Saturday, June 28
The Edmonton Journal
Thursday, June 26, 2008
A woman's frozen, severed finger was a souvenir of a past slaying committed by one of Nina Courtepatte's killers, a 19-year-old woman told police during their investigation into a murdered prostitute.
When "Buffy," the nickname of a teen now on trial for Nina's murder, was told by police that they were investigating the killing of Ellie May Meyer, she asked if her body was found missing a finger, court documents say.
The Edmonton sex-trader worker disappeared two days before Nina, 13, was killed.
Convicted killer Joseph Laboucan had shown Buffy a pinky finger that he kept wrapped in a paper towel in a freezer, she told police during the 2007 interview, entered as evidence in her own murder trial.
"He said prior to killing Nina that he always takes a souvenir, and he didn't take one from Nina, though," she said. "He showed me that in the morning and it just, it just made my stomach turn really bad."
Police had told Buffy that she was a suspect in Meyer's death, as was Laboucan, whose DNA was found on her body.
Laboucan, now 22, had bragged about being a serial killer, witnesses testified in other court cases related to the slaying of Nina Courtepatte. He told some people that had killed as many as 189 people.
But he had warned Buffy not to say anything about him to police, she told officers investigating his possible involvement in Meyer's death, the court documents say.
Police wouldn't say Wednesday if they ever found a severed finger.
Project Kare, a police task force trying to solve the murders and disappearances of many sex-trade workers and high-risk individuals, is leading the investigation into Meyer's killing.
The 33-year-old was found in a field on May 6, 2005, near the intersection of Highway 21 and Township Road 540, near Sherwood Park. She was last seen on April 1, 2005. The woman, who had dreams of becoming a nurse to help the elderly, ended up working the streets for seven years.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Don Campbell said Wednesday that detectives are looking at individuals who they feel may be part of Meyer's death, but he couldn't comment further because of ongoing court proceedings.
"We believe there are some similarities between the files (of Nina Courtepatte and Meyer) and we are exploring those to see what they are," he said.
During voir dire testimony at Thomas Svekla's murder trial, RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Simmil testified police are investigating other possible serial offenders.
Buffy told police that Laboucan had admitted to killing someone other than Nina, with Stephanie Bird and Michael Briscoe present. He told her it was like an "addiction," Buffy said in an interview with RCMP Const. Rob Kropp.
She had been standing outside a car the day before Nina was killed when he made the comment, she said, the court documents say. Bird was there, too, and told Buffy that they dumped the body in the North Saskatchewan River.
Bird was convicted of manslaughter in connection to Nina's death earlier this year. Briscoe was acquitted of all charges during his 2007 trial, when court heard he had driven the group to the golf course on April 3, 2005, where Nina was raped and murdered. The Crown is appealing.
In one interview, police also asked Buffy if she had any dealings with men who went by the names Ace, Toothless Jay, Tran and Lorenzo. She said she may have met Ace and used to be friends with a man known as Toothless Jay.
Laboucan had once mentioned people with those same names in a 2005 police interview as men who attacked a prostitute.
Buffy said she was co-operating with police when they asked her questions about Meyer because she wanted to help.
"I really, like, feel bad that two died," she said. "'Cause Iike I want to be able to help. I had nothing to do with that, but I don't see why I shouldn't help."
© The Edmonton Journal 2008
Wednesday, June 25
CREDIT: John Lucas/Edmonton Journal
Kathy King stands in Roomful of Missing
Women art exhibit
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
EDMONTON - Fifty pairs of eyes focus on the centre of a room where dozens of black shrouded figures are clustered.
It's a haunting image. It focuses attention on a haunting topic.
The portraits and figures are part of a Works art exhibit called "A Roomful of Missing Women," featuring paintings of 50 women from Vancouver's downtown eastside who are missing or have been murdered. The multimedia show by Betty Kovacic is on display at the Stanley Milner Library until July 2.
"I thought it was important that people in Edmonton have opportunities to understand the impact of having missing and murdered women," said Kathy King, from the Prostitution Awareness Action Foundation of Edmonton, which helped bring the exhibit to this city.
"There are so many missing and murdered women in Edmonton, it seems that what's happening in Edmonton was a repeat of what was happening in Vancouver."
King's own daughter, Caralyn, was found dead in a canola field in Sherwood Park more than 10 years ago. The exhibit's black shrouded figures, which are draped in sashes that describe childhood dreams, struck a particular chord with King.
"(My daughter's) dreams were so simple and so profound at the same time," King said. "She didn't want much from life but even what little she wanted, she wasn't able to achieve because of what her addictions did to her."
