A Doctor’s Dangerous Double Life

A love triangle fueled an unhealthy obsession.

Edward Anderson
Jan 7 · 6 min read
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Cass Corridor in Detroit Image from Wikimedia

Dr. Alan Canty had it all. A marriage that most found enviable. Many considered him a pillar of the community. Especially when his career was considered, he was a successful psychologist. Allan had offices in Detroit and his Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan home.

His patients loved him. They conceded that he could be a bit odd. They forgave his eccentricities because he was generous with them. Often arranging sessions at his home office for them, even if it was after business hours.

Alan could afford to be generous. In addition to his salary and profits from his practice, he inherited a lot of money from his parents. The affluence he enjoyed complicated his life.

While he loved his wife, Jan, Alan felt something was missing from their marriage. They delayed having children, so she could work on getting her own Doctorate in psychology. He told friends that being childless didn’t bother him, though he offered no further details.

One weekend in 1984, Jan went out of town. Alan cruised the Cass Corridor, which is a well-known red-light district. Most of the ladies who work in that area are older and have seen better days. However, there are a few that are just beginning their careers.

The psychologist found one such lady. Rational thought went out the window, and he decided to spend some time with this young woman. It was a decision that would prove to be his undoing. And she would be all too happy to watch it happen.

Dawn Spens was 18-years-old when she met Dr. Alan Canty. Her boyfriend/pimp, John Carl Fry, introduced her to heroin. Once she was hooked, he put her on the street to earn money to feed their habits.

On the first, Alan introduced himself as Dr. Alan Miller. Dawn knew it was an alias but didn’t say anything. They enjoyed their time together that first afternoon. There was no expectation of other visits.

It was a pleasant surprise when the psychologist hired her for another afternoon. He was generous when he gave her money. They found themselves spending more and more time together.

Alan would give Dawn at least $100 every time they spent time together, which became daily on his lunch break. Sometimes they would wile away the time being intimate with one another; other times, they would sit around and talk.

The pair each seemed to enjoy the time they spent together. Alan took the young woman on shopping sprees, buying her almost anything that she wanted. Yet, he was denied the one thing he desired. The psychologist wanted Dawn for himself.

But there was a stumbling block to that happening; John Carl Fry.

John loved Dawn as much as a pimp can care for another human. He viewed Alan as their main source of income. In his time alone with the young woman, John pushed her to get more out of the psychologist.

Alan also pushed Dawn for something. He wanted John out of her life and for her to be his exclusive girl. The young woman talked it over with her pimp, an amount was agreed upon; $5,000. It was a steep amount for the 1980s, but the psychologist got the money together.

Instead of John leaving the picture, he and Dawn convinced Alan to rent them a new house. They also upgraded their drug use from heroin to cocaine. Money was no longer a problem for them, and they felt a lifestyle upgrade was in order.

Until the money stopped flowing as easily, Alan began leaving less money for his favorite girl. She questioned him, demanding to know why he wasn’t as generous as he used to be. He flipped the script on her and claimed it was because John was still around, even after paying the money to get rid of him.

Dawn relayed John's message, and they started plotting a new number for the psychologist to give them. But when they got it, both would disappear.

The real reason Alan started becoming stingy Dawn was that he was running low on money. Over the course of a year, he spent $140,000 on his paid companion, including springing his sworn enemy, John, from jail on multiple occasions.

Jan began to notice that something was up. Bills piled up; many of them were past due. She questioned her husband about what was happening. Alan assured her that it was nothing more than a late payment from the state; it was caught up in bureaucracy.

Word started to trickle in that some of his patients noted that he was acting strangely. Appointments were canceled or rescheduled. She wondered what was going on with her husband. However, she focused on the money issues they were facing first.

Once those were taken care of, Jan began to wonder what led them to the brink of disaster in the first place. She wondered if Alan developed a drug habit; after all, his practice was based in Detroit, and they were readily available in the city.

After brushing off the drug habit theory, Jan began to realize there was another woman. Since Alan was with Dawn for most of his lunch breaks, he would miss mid-day dates with his wife. She confronted him with her suspicions.

He denied everything.

Alan realized the missteps that he had taken were starting to catch up with him. Things were about to come crashing down on him.

On July 13, 1985, John watched as Alan and Dawn had sex. After, she shot herself up with heroin and excused herself to the bathroom. While the young woman was out of the room, the two men got into a heated exchange.

John knew that the psychologist wanted him gone. He told his rival the amount that would make him vanish and promised that he would be gone for good if it was paid. Alan pointed out that he had already paid once, and yet the pimp hadn’t gone anywhere.

The men argued. Alan went to leave, but John stayed in his way. A physical fight broke out. It ended with the pimp beating the life out of the other man with a baseball bat.

Dawn and John cut the body up and wrapped it in garbage bags. They hoped nobody could trace the body back to them.

After Alan didn't come home that night, Jan began to panic. She called the Detroit Police and asked filed a missing person’s report. They began asking around to see if there were any clues.

One of Alan’s friends told them about his relationship with Dawn. Because of her line of work, the cops were very familiar with her. They went to her house and were surprised to find her gone. There were traces of blood everywhere, though.

At that moment, investigators knew this was not a missing person. Dr. Alan Canty had been murdered.

It is easy for a person who works in the underworld to make enemies. John made plenty of them. One he crossed bided his time, and when the police asked about Dawn and the pimp, they came forward to offer up information as to where they were hiding.

Once located, Dawn and John were arrested without incident.

They were placed in separate questioning rooms. When the cops presented John with the evidence of the murder, he broke down and confessed. He claimed that Dawn helped him wrap the body in garbage bags but had nothing to do with the killing or cutting the body up. He told the police where the body parts were thrown.

Dawn claimed she didn’t know about any of it until John told her. In her version of the story, she was in the bathroom crying.

Prosecutors charged John with first-degree murder and Dawn with accessory after the fact of murder.

John confessed to the murder. His defense argued that it happened in the heat of the moment, rather than premeditated. The jury disagreed and convicted him three hours after the case was handed to them. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Dawn was also found guilty. The judge sentenced her to 10 months in jail; less time already served in the case. After serving 4 months in jail, she was released on probation. An Instagram account under her name shows a normal life for the woman at the center of the murder investigation.

Jan fled Detroit after the trial. She changed her name and hid her past. However, she recently began speaking about her first marriage. Rumor has it that she is working on publishing a book from her perspective about the murder.

A double life ended in tragedy for all involved.


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Edward Anderson

Written by

Edward has written hundreds of acclaimed true crime articles and has won numerous awards for his short stories.



The most informative, researched, and entertaining true crime stories on the internet.

Edward Anderson

Written by

Edward has written hundreds of acclaimed true crime articles and has won numerous awards for his short stories.



The most informative, researched, and entertaining true crime stories on the internet.

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