Wednesday, February 27

Retired Vancouver Judge Wallace Craig calls for inquiry into Pickton murders


Georgia Straight
Publish Date: February 27, 2008

The Georgia Straight asked retired B.C. judge Wallace G. Craig to offer his thoughts on the news that convicted serial killer Robert Pickton may not face a second trial, for which he faces 20 counts of first-degree murder. This is what Craig submitted.

ROBERT PICKTON will haunt us forever: the ultimate spectre of a serial killer.

On December 9, 2007, a befuddled jury found Pickton guilty of second degree murder in the serial killing of six street prostitutes. The judge imposed a mandatory concurrent life sentence for each murder.

A humanoid being beyond the reach of criminal justice, Pickton cannot atone for his maniacal violence to these young women of Skid Road and for remainder of his life will be jailed in virtual isolation.

Devoid of common sense, Pickton has appealed his convictions. As expected the Crown has cross-appealed, all the while holding open the prospect of proceeding with the remaining 20 first-degree murder charges.

However on February 26 Attorney General Wallace Oppal revealed that the remaining 20 charges will not be taken to trial if Pickton’s appeal is dismissed. Oppal said his decision is in the public interest because no further sentence can be achieved by virtue of further convictions…“Life means life. It means natural life and he can’t get any further sentence.” Oppal also stated “We can’t put a price on justice …we’re not going to say to the victims that the costs are so prohibitive that we’re not going to prosecute.”

Needless to say there was mixed response from the families of the 20 young women and a predictable response from the NDP justice critic Mike Farnsworth who called the decision “shocking and insensitive”.

It seems to me that Oppal made a correct decision based on an odd mixture of pragmatism, principle and what he left unsaid. He seems to realize how plain insensitive and cruel it would be to force another jury of twelve ordinary citizens through the horror of Pickton’s barbarism.

I wonder if Oppal now thinks it was a tactical error to go to trial on only 6 charges all the while leaving the impression that the remaining 20 would somehow remain relevant and bullet-proof against a challenge of double jeopardy.

Looking back on the trial it seems that it went of the rails when the jury was permitted to choose between first- and second-degree murder.

A serial killer seeks his victims one by one, sequentially and, unless clearly insane, is engaged in the most evil of planned, sadistic and deliberate first-degree murder. The jury was flat-out wrong in judging these serial murders to have been second-degree and should never have been given that opportunity. The jury should have been told that when each murder is serially entwined it gives rise to only one conclusion, by rational inference and common sense, that it is plain and simple first-degree murder.

Rather than calling for a trial of the remaining 20 counts of first-degree murder the public should be demanding a formal inquiry into why Pickton was able to so brazenly carry out his serial killing. What did successive mayors and council members of Vancouver and chiefs of police know and do about the missing women of Skid Road, mainly aboriginal girls? And did the RCMP know of the spreading word of strange partying and goings-on at the Pickton pig farm? Let us hear under oath why this malevolent vortex of our anarchic Skid Road was allowed to swallow up the most defenceless of women. It verges on malfeasance, and that alone cries out for a formal inquiry.

Mr. Oppal, the least you can do for the missing women of Skid Road is to appoint an inquiry commissioner. Now!

Wallace Craig – wallace-gilby-craig@shaw.cawww.realjustice.ca

Craig was born and raised in Vancouver and presided over a criminal court in the Downtown Eastside for 26 years. In 2003, he had a book published called Short Pants to Striped Trousers, The life and times of a Judge in Skid Road Vancouver.

In December 2007, Straight.com reported that the office of the police complaint commissioner is considering ordering an investigation into the Vancouver police department's handling of the cases of the missing women from the Downtown Eastside.

Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-133836/retired-vancouver-judge-wallace-craig-calls-for-inquiry-into-pickton-murders

B.C. attorney general says there would be no purpose to another lengthy proceeding

Pickton unlikely to face trial in 20 more cases

Feb 27, 2008 04:30 AM
Petti Fong Western Canada Bureau Chief
The Toronto Star

Vancouver–Families of some of serial killer Robert Pickton's alleged victims learned yesterday that the Crown is not going to proceed with a trial on the other 20 counts of first-degree murder.
"I had a feeling that this was going to happen," said Marilyn Kraft, stepmother of Cindy Feliks, one of the 20 victims whose cases have not been heard. "My feeling was that the government was going to say there was no need for a second trial and that's the excuse they will use."

B.C.'s Attorney General Wally Oppal said yesterday if the appeals fail and Pickton's conviction on six counts of second-degree murder is allowed to stand, it would serve no purpose in holding another lengthy criminal trial "given the fact that no further punishment, no further sentence can be achieved by virtue of further convictions. He is now receiving the maximum."

The pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, B.C., was initially charged with 26 counts of first-degree murder after police arrested him in 2002. For years, women who lived and worked in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside went missing and the remains of some of those women have been found on a pig farm where Pickton lived and worked.

During Pickton's preliminary hearing, a judge divided the charges and proceeded with six of the counts, with the 20 other charges to be heard at a later date.

