Written By: Naomi
Trigger Warning: Suicide Mention, Depression, Mentions of Homophobia
A cabin in flames, a husband who is bloodied and nearly unconscious, and his new wife dead by the river. This is not a horror story, but rather the scene the friend of the couple stumbled upon on May 20th, 1947. This is a story with twists and turns and many questions, but no answers. This is the story of the Eight Day Bride.
Christina Cecelia Mocon was born in Ontario, Canada on August 7th, 1925 to Kazmier and Mary Mocon. At the age of 21 Christina was a bank worker who had been dating 26 year old Army Veteran, John Ray Kettlewell, nicknamed “Jack”, for three years. The relationship was frowned upon by Christina’s family for many reasons, initially it was Christina’s father who was a Polish immigrant who was strongly against Jack due to him not being of the Roman Catholic faith but when Jack converted to the religion the family then did not approve due to sentiment surrounding Jack’s best friend and roommate, 28 year old Ronald Barrie.
Ronald Barrie immigrated from northern Italy, starting careers in construction and insurance, failing in both before becoming a professional ballroom dancer and hairdresser. The Mocon’s felt Ronald was overbearing, the amount of time he would spend with the couple made the family uneasy and they even believed that Ronald was in love with Christina. What unsettled them more was the fact that Ronald would later accompany Christina and Jack on their honeymoon.
Christina and Jack eloped and were secretly married on May 12th,1947 after Christina disappeared from the family home two weeks earlier. Neither family attended the wedding but mere hours before it was to happen, Christina’s sister’s showed up at the apartment she had been staying at and tried to convince her not to marry Jack. An argument broke out and the police were called by neighbors, causing the sisters to leave the scene. After the wedding the newlyweds spent the first few days in Jack and Ronald’s apartment before going out to the cabin Ronald owned in Severn Falls on May 17th. The cottage was two hours away from where they were living in Mimico, Toronto and was only accessible by boat.
It is reported that when the three reached the cottage Christina became moody, having crying spells and even becoming unresponsive or dazed at times. She would ask Ronald about if Jack really loved her, uncertain about their relationship. Three days later, on May 20th, Ronald left Christina and Jack at the cabin to go sunbathing, when he returned at 6:30pm he was met with his cabin going up in flames. Ronald runs into the cabin looking for Jack and Christina, finding Jack bleeding from a head injury and dazed. He proceeds to drag Jack out of the flames but when he re-enters the house he can not find Christina. Ronald notified neighbors who tried to help by putting out the blaze while he took Jack to the hospital. The cabin burned to the ground in just an hour.
It was at 10 pm that a neighbor found Christina’s lifeless body, still in her pajamas, in just nine inches of water on the bank of the Severn River, 150 ft from the cottage.
The police questioned Ronald for 13 hours and he wrote two statements, one over 3000 words and police found it to be “fantastic” with the level of detail he could provide on the day. However like the family the police were suspicious of how close Ronald was to the couple. Ronald was vehement that he did not even want to accompany the couple on their honeymoon but had done so out of convenience of driving them to his cabin. The police even theorized that Ronald had somehow arranged the marriage which to Ronald was absurd.
During this Jack was being treated for his head injury, burns, shock and he was found to have been drugged. After he was released from the hospital he was interrogated for 3 hours but did not remember anything past having breakfast with Ronald and Christina at 11 am that morning before the fire.
Christina’s funeral took place on May 26th, in the same church she had gotten married in just two weeks earlier.
The inquiry into Christina’s death did not take place for another month, starting on June 19th. The mystery and nature of the case drew large crowds to the courthouse, people even asking for Jack and Ronald’s autographs since the case was famous as were they as witnesses. The media was blasting the case and it was on the front of tabloids and newspapers in Toronto.
In the case there were signs that suggested Christine was murdered, mainly that her body did not have any burns nor any marks to indicate she had walked from the cabin to the river, especially since she was found barefoot and traces of codeine were found in her stomach. However she also did not have any signs of violence on her body like Jack had. Also one of the neighbors who had tried to help fight the flames had gone to the exact spot her body was found to get water and did not see her. These facts suggest that Christine’s body had been placed there after the fire was already put out even though it was determined later that her cause of death was drowning.
C.P. Hope who was the special crown counsel for the case focused on Ronald, seeing him as an obvious suspect and called him, “a liar of the most blatant kind whose sinister figure permeates the whole of this tragedy, but whose purpose and design are shrouded in mystery.” Looking into the history of the two men there was a troubling paper trail going back all the way to when Ronald had first immigrated to Canada. Jack and Christina had taken out life insurance policies on each other for $5,000 before the two eloped. Ronald was named the beneficiary in both. The policies carried a double indemnity provision meaning that if the deaths were accidental Ronald would be paid two times the amount the life insurance policy was worth. Today this would be worth $260,000. Before the couple went on their honeymoon Ronald also purchased $5000 worth of insurance on his cottage, equivalent of $65,000 today, and named Jack the beneficiary. Jack had also turned over his wartime gratuities to Ronald specifically and removed his own family from his will, an act that was never explained. Another questionable transaction was Christina’s wedding ring said to be worth $1000 to $1300. It is not known if Jack or Ronald purchased the ring or if the ring was one loaned to the couple by Mrs. Thomas who was a friend of Jack and Ronald and a witness at the wedding, having let them borrow it since they did not have a ring. This ring was never found after Christina’s death. These big financial moves concerned police who knew Ronald was having financial problems.
