Retired Chatham-Kent OPP detective featured in CBC cop drama

The community of Chatham was rocked in October 1991 when a teenager and his grandparents were brutally murdered.

Retired Chatham-Kent OPP Det. Pete Baker is interviewed about leading the investigation of a triple murder in Chatham, Ont. in October 1991 that is featured in an episode of the CBC drama The Detectives that airs on CBC at 9 p.m. Thursday, October 4, 2018. (Photo credit/WAM Media Grp Inc. supplied by CBC)

Share Adjust Comment Print

The community of Chatham was rocked in October 1991 when a teenager and his grandparents were brutally murdered.

The story of the police investigation undertaken to bring the killers to justice is the focus of Thursday’s episode of the CBC drama ‘The Detectives,’ told through an interview with retired Chatham-Kent OPP Det. Peter Baker, the lead investigator, that is interwoven with a dramatic portrayal of the events.

The show airs at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Jason Shawn Cofell received three concurrent life sentences for the triple murder of Jasen Pangburn, then 18, and his grandparents Alfred and Virginia Critchley. Another person, who was young offender at the time, also received the maximum penalty of three years under the Young Offenders Act, for pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of Virginia Critchley.

Baker’s recounting of the investigation is integral to the gripping story that unfolds in the episode.

“He’s a lovely man and he’s definitely kind of the backbone of that episode,” Petro Duszara, executive producer of ‘The Detectives,’ told The Chatham Daily News.

He said every episode is structured to have a detective walk the viewers through the investigation being featured.

“Then we shoot the drama and then (Baker) comes in and he does an interview and we film that interview and that interview is intertwined with the drama,” he added. “So, it’s a long process and he’s definitely a part of it from Day 1.”

Baker told The Chatham Daily News he was already a fan of the show for its realistic portrayal of police work.

After having been a part of an episode, he said, “I didn’t realize the intensity that the producers and writers of these shows put forward.”

They wanted every detail to ensure everything was realistic, he added.

Although filming for the show takes place in the Montreal area, Baker was impressed with what went into making sure the story is true to the events that occurred, including pictures being taken from various scenes so they could be matched with a location in the Montreal area.

He recalled receiving a photo of the actors at a location depicting the wooded area where Pangburn’s body was found.

“Just looking at the pictures, I called them back and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got the youth and everything just looking exactly like they were,’” he said.

Baker admits it was difficult at times to relive the investigation and the tragic circumstances surrounding it.

Connie Pangburn, portrayed by Jane Wheeler, tells Det. Peter Baker, portrayed by Gil Bellows, what she saw as Const. Mark Gransden, portrayed by Nick Walker, takes notes in this scene of The Detectives, which airs on CBC at 9 p.m., Thursday, October 4, 2018. (Photo credit/Yan Turcotte supplied by CBC)

“Once I really started recalling a lot of the things, I know it became somewhat troublesome to try to focus . . . because some of the stuff was very emotional to deal with during the investigation.”

Realizing telling this story will reopen wounds for the families involved, Duszara said, “We don’t move forward with the story unless the families feel that it’s worth telling the story as well.”

He noted the family members of the victims gave their blessing.

When asked about how this story was chosen, Duszara said, “We were very much looking this season to get some more stories that are more regional.”

He said many police shows take place in big cities featuring big city crimes with big city investigators.

He added they wanted to look at what challenges investigators in smaller communities face and what crimes may have fostered an interesting investigation.

Baker is portrayed by veteran actor Gil Bellows.

The retired officer said when he received a call that an actor had been found to portray him, he quipped: “You know, I really wanted Tom Hanks.”

When informed that Bellows has been in movies with Hanks, Baker figured that was good enough for him.

He was impressed that Bellows called him to talk about the role, because he “wanted to have some of my idiosyncrasies in there.”

Duszara hopes the audience will like Bellows’ portrayal of Baker.

“We found there’s a sensitivity Gil has that’s just baked into his person like Peter has just baked into his person.”

Baker is trying to adjust to his new-found fame, noting people have been stopping him after seeing him in promos for the show.

He found it to be a great experience.

“You get a few good experiences in your life like that that sort of make what you did for a living all worthwhile,” Baker said.