Kovacic will be at the exhibit on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday afternoons. An artist's reception will take place on Friday night at the library and is open to the public.
For more details on this story, see tomorrow's Journal.
© Edmonton Journal 2008
Saturday, June 21
June 21, 2008
Charlene Etzerza remembered the dreams her own sister had as she perused an Edmonton exhibit on 50 missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside today.
While her sister, Connie, died of a suspicious drug overdose more than a decade ago, Etzerza says Connie never sought out the high-risk lifestyle that ultimately killed her.
“My sister, she didn’t want to get hooked on drugs. She wanted to get married, to go to church,” said Etzerza.
So, too, did many of the women whose portraits are on display at the Stanley Milner Library as part of the Works Art and Design Festival downtown. The exhibit’s called A Roomful of Missing Women.
Many of them were involved in the sex trade, but as the exhibit points out, that wasn’t necessarily the life they wanted.
“As a child, I dreamed of being a zookeeper,” reads a sash placed on one of the 50 blow-up dolls shrouded in black at the centre of the exhibition room. The dolls represent each of the missing women, some of whom were victims of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton.
For Danielle Boudreau, the display, while haunting, is like the beauty pageant the women never had. The painter, B.C. artist Betty Kovacic, specifically wanted to create portraits of the women, something Boudreau noted usually only wealthy people get to experience.
“She wanted to bridge the gap between the women of the street and portray them as someone of stature,” said Boudreau, who helped organize the exhibit in Edmononton. “That’s why each of these women has their own picture with their own frames.”
The display includes Alberta victims Georgina Papin and Mona Wilson, and Boudreau said that while the women appear dignified in their portraits, the exhibit is also a reminder of the suffering prostitutes everywhere live through. The tragedies, she noted, include not only the murdered sex-trade workers discovered in rural areas but also many more cases of women who commit suicide, die of drug overdoses or suffer diseases such as AIDS.
“Nobody is counting,” said Boudreau. “Since 2002, 84 soldiers have passed away (in Afghanistan). Since 2002, hundreds of women have passed away on the streets.”
For Etzerza, while her sister Connie wasn’t involved in the sex trade, the exhibit was nevertheless very meaningful for her. “Going through this, it is a healing process,” she said. “It’s been so long since I’ve been with anyone who’s lost someone.”
For Sherwood Park resident Sandy Champagne, meanwhile, the display brought her to tears. “I’ve never been impacted by anything quite so much — the reality of it, the realization that that’s not what they planned,” she said.
The exhibit, called A Roomful of Missing Women, also includes a display on Edmonton’s sex trade. It runs until July 2 at the library’s Edmonton Room.
Thursday, June 19
June 19, 2008
As the country marks National Aboriginal Day on Saturday (June 21), a group of Native activists and supporters led by a grandmother of five will begin a historic march from Vancouver to Ottawa to call for immediate action on the issue of missing women.
March organizer Gladys Radek, a member of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, noted that across Canada 3,000 women, mostly aboriginal, have disappeared without a trace.
“We want to call for a public inquiry into why these women have gone missing,” Radek told the Straight.
One of the missing women is Radek's niece Tamara Chipman, who was 22 years old when she was last seen hitchhiking east of Prince Rupert in September 2005.
The march, according to Radek, will cover roughly 4,400 kilometres. It will start from Trout Lake in East Vancouver and make its first stop at the Port Coquitlam farm of serial killer Robert Pickton.
Last December, Pickton was sentenced to life in jail by a B.C. court for the deaths of six women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The women included Mona Wilson, whose brother, First Nations activist Jason Fleury, is joining the march.
“We're seeking closure and justice,” Fleury told the Straight when asked what the march means to participants.
The march will be a relay. Participants are scheduled to reach Edmonton on July 3, Regina on July 26, and Toronto on August 29.
“We should be arriving in Ottawa on September 12, and hold a rally at Parliament Hill on September 15,” Radek said, adding that marchers will attempt to collect thousands of signatures backing their call for a public inquiry.
Radek said they don't know whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper will grant them an audience.
Sunday, June 15
Name: Janis Cole
Program: Master of fine arts in documentary media at Ryerson University
Project: Visibility and Invisibility in the Margins of Disappearance
Background: Janis Cole has been making films for 30 years and her work focuses on marginalized and overlooked members of society, such as inmates in the (now closed) Prison for Women in Kingston.
The inspiration: The dozens of sex-trade workers who have gone missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside got Cole thinking about issues of invisibility in society. B.C. pig farmer Robert Pickton was this week sentenced to 25 years without parole for the murders of six of those women. "What interests me is the 65 women going missing in Vancouver before police called it a missing persons case," says Cole. There are still 39 women missing from Vancouver, according to a task force set up to look into the disappearances. Meanwhile, as the trial was going on, Cole says Pickton, not the missing women, became the focus of the story. "In situations such as these, the strongest person we visualize is the killer."
