Memorable Manitobans: Ronald Edward “Sam” Houston (1935-1970)
Born on 2 April 1935, he joined the Winnipeg Police Department and served from June 1957 to December 1964, resigning in favour of other career pursuits. Rejoining the department in October 1966, he later transferred to the Juvenile Branch as an Acting Detective in July 1968. A Transcona resident, he was active with local youth and sports. He and his wife, Mary S. Houston, resided at 440 McMeans Avenue West and had two sons, Darren and Kenneth George Houston, the latter who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a police officer.
On 27 June 1970, he and fellow Detective John DeGroot, who were investigating a series of sexual offences in the Fort Rouge area, were on a stakeout on Stradbrook Avenue. They identified a possible suspect, Thomas Mason Shand, and confronted him. In the struggle that followed, Shand fatally stabbed Houston, wounded Detective DeGroot with the same knife, and shot Houston with his own service weapon. Shand fled the scene but was later apprehended. At his trial, a 12-man jury deliberated for less than one hour to find him guilty of capital murder with recommendation of no clemency. Sentenced to die by hanging at Headingley Gaol on 10 June 1971, Shand’s eventual appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was dismissed, though the Federal Cabinet commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. Having served the minimum time required, he was released from prison but later committed suicide.
“To hear Detective,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 February 1969, page 18.
“Detective on stakeout slain,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 June 1970, page 1.
“Detective ‘just great’,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 June 1970, page 1.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 30 June 1970, page 34.
“Sentenced to hang in June,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 October 1970, page 1.
“Shand found guilty,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 October 1970, page 15.
“Hearing begins,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 September 1970, page 6.
“Shand appeal date to be set soon,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 November 1970, page 7.
“Decision reserved on Shand appeal,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 February 1971, page 1.
The Murder of Detective Ron Houston by Jack Templeman, Winnipeg Police Service.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 12 July 2015