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Campbellford residents locking doors after murder

By Jennifer Bowman

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(CAMPBELLFORD 08/15/11) Police outside of Beryl Nicholas' house in Campbellford during a homicide investigation after Nicholas was found dead in her home on Saturday. Photo by Jennifer Bowman

A sign on the door of the building next to the Baptist church in Campbellford asks people not to bring any more donations to the indoor yard sale in respect for the death of one of its organizers.

It’s a simple white paper sign with a picture of 82-year-old Lillian Beryl Nicholas. The driving force behind the Baptist Busy Bees yard sale, Nicholas was murdered in her Campbellford home Saturday.

Nicholas was very active in the church and regarded as a kind woman throughout the community. On this day, her family is at the church planning her funeral.

On Saturday, one of Nicholas’ relatives came to check up on her and found her dead in her home at 190 Front Street North. Police arrived just before 1 p.m. and launched a homicide investigation. The house has been surrounded by crime tape with police coming and going since.

They released the victim’s name on Tuesday, but have not apprehended any suspects.

In a community where everybody knows everybody and many people don’t bother locking their doors, the murder comes as a shock.

Jason McConnell, who lives one street over from where the murder happened, said he didn’t know Nicholas, but the murder will change things.

“You come home with your car, you leave the keys in it, shut the door, go to sleep, leave your doors unlocked,” said McConnell.

Now he’s going to lock his doors.

“Just an eye opener. Small town, you don’t think stuff happens, but apparently it does.”

Just up the street from the Nicholas house, Debbie Ellis and her son Lanny own and operate Ellis Taxi. Lanny said they used to not worry about locking the door.

Now his mom goes around the house making sure not only the doors are locked, but the windows as well. One of his sisters wanted him to sleep on the couch with a baseball bat, but he didn’t think that was necessary.

“The police are right up the street,” he said.

Police on Tuesday were a dominating presence in what is usually a quiet, friendly town. They were at the convenience store, along the side of the roads, knocking on doors in Nicholas’ neighbourhood.

The heavy police presence wasn’t comforting for everyone though. Two teens working at a local coffee shop found it intimidating.

“There are cops in town, blocking off different lines, and the cruisers all through town,” said Graydon Triggs, a 17-year-old who works at The Grind House Café. “It’s right in a main area in town, so everybody sees it and it adds to the creep factor.”

Jessica Smith has worked at the Barbarian Café in Campbellford for two years, just up the street from Nicholas’ house. She said she doesn’t think she’ll go out at night alone anymore.

“A lot of people are kind of freaked out about it, and there’s a lot of rumours going around,” said Smith.

Police haven’t released details about the cause of death. The Ellis’s said they have been speculating about who it could have been since it happened.

“Because we own a taxi business, we know all the loonies around … because we tend to take them in the taxi, and I know there’s some people around town here that are totally not above anything like that,” said Debbie.

It’s made Lanny more aware of who is in his taxi and it makes him tense, he said.

“I’ve even thought to myself, not that I’m usually a person that’s scared of too many things or people, but being that I’m a single Dad and you know, picking people up in a taxi and stuff like that, who’s to say that whoever did this doesn’t call the taxi at some point in the next few days wanting a taxi somewhere and I have them in the taxi.”

Debbie was surprised at how calm people were about the situation, but Lanny has encountered more intense reactions, such as people sitting up all night not being able to sleep.

“Everybody’s full of anxiety and not quite themselves,” he said.

“On this street it just feels like you’re almost numbed to it a little bit, like has this really happened?” said Lanny.

Police are looking for more evidence surrounding a car with the license plate BUSYBEES. It went missing after the murder, and was found Sunday morning. Police are asking anyone who may have seen the 2009 Pontiac G3, gray, 4-door car Friday evening or Saturday to call the OPP.

Police won’t give the exact location of the car, but say it was found in Campbellford.

Crime tape bordered the road on Seventh Line within minutes of Nicholas’ house. A police car stayed for security.

The whole thing is confusing to residents.

“None of that even makes any sense to me,” said Debbie.

Lanny said he thinks the impact on the community will depend if the person is local and how quickly it’s solved.

“If it’s somebody that’s from out of town, I think it would probably be worse,” said Lanny. “If it’s somebody that knew her and it was a robbery and it’s drug related, I personally thing it would be easier for people to get past because it’s an isolated incident.”

If it’s from out of town, people will constantly be on edge, wondering which street will be targeted next, said Lanny.

As for the other Busy Bees, the sign says they are closed until August 20.

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