The subjects: For Cole's film-based project, she is focusing on those who are homeless, as well as prostitutes, and the crossover that occurs when sex-trade workers live on the streets. To do this she has spent time with Toronto's homeless – one recent Saturday morning was spent with three elderly men who live on a sidewalk heating grate. "I'm trying to get the heart of this to see why people make the choices they make," says Cole. She also wants to find out "why we can't see the missing when they're gone."
One argument is that sex-trade workers and the homeless are often transient and therefore difficult to track. Cole thinks there is more to it that just that.
The themes: Cole is exploring three themes in both her film project and an accompanying paper:
1. The power structure in society;
2. The media's portrayal of the homeless and those working in the sex trade;
3. The way society responds – either with or without compassion to the marginalized in society.
"It's not a film about prostitution, and it's not a film about homelessness," she stresses. "It's a film that deals with looking and looking away."
To address those themes and find some concrete solutions to the problem, Cole's supervisors, Blake Fitzpatrick and Edward Slopek, are providing background data on theories of invisibility and power structures in society, respectively.
The future: Cole hopes the finished film-based project, which may incorporate photography and new media, will be shown to the public through film festivals, galleries or other venues, while the paper will be presented to conferences and add to the growing research on society's marginalized people.
Deep Thoughts looks at interesting research taking place across the GTA. Email email@example.com
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Documenary New Media
Wednesday, June 11
Wednesday, June 4
Justice walk headed for Ottawa
Written by FRANK PEEBLES
Prince George Citizen
June 3, 2008
Prince George Citizen
Missing Jessie Foster
Fifty five RCMP assigned to Highway of Tears
June 4, 2008
There are now 55 RCMP officers and civilian employees working on the murders and disappearances of 18 women dating back nearly 40 years.
And some of those involved bring with them skills and experience learned from previous lengthy and complicated investigations such as the Willy Pickton serial killer case on the Lower Mainland, said RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lematire.
That and more information was passed along by Lemaitre and other officers to family members of the murdered and missing at a regularly-scheduled meeting held May 15 in Terrace.
“Two sessions are held a year in various places so that the need to travel is spread out as much as possible to be as fair as possible for all concerned,” said Lemaitre.
“At this session there were 18 people, some from as far away as Bella Coola,” he said. The last session was held in Smithers.
Until last fall, the murders and disappearances of nine women were connected to the stretch of Hwy16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George which became known as the Highway of Tears.
But an extensive review by officers of open criminal cases elsewhere in the province resulted in the expansion of both the number of women either murdered or who have disappeared and of the geography. The territory under investigation now stretches as far south as Kamloops and into Alberta.
Probably the worst thing that can affect families are rumours which can spread rapidly based on information that is not always correct, he said.
Lemaitre said the on-going investigation is thorough, painstaking and that it is the full time job of those involved.
“This is not something being run off the corner of someone’s desk. These people have experience and knowledge gleaned from years of being involved in other projects,” he said.
A lot of the current work involves using a computer program called the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (ViCLAS). It involves entering as much data about individual violent crimes as possible and then works to find commonalities between the crimes.
Lemaitre also commented on the recent warning given Lower Mainland private eye Ray Michalko that he not delve too far into the disappearance of one woman along Hwy16.
That was done to avoid having Michalko’s work somehow impede the police investigation by tipping off any potential suspects, he said.
“The one thing we don’t want is for the person or persons who may be involved to get the hair on their head to stand up,” added Lemaitre.
Until just recently, the task force was headed up by one of the RCMP’s most experienced investigators in the province, Superintendent Leon Van De Walle. He’s just retired and his place has been taken by Superintendent Rus Nash. He was one of the officers present at last week’s briefing.
Until last fall’s expansion of the list of missing and murdered women, the earliest person on the Hwy16 list was Monica Ignas who disappeared outside of Thornhill in 1974. In Sept. 2005, Terrace resident Tamara Chipman went missing. She was last seen hitchhiking outside of Prince Rupert.
Tuesday, June 3
Responsible for slaying of Theresa Innes, but not Rachel Quinney
By TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU
June 3, 2008
It’s time for the bogeyman to face the music.
Thomas Svekla will be handed an automatic life sentence June 16 after being convicted today of second-degree murder in the slaying of prostitute Theresa Innes, 36.