Pickton, 58, was convicted in December on six counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Marnie Frey, Georgina Papin, Mona Wilson and Brenda Wolfe.

He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 25 years in jail before being eligible for parole.

A month later, the Crown filed an appeal on the basis that Pickton should have been convicted for first-degree murder and because prosecutors want all 26 charges to be heard at the same time.

Pickton's defence team has also filed an appeal arguing the judge made numerous errors, including in his instructions to the jury.

"This has been going on for years and years," said Kraft. "But no matter how you think of it, my daughter still hasn't had justice and never will."

In Guelph, Jean Little, aunt of Sarah de Vries, another of Pickton's alleged victims, said she believes the decision not to proceed was the right one.

"He's off the street. He can't hurt anyone else," said Little in a telephone interview. "They could spend more money, but that money could be spent elsewhere."

Lilliane Beaudoin, sister of Dianne Rock, one of the 20 victims in question, found it heartbreaking that the trial would likely not proceed.

The criminal trial and the investigation before the charges were some of the lengthiest in Canadian history with costs estimated at more than $70 million.

"Injustice has been done against my family and the family of the other women," Beaudoin said by telephone from Welland, Ont.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2008

Tuesday, February 26

Svekla’s sister speaks

Testifies her accused brother told her: ‘I did a really bad thing’

By TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU

February 26, 2008

A body in a hockey bag, a second body found in a field, arms scratched "like (it had been) one hell of a mean cat," and a crying confession that "I did a really bad thing."

Those were among the things heard yesterday during the riveting testimony of accused prostitute killer Thomas Svekla's sister at her brother's double-murder trial.

Donna Parkinson told court she didn't believe Svekla when he said a hockey bag he had brought from High Level to her Fort Saskatchewan home in May 2006 contained $800 worth of compost worms. So she took a peek.

After feeling what "seemed like an elbow joint," Parkinson pulled her arm back and went to get her husband.

He thought it was just the hockey bag seam, but they couldn't check further because Svekla had come over.

That night she told her husband her brother's story didn't make sense and said: "you know what - we're going in."


They then realized the "really hard" thing wrapped in an air mattress they were feeling was a body and called 911.

Court has heard the wrapped and wire-bound body found inside the hockey bag was that of Theresa Innes, 36, whom police allege Svekla killed earlier in High Level.

Parkinson then testified about a June 10, 2004, conversation she had with Svekla when he told her he had stumbled across the mutilated, naked body of a girl in a field while smoking crack with another girl earlier that day.

She said he appeared calm, but said he was scared and didn't know what to do, and she told him to call police.

Then Parkinson told court about a second conversation she had with her brother a week before that when he came over "very upset" and began crying, but said he couldn't say why because she was "going to hate him."

She testified he started talking about getting rid of a car and said, "I did a really bad thing."

Parkinson said Svekla was "totally distraught" and falling down and crying, however she also noted he was wearing pristine clothing despite having been partying all night.

She also said both of her brother's arms were badly scratched and the marks looked quite fresh.

"To me, it looked like one hell of a mean cat. It wasn't just one, it was many. His arms were scratched to hell."

The body in the field was identified by police as Rachel Quinney, 19, who, like Innes, was a sex-trade worker.

Earlier yesterday, city prostitute Shannon Millward, 26, testified of finding Quinney's "cut up" body while smoking crack cocaine with Svekla east of the city in 2004.

Millward described the body as "pretty bad" and said it was puffy and the genitals had been cut out. She also said she wanted to call police right away, but Svekla didn't.

"Tom was kind of worried they would think he had done it," she said, describing him as "distraught and panicky."

Svekla, 39, is facing two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of interfering with human remains.

The former mechanic is the first person to be charged by Project KARE, an RCMP-led task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of people who lead high-risk lifestyles, including more than a dozen local prostitutes. He is also a suspect in six other killings and two disappearances.

Last week, the trial heard Svekla was spotted by a friend "carrying a black duffel bag out of the bushes" and trying to stuff it into the trunk of a car before driving off and yelling back: "I didn't kill the girl. I didn't kill the girl."

The trial resumes today.

EDMONTON SUN


Second Pickton trial depends on appeal outcome, families told

Lori Culbert

Canwest News Service


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


VANCOUVER - Some relatives of 20 women Robert (Willie) Pickton has been accused of killing say they have been told by the B.C. government that the serial killer's next trial may not go ahead.

Lori-Ann Ellis, sister-in-law of Cara Ellis, said members of her family were told Tuesday that the fate of Pickton's second trial hinges on the outcome of his appeal of his first trial.

"If Pickton wins his appeal, then they'll go ahead with one big trial and the 26 charges. If he doesn't win his appeal, then it's all over. There won't be a second trial," said Ellis.

Pickton was convicted in December of the second-degree murder of six women who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside.

He is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Pickton has appealed and asked for a new trial.

In total, he faces 26 murder charges but the indictment was split into six counts and 20 counts to make the trials more manageable.