Ronald’s financial situation also brought other questions and theories to the entire marriage. The year prior, Ronald gave Christina $12,500 dollars after she claimed to have been attacked at a church in Toronto, needing the money to pay off the men who attacked her and were now blackmailing her, threatening to tell her father they had sexually assaulted her. This was a huge amount of money for Ronald and it did not make sense to the court for him to do this given that Christina did not make a lot and would not be able to pay him back. Ronald explains that he did not expect to be paid back and was doing it to simply help his friend. Some theorize that the sexual assault was the reason Jack finally married Christina, as a means to cover up the crime and keep her from being embarrassed. Christina paid Ronald back some of the money which he asked her to deposit in his account. She later confessed to him that she never did so and just forged the entry in his bank book. Another theory for murder is that Ronald felt betrayed upon finding out about the lie. However, on the day of her death, Christina is said to have handed Ronald a check for $15,000 paying back the full amount she borrowed with interest.
The question this left many was why would Ronald be made to benefit in all these ways and why was he so involved? The possible answer came as a shock to all who watched the case.
Ronald and Jack were said to be having an affair. During the trial Jack confessed that he and Ronald were having a long-term affair and under pressure from questioning Ronald eventually admitted that he had experimented with Jack but nothing had happened since 1939. Those who lived near Ronald's cabin reported seeing the two visiting the cabin often by themselves which they found odd and when the two where making their statements to police some officers noted that the relationship the two had seemed, “unnatural”. Later Jack backpedaled and said that this was a narrative created by the police that they had coerced him into and there was never any evidence of their relationship being real other than letters written by Christina prior to her death that noted she was disturbed by how “unnaturally” close the relationship the two men had was.
Suicide was not ruled out in the case because of these and other letters that were presented later in the trial would prove this was a very real possibility.
In the months leading up to her death, Christina wrote several alarming notes where she stated her desire to die and most of the letters had been addressed to Ronald. In the first letter written on April 6th, Easter Sunday, Christina tells Ronald she is disappointed Jack had not yet proposed and how she had tried to poison herself, she wrote: “ this will be the best way out, as I cannot bear to see another girl have him.” When asked about this Jack could recall Christine was sick on that day but he was not aware that she had been trying to commit suicide or that she had written the letter to Ronald. Toward the end of April, Christina wrote another letter to Ronald in which she told him that she now wanted to kill herself and take Jack with her.
“When you love someone you really love him, and I know there is no one for me but Jack, and if I cannot have him, I do not intend anyone else to… I waited as you might say, in the hope that Jack would ask me to marry him, but I now realize I am just a passing fancy.”
That day she poisoned the food she had made for herself and Jack and they both became very ill but did not die, and Jack did not know she had poisoned him.
Finally, the day before her death, Christina wrote a letter to the owner of Jack and Ronald’s home which Christina asked Ronald to mail which she stayed in the cabin:
“Ronnie is in the boat outside somewhere. By the time he gets back everything will be all over with. He must have been afraid something would happen because he is staying an extra day, to make sure we go back to Toronto with him.”
A handwriting expert examined these notes and was able to confirm undoubtedly that they had all been written and signed by Christina. Ronald had saved all the letters from the fire after he had saved Jack and gone back in to find Christina. Ronald never told Jack about Christina’s suicidal tendencies and intentions to hurt him as well until the inquiry. Jack felt that Ronald was attempting to protect him from this information and did not hold it against him.
This did not convince everyone though, many think Ronald took advantage of the fact Christina was unstable and conveniently saved the letters from the fire to prove her suicidal behavior and cover up murder. Those who knew Jack were aware he was a reserved man who did not like confrontation and they felt that he was being dragged along by Ronald who was manipulating him.
Ultimately the jury was unable to determine if Christina’s death was the result of fowl play or not.
Jack went on to marry another woman three years later and they lived together in the same home he had shared for a short while with Christina and started a family before the pair separated in 1969 but never divorced. Ronald gifted his dog to Jack’s two year old son before moving to New York in 1956 and disappearing, never to be heard from again. Jack never mentioned his first marriage or the death of his first wife to his family and it was not discovered by them until Sharon, Jack’s second wife who loved archiving family history, found microfilm articles on the case in the library in 1992. The family never confronted Jack about it due to his bad health and he later died in 1998.