The 40-year-old mechanic was also found guilty of interfering with human remains for transporting Innes’ wire-bound and wrapped remains in a hockey bag from High Level to his sister’s garage in Fort Saskatchewan in 2006.
However, Svekla was acquitted on charges of second-degree murder and interfering with human remains in the 2004 death of prostitute Rachel Quinney, 19.
Today’s ruling in a standing-room only courtroom was met with tears of relief, anger and several outbursts.
After Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman left the room, Innes’ brother stood and shouted at Svekla.
“Tom, why don’t you have the courage to stand up and tell the truth for the first time in your life,” said Mike Innes.
Quinney’s sister-in-law Charlotte Lajimodiere then yelled something about the judge not having any daughters.
Delia Quinney appeared stunned that Svekla was not found guilty of her daughter’s killing and mutilation and needed help leaving the courthouse, weeping and looking like she was on the verge of collapse.
When Sanderman ruled Svekla was guilty of Innes’s slaying, her parents and brother began crying while the convicted killer simply looked down with his arms folded.
Outside court, the Innes family refused to talk to reporters and Mike Innes angrily grabbed his wife and pulled her away as she began speaking in front of TV cameras.
“We’re happy, really happy,” said Nataile Pangnanouvong. “But I feel bad for the Rachel Quinney family.”
Lajimodiere, who spoke on behalf of the Quinney family, called it a “harsh verdict” and “a great letdown by the justice system” resulting in “great pain and great anger.”
She said the family was torn apart during the trial and the verdict has not brought them any closer. “There is still no justice for the Quinney family,” she said. “It doesn’t give us any justice.”
Sanderman said the Crown failed to prove any link between Svekla and Quinney and while he found the fact Svekla found her body to be “highly suspicious behaviour,” it was not evidence of any wrongdoing.
Regarding Innes, the judge “completely” rejected Svekla’s claim that her body had been planted in his truck by someone trying to frame him and that he had “panicked” and transported it to Fort Saskatchewan.
“It’s fanciful. It’s ridiculous. It’s preposterous and incapable of belief,” said Sanderman. “It’s the grand lie spun by him right from the beginning.”
The judge ruled Svekla’s ever-changing lies and “concoctions” told to police, coupled with his elaborate wrapping of the body to conceal it, led him to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he had murdered Innes.
The judge also noted separate admissions Svekla made to a friend and a co-worker that he believed were true.
The first was when Svekla asked a high-school friend to tell a high-school girlfriend that she had been the first person he had hurt and “the first to see the bogeyman.”
The second was when Svekla told a fellow worker at the Fountain Tire in High Level after Innes had disappeared that he had a “dark past” and had “killed someone.”
Testimony by more than 100 witnesses was heard since Svekla’s trial began on Feb. 19, following several months of voir dire hearings to determine whether certain police evidence would be admitted.
He was charged in Innes’ death after his sister found the hockey bag containing the remains in her garage and called police. Svekla had claimed the bag contained $800 worth of composting worms.
Quinney’s naked body was found in a wooded farmer’s field near Fort Saskatchewan in June 2004. Both of her breasts and parts of her genitalia had been removed.
Police had alleged Svekla killed Quinney earlier and interfered with her remains by mutilating her body and improperly disposing of it.
Court has heard Svekla told police he discovered Quinney’s body while smoking crack with another prostitute.
The cause of death in both cases was undetermined.
Monday, June 2
By ANDREW HANON, SUN MEDIA
June 2, 2008
The faces of 50 women who vanished from Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside will be on display in Edmonton later this month, as part of a poignant art exhibit at the downtown library.Room Full of Missing Women by Prince George, B.C. artist Betty Kovacic features portraits gleaned from media and from families of the missing and dead women. A short piece of instrumental music was also written for each portrait.
Also in the exhibit are dozens of mannequins wrapped in black shrouds, on which are written the hopes and dreams of women.
The exhibit, which has been shown in several B.C. communities, has been described as eerie, but beautiful and moving.
Kathy King, head of the Prostitution Action and Awareness Foundation of Edmonton, which is sponsoring the show, saw it in Prince George and described it as "overwhelming."
"It brings to life 50 souls that had been destroyed," she said. "I felt it was really important that we bring this exhibit to Edmonton, because there are at least as many women who've disappeared from this area."
Kovacic said she is surprised by the huge response to the exhibit.
"I think it's so important that this issue isn't swept under the carpet," she said. "Women are still disappearing."
Among the portraits are Georgina Papin and Mona Wilson, both from Alberta. They are among the six women serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted of murdering.
The exhibit will be at the Stanley Milner Library's Edmonton Room during the Works Art and Design Festival, which runs from June 20 to July 2.