Yogi Narayana born Alfred Schmielewski in Austria in 1928, was described by many of the 900 people interviewed by homicide detectives as “aloof”. He travelled to India where he studied yoga and religion before immigrating to Canada where he set up a yoga school in Toronto. In the 1960s he began advising his students on what the fates held for them. He slowly developed a second career selling his self- proclaimed extraordinary powers, ESP and supernatural abilities to those who believed in them. His timing was good; western fascination with Eastern mysticism was on fire.
In 1968, he appeared briefly on CBC’s This Hour Has Seven Days and predicted that, failing divine intervention, Canada would become a nuclear battleground “in less than 10 years”. In the 70’s he claimed to counsel companies, declaring himself to be the highest-paid financial advisor on Wall Street. He claimed he could time travel and walk through walls. In 1988 he foresaw a natural Armageddon that would hit the western hemisphere in the form of earthquakes and storms which would wipe out nearly 20% of the coastal population from Vancouver to San Diego.
In spite of all the predictions that proved so horribly far removed from reality (he claimed an 85% accuracy rate), the Yogi didn’t disappear. He simply re-invented himself as someone who could accurately counsel and foresee the futures of people with personal problems, particularly romance. This, homicide investigators believe, is where his killer’s motive lay.
The killer’s timing was absolutely perfect; almost supernatural. The yogi was home that Sunday afternoon watching over a real estate agent conducting an open house. The yogi’s tiny home, where he’d lived and conducted his counselling sessions at $125 an hour for the previous 17 years, was for sale. Asking price: $220,000. Just after 3:30pm a couple showed up to view the house. Because it was so small, it didn’t take long. At that very moment, a brief, freak snowstorm blew over the area. Although the temperature was well above freezing, gobs of thick, heavy snow fell from the sky. It cut ground-level visibility to near zero and deadened all sound completely. The killer, police suspect, parked his or her vehicle on the south side of the dead end of 9th Street, one house north and just east of Yogi Narayana’s home. It was less than 30 metres to his door.
“There was a singleness of purpose by the person who came to kill him,” Peel Regional Police Superintendent Frank Roselli says now, almost 11 years later. “Somebody wanted him dead, wanted to make sure he was dead.” Roselli uses the term “somebody”, because, despite thousands of man hours spent, the killing remains stubbornly unsolved.
Seconds before 3:50pm in Narayana’s basement the prospective home buyers and the real estate agent heard an exchange of voices, then a series of pops, followed by what sounded like someone dropping to the floor above them. They ran upstairs and found Narayana’s 6ft 7” frame crumpled just inside the storm door of the home, smoke from the gunfire still in the air. He’d been shot multiple times in the head at point-blank range from a slight upward angle, not surprising given the yogi’s stature. Gunshot residue was found on his face and chest
In 1999, Roselli was a detective on the Peel Regional Police homicide squad. It was his turn to be lead investigator on the next case when he got the page at home. Within 15 minutes he was on his way to the office, assigning roles to the other four homicide detectives who were called in. Within an hour of the killer pulling the trigger, divisional detectives, uniformed officers and the identification unit were knocking on doors, interviewing the real estate agent and couple, neighbours, examining the scene for evidence and building a background on the victim in an all-out effort to find the gunman.
Twenty-four hours later – the most crucial period in any investigation – it became painfully clear to investigators how lucky the killer’s timing had been. “We couldn’t find anyone in the area who’d seen anyone or heard anything, which isn’t surprising given the weather,” Roselli says. “And any footprints the killer left on the snow had melted away very quickly.” Police later reported that a vehicle ‘may have been parked’ on the dead end around the corner. They told the media they didn’t have a description of the vehicle; they couldn’t provide a colour, size, age, or any identifying features at all.
The reason? Investigators didn’t have a vehicle descrip- tion. It was speculation because of what they did have but didn’t say. They found unspent ammunition against the curb. As if the killer dropped it getting out of a car on the way to the execution.
“We had to hold some things back from the media, things only the killer would know” and that investigators could use to trip him or her up in an interview, Roselli said.
Something he still holds back is the calibre of the ammunition, though he concedes the unspent bullets at the curb are the same as those that ended the yogi’s life.
Yogi Narayana worked out of his home counselling on romance and he was very busy with it. Police put together a list of about 5,000 readings dating back seven years from his murder. “He audio-taped his readings for clients and gave them a copy,” Roselli says. Some tapes may have been so inflammatory to the people being spoken about that several were investigated for the killing. Each of them had alibis for that Sunday in 1999.
Detectives tracked back to his yoga studio and spoke with former students, psychic peers and everyone who’d ever dealt with him. “We interviewed well over 900 people who knew him or were his clients, administered about a half dozen polygraph tests. It was an incredible amount of work, but we came away with frustratingly little,” Roselli says. “Except for the one phone call, we never came what I’d say was close.”
On day two of the investigation, a call was transferred into the homicide office from the Peel Police switchboard. Roselli just happened to pick it up. “The caller said they knew a person who knows the killer’s ID, but is deathly afraid of coming forward,” Roselli recounts. He still avoids identifying the caller’s gender on purpose: one last hold- back for investigators.
“The caller wanted to know what could be done to protect the informant’s identity. I told the caller about Crime Stoppers, ways to protect ID, ways to pass on the information – I gave the caller every option I could think of.” Roselli gave the caller every imaginable way to reach him again should the friend with the information decide to do so.
Was the call a ruse, designed to see how close investigators were getting to the killer, or a possible attempt to implicate an unknown enemy? That remains a mystery too; the follow-up call never came. Roselli acted as lead for 17 murder investigations and Alfred S. Schmielewski, a.k.a. Yogi S. Narayana, remains the only one marked unsolved.
If he has a hunch – “I don’t work off hunches” – he won’t admit to it. But he will admit this: he believes that he or his detectives have already met and spoken to the killer.
If you have any information on this case, you can provide it anonymously through Peel Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or call the Peel Regional Police Homicide and Missing Persons Bureau at 905-453-2121 Ext. 3205.