9-year-old homicide of Spruce Grove teacher 'solvable': Alta. RCMP
EDMONTON -- On the night of Oct. 12, 2011, Jolene Cote was captured by surveillance video at a west Edmonton business.
More than seven hours later, Cote was dead.
Nine years later, RCMP investigators are still trying to piece together what happened during those seven hours. RCMP say the homicide is still an active investigation.
“There are unanswered questions that we’ve always been pursuing,” Staff Sgt. Jason Zazulak told CTV News, in an exclusive one-on-one interview last month. “There has been a team of specialized homicide investigators that have had carriage of this investigation right from the onset, and they carry on right to this day.”
That team was initially made up of about 20 officers. According to Staff Sgt. Zazulak, it’s down to about five core investigators now, but more resources could be brought in quickly, if there is a break in the case.
OCT. 12/13, 2011
Jolene Cote’s soccer team wrapped up a tournament at the Edmonton Soccer Centre West, on the evening of Oct. 12, 2011. The team won gold, and went upstairs to celebrate.
Teammates say Cote was in her usual good mood.
“She was up there, smiling and laughing,” said Silvia Adamson, who played on the team. “And we were all on a bit of a high.”
On her way home, she stopped at Walmart. The surveillance video, released by RCMP as part of their initial investigation, showed Cote leaving the store, with a cart full of groceries at 10:40 p.m.
The 911 call from her husband, Mike Cote,came around 6 a.m. the next morning.
The Cote home was a 15-minute drive from the Walmart.
According to police, Cote reported finding his wife, injured, outside the couple’s new home in a subdivision west of Edmonton, and brought her inside. Responders arrived, and Jolene Cote was pronounced dead. The medical examiner determined the 36-year-old mother, teacher and athlete, was the victim of a homicide.
“Jolene Cote’s blood was found outside and inside the residence,” Staff Sgt. Zazulak told CTV News. “We do believe that the murder happened outdoors.”
A team of RCMP investigators poured through surveillance video, tips from the public, and forensic evidence, looking to retrace Cote’s path.
Initially, police reported Cote’s jewelry was missing, suggesting a possible robbery. Mounties have since determined that wasn’t the case. RCMP say Cote didn’t normally wear jewelry when taking part in sports, and the evidence outside the home did not support a theory of robbery.
“There were other valuable items such as her purse and her cell phone that were in plain view, and those weren’t disturbed or taken,” said Staff Sgt. Zazulak. “And so we don’t believe that it was a robbery or a theft interrupted.”
Mounties also determined Cote wasn’t followed, and they don’t believe she was randomly attacked. So investigators started looking for someone with a grudge.
“What they found is that there are no former students, associates, anyone who would have anything but very glowing, positive things to say about Jolene,” said Staff Sgt. Zazulak.
MIKE COTE NOT RULED OUT AS SUSPECT
Documents from a court case involving Jolene Cote’s life insurance payouts include an RCMP letter to the court, in June 2014, indicating that Mike Cote had not been eliminated as a suspect in his wife’s homicide.
Staff Sgt. Zazulak told CTV News that still has not changed.
“There’s additional questions and additional information that we would like to pursue with Mike Cote.”
RCMP say Cote cooperated with the investigation initially, but that he has since moved to Mexico with the couple’s two children, has remarried, and is no longer in contact with investigators.
“The last time we actually had a conversation with Mike Cote would go back about a couple years.”
Mounties say Cote also refused to take a polygraph, commonly known as a lie detector test.
Cote has never been arrested or charged, and has never been publicly named as a suspect. He has a legal right to refuse to answer questions from police, or take a polygraph.
CTV News reached out, via text message, to Mike Cote to ask for an interview on the case. He declined that request.
THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
In the years that followed Cote’s homicide, RCMP made several pleas to the public for information. Family members also put up a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
“Anything’s possible. There could be a chance that somebody knows something,” said Rhonda Berg, Jolene Cote’s sister. “That’s why we continue to plead with the public to come forward if they know anything.”
Mounties believe the killer knew Cote, but won’t share what evidence led them to that theory.
“We don’t believe that the crime that was committed was by a cold-blooded killer. The information at the scene, the evidence at the scene suggests to us that this was a highly emotional crime, and that there’s an emotional link.”
RCMP have never released the cause of death, and won’t say whether a weapon was involved, but Staff Sgt. Zazulak said investigators are still looking for specific items. He would not provide details on what those items are.
Despite the length of time that has passed since Cote’s murder, Staff Sgt. Zazulak told CTV News RCMP remain optimistic.
“We do expect that there will be an arrest. We are confident that this is an investigation that is solvable.”