureen Kelly travelled to Ontario and got throwing punches at the Forbes farm, where Ashley was visiting.
Court heard that Maureen assaulted two adults, both males. After a judge found the former social worker guilty of assault, she spent a weekend in a country jail.
Maureen was also slapped with a two-year restraining order.
At the time of her daughter’s murder in 2005, Maureen Kelly had been the darling of the Edmonton media — which may explain why most news outlets in Edmonton ignored the story of her assault conviction and jail-time, like it never happened. It didn’t fit their narrative.
Here’s a short blog story on that dust-up …
A second, alleged incident was even uglier. According to Ashley, grandma Maureen approached her at her work place and warned she would “end up like her mother …”
EARLY MEMORIES OF MOM & DAD
Transcript [edited for clarity]
“I remember some parts when I was younger with my mom and dad, but they were always good memories. I’ve never had any bad memories about them.
“I remember always wanting to see my dad when he came home.
“One time, I had a neighbour friend over and she got hurt and my mom gave her stickers and stuff like that — hospital stickers. They came in a square box; you get them from the doctor’s office. She always had them at the house.
“If I got hurt or one of my friends got hurt and she was crying, my mom would help her and give her a sticker.”
Ashley White was in attendance when the Parole Board reviewed her father’s application on February 12, 2020.
Michael White applied for unescorted leaves [that is, without a guard tagging along]. He got his wish.
The hearing took place at the Beaver Creek Institution.
Michael White turned 43 on January 21st, 2020.
Ashley wrote a letter to the Parole Board in support of her Dad. I’m told the gist of that letter is that her father should be granted unescorted leaves — and that she supports him 100 percent.
She hopes her father will eventually be given full parole … and that someday he can clear his name.
Guards at both the maximum security prison in Edmonton and at the medium-security prison in Gravenhurst have described Michael White as a ‘model prisoner.’
White has already been granted escorted leave to work on community projects … [no reported incidents]. When he was out on bail and living in Edmonton, he travelled freely to Ontario to attend the funeral of his grandfather. Again, no incidents.
After all these years — and we ‘re talking about a decade-plus here — Michael James White still maintains he didn’t do it.
It’s worth noting that just before White’s trial in 2006, he was asked if he’d plead guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter. But White turned it down, saying, “I did not kill my wife.”
The offer was made via his lawyer, Laura Stevens, and it happened while White was being held at the Remand Centre in Red Deer. Stevens shared with me that she drove back to her office in Edmonton and told her law partner, “Larry [Anderson], you know, I don’t think he did it!”
If Michael White had pled guilty to manslaughter, he would have been a free man years ago. Thing is, White would’ve also been a convicted murderer — forever. And he didn’t want that.
It begs the question, if White was the real killer, why didn’t he accept the plea bargain instead of languishing in prison for ten more years?
That doesn’t add up either.