Bruce Firman Murder – “A Time to Kill” is an American true-crime documentary series that premiered on the Investigation Discovery channel in 2020. Based on John Grisham’s novel of the same name, it follows people who have been driven to their limits and committed murder without warning.
Each episode explores a different case in which someone is propelled to commit murder due to circumstances such as betrayal, jealousy, or revenge. The show delves into the events leading up to the crime, its investigation, and the eventual trial and conviction of those accused.
In November 2001, Bruce Firman was found murdered at his home in St. Catharines, Ontario. His estranged wife and stepdaughter had gone out for the evening, and when they returned, he lay dead in his garage amid a pool of blood. The weapon used to commit the crime lay next to his body. An investigation revealed that Elizabeth Gatenby – his stepdaughter – had hired her teenage son and one of his friends to carry out the brutal slaying.
An upcoming episode of the Investigation Discovery series ‘A Time to Kill‘ season 6 episode 12, titled “Death of a Lady’s Man,” delves into the details of this horrific murder and its investigation. Through interviews with law enforcement personnel and family members and reenactments of key events, the episode provides a thorough and insightful look into this tragic case.
Who was Bruce Firman and How Did He Pass Away?
Bruce Firman was a well-known real estate agent who had retired and settled in St. Catharines, Ontario, with his common-law wife, Margaret Benesch. He lived in a bungalow on Northend Tecumseh Street and enjoyed gardening, woodworking, and cycling as an active man.
On November 27, 2001, a shocking discovery was made at Firman’s residence. His estranged wife and stepdaughter, Elizabeth Gatenby, who lived nearby, discovered him dead in the garage. Upon arrival at the scene, it was determined that Firman had been struck in the head with a pipe wrench; an object bearing blood and hair was later discovered next to his body.
Investigation into the crime scene revealed a partial shoe impression outside the garage but no fingerprints on the wrench. The medical examiner confirmed that death resulted from blunt-force trauma to the head. Police initially suspected a home invasion but found no evidence of a break-in apart from what was found in the garage; this suggested no one had entered the home.
Who Killed Bruce Firman?
When Margaret and Elizabeth discovered Bruce Firman’s body in their garage, they immediately called 911 for assistance. Officers soon arrived and found that Firman had been struck in the head with a pipe wrench that lay next to him, covered in hair and blood. A medical examiner confirmed that Bruce died due to severe blunt-force trauma to his head.
Investigation revealed that Bruce Firman and his estranged wife, Margaret Benesch, were involved in a contentious divorce and legal dispute over property. Although they lived together in the same house on different floors, Firman’s son expressed concerns about Benesch’s potential involvement in his murder.
Police suspected Benesch of the crime, but it was her daughter Elizabeth Gatenby who provided their first lead. During interrogation, she mentioned a 19-year-old boy named Dell, whom she had met during her bus journey to St. Catharines.
Surveillance footage allowed authorities to establish a connection between Gatenby and the young man. She had given him a ride in her rental car and paid for his hotel room, which raised suspicion. Furthermore, they discovered food containers similar to those found at Firman and Benesch’s home.
Further investigation led the police to a fingerprint on the rental car belonging to 17-year-old Tommy Nicol from British Columbia. When confronted with this evidence, Nicol confessed to the murder. It transpired that Gatenby had hired her son and his friend for the brutal killing; thus, justice was served in the tragic case of Bruce Firman’s death.
Where Are Byron Gatenby, Tommy Nicol, and Elizabeth Gatenby Now?
Tommy Nicol admitted to authorities that he was murdered with the help of his partner, Byron “Dell” Gatenby. But their investigation took an unexpected twist when it was discovered that Gatenby was actually the biological son of Elizabeth Gatenby, who had planned the assassination. They received $400, and Elizabeth set up a date for the execution with Firman’s estranged wife, Margaret Benesch.
Elizabeth Gatenby was arrested and charged with murder based on the testimony of both Nicol and Gatenby. After pleading guilty to first-degree murder, Nicol received a maximum sentence of six years in prison; Gatenby cooperated with the Crown by pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder, earning her an equivalent six-year prison term.
In May 2004, a Whistler resident, Christopher Dilling, was arrested for a first-degree murder conspiracy. However, his exact role in the crime was never made public. On May 17, 2006, Elizabeth Gatenby was found guilty and received a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years without parole – she is currently serving her sentence at an Ontario prison.
Bruce Firman’s brutal murder was ultimately solved when police arrested the perpetrators. Still, it also highlighted the tragic results of family disputes and how far some people will go for financial gain.