Palace play explores disappearance and death of area student Joe Grozelle

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A London theater production will retrace many stages of a police investigation and coroner’s inquest aimed at shedding light on the 2003 death of a local student.

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A London theater production will retrace many steps from police and coroner’s inquests to shine the spotlight on the 2003 death of a local student.

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The Palace Theater will stage Veritas, a play about the death of Joe Grozelle, from the Chatham-Kent community of Ridgetown whose body was found in the Cataraqui River near the Royal Military College in Kingston, where he was a cadet.

For Grozelle’s family, questions persist about her death and the play, which opens on Friday, is a chance to help with the healing process, said Nikki Grozelle, Joe’s sister.

“It’s surreal. My dad and I were at rehearsals this week and the cast captured our personalities, our way of speaking, the family dynamic, ”Grozelle said.

“It helps. It triggers validation, knowing that people still care. We are not on a crusade, but there are valid questions “about death.

“It’s hard. It’s personal.”

The play, written by Londoner Lynda Martens and directed by Dale Hirlehey, will run through February 9 at 710 Dundas St. Theater in London’s Old East Village.

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John Reid, playing Ron Grozelle, shakes hands with the real Ron Grozelle and his daughter Nikki Grozelle.  Charlotte Weeks is gone, plays Nikki, while Charlene McNabb plays mum Minnie Grozelle in the new play Veritas, written by Londoner Lynda Martens about the death of Chatham-area soldier Joe Grozelle.  The play is at the Palace Theater and is directed by the London Community Players.  Mike Hensen / The London Free Press / Postmedia Network
John Reid, playing Ron Grozelle, shakes hands with the real Ron Grozelle and his daughter Nikki Grozelle. Charlotte Weeks is gone, plays Nikki, while Charlene McNabb plays mum Minnie Grozelle in the new play Veritas, written by Londoner Lynda Martens about the death of Chatham-area soldier Joe Grozelle. The play is at the Palace Theater and is directed by the London Community Players. Mike Hensen / The London Free Press / Postmedia Network

Joe disappeared from RMC in November 2003 and his body was removed from the river three weeks later. An autopsy was performed, but about two weeks later the body was exhumed for a second autopsy.

A coroner’s inquest was held in October 2006, but was closed due to “procedural fairness” concerns. A second inquiry, held in 2007, found the cause of death to be “undetermined” and “undetermined”.

An Ontario Provincial Police investigation ruled out a criminal act.

In 2018, the Chief Coroner and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service launched an internal process, called a “Covered Homicide Review”, to cover missed homicide cases dating back to 1990. The Grozelles contacted the Coroner, asking that Joe’s case be part of that review and be seen as a cold case rather than a closed one, Nikki Grozelle said.

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“Our goal is to move the file forward,” she added. “It never stopped for us. We experience this every day.

Martens said it took about five years to develop the script, including three years reading transcripts, talking to Grozelles and officials, and traveling to Kingston.

Joe grozelle
Joe grozelle

“It was completely different from any other script I’ve written, because it was all real,” she said.

“There are a few scenes that I have created that are fictional, but most of them are from transcripts and interviews, visits with family and trips to Kingston. It was a wonderful experience and the family were very helpful. ”

Martens said the facts of the story, which she heard after meeting Nikki Grozelle at a private party, caught her attention.

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“My writing always affects me emotionally,” Martens said. “I only write stories that touch me and the more I heard about it the more I thought it would be a really cool play.”

Director Hirlehey said he was drawn to the play by the “theatrical purity” of Marten’s writing.

“His screenplay allows actors to be actors and storytellers in a very creative way,” Hirlehey said.

“Veritas combines a very compelling personal story with a multimedia component drawn from news media as well as clips and photographs of the Grozelle family themselves. This case is still not resolved. “


IF YOU ARE GOING TO

What: Veritas

Or: Palace Theater, 710 Dundas St.

When: January 30 to February 9.

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