The families of three other missing women also contacted the Vancouver Sun to say the government indicated Pickton's second trial may not proceed.

Ellis, whose sister-in-law is among the 20 women Pickton has not yet been tried for killing, said her family is frustrated and wants Cara's day in court.

The victim's mother, Judy Trimble, was in tears.

"Judy sat and cried like a baby last night. I guess she wanted to hear 12 people say he's guilty," Ellis said in a phone interview from her Calgary home.

NDP MLA Mike Farnworth, the opposition's critic for public safety, said the Liberals should commit to holding the second trial.

"It is shocking that this arrogant and insensitive government is informing family members that there may be no trial for the murder of their loved ones," Farnworth said in a statement. "The families have made it clear they want to see justice done. They've suffered enough already."

Vancouver Sun
lculbertpng.canwest.com

© Canwest News Service 2008


Monday, February 25

2nd Pickton trial may not go ahead, families told

The second murder trial for convicted killer Robert William Pickton may not happen, the families of two victims have been told.

The families told CBC News on Monday that they were called by the B.C. prosecutor and told the trial may not go ahead. One of the family members said they were told not to make the information public.

Stan Lowe, a spokesman for the Crown's office, confirmed that the families had been called, but would not say why. "We're currently in the process of contacting family members to provide them with an update on this prosecution. Now, we consider communications with family members to be private," he said.

Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths 26 women who went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Pickton stood trial in connection with the slaying of six of the 26 women and was convicted in January of second-degree murder on all six counts after an 11-month trial.

He was scheduled to be tried on the 20 remaining counts at a later date.

The families said Monday that they were told that the second trial would be cancelled if appeals launched against Pickton's conviction do not succeed.

In the first trial, Pickton was sentenced to life in prison with 25 years before he is eligible for parole.

Pickton, 58, was found guilty of killing Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Marnie Frey, Georgina Papin and Brenda Wolfe.

CBC NEWS
www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/02/25/pickton-trial.html

'Nothing's changed' in Vancouver's drug-plagued Downtown Eastside


First of a three part series

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun
Monday, February 25, 2008

VANCOUVER - Cheryl Paul smiles in the cool February night air outside Pigeon Park, where Vancouver's addicted, homeless and mentally ill often congregate with their curious collections of personal possessions.

"I used to be homeless, on the streets, using heroin and cocaine," says Paul, 29, reeling off a list of unspeakable abuse she says she has suffered.

"I've been beaten. I've had guns held to my head. I've been sodomized by baseball bats. I've been raped. I've been through lots of hell."

But six months ago, Paul says, she got off heroin and stopped selling sex. Her friendly young face, dotted with sores, beams with pride as she explains she now has a small room in a dirty single-room-occupancy hotel, panhandles to make money, and has reduced her drug addiction to a maintenance dose of methadone, and smoking crack.

"Cheryl is our success story," Bernie Williams, a community activist who knows these streets well, says as she hugs the thin young woman.

Success is a relative thing in the Downtown Eastside.

While Williams is proud of Paul's accomplishments, she says the environment in which her milestones were achieved is getting more dangerous for women.

Williams, a director of the United Native Nations and a former coordinator at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, insists that very little has changed since the February 2002 arrest of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton, charged with murdering 26 women who disappeared off Downtown Eastside streets.

His high-profile first trial, which ended in December with a conviction for six of those murders, resulted in international media attention on Canada's poorest neighbourhood.

And while the negative publicity over the last six years may have sparked governments to make some improvements in the Downtown Eastside, women's lives continue to be in danger, advocates say.

"Nothing's changed. It's gotten worse and worse and worse," Williams says as she and friend Gladys Radek take a Vancouver Sun reporter and photographer on a night-time tour of the Downtown Eastside.

Williams stops in front of Pigeon Park, a stark place of concrete, wooden benches and mayhem. Dozens of people are spreading out belongings and hawking items on a rare rain-free winter evening.

Among them is Paul, a friendly woman born on Vancouver Island, whose life story reads like that of so many other vulnerable people in this troubled area: She says her mother was an addict, she was abused as a child, and she sold sex for seven years to support her drug addictions.

She moved to Vancouver in 2005, following a boyfriend here.

"I was working the streets to support both our habits, and he was stealing. But he left me and I've been by myself ever since. I hit rock bottom."

Naked and alone, she overdosed on heroin in the Carnegie Centre bathroom. She was hospitalized for four days, and was discharged with referrals for drug counselling.

"I was so down and out down here, I thought it was time to quit. I had double pneumonia. I got eaten alive by bedbugs in the alleys," Paul said.

She was accepted to the NAOMI (North American Opiate Medication Initiative) Project, which gave out free prescription heroin with the goal of reducing the harm associated with addiction.

She found a tiny room at the Stanley Hotel, and today is on methadone in her fourth attempt at kicking heroin.

"This time it's been the most successful. I'm proud of myself. I have a place to live. I did it myself."

But she still worries about the violence on the streets, and says some of her friends have disappeared.

Paul learned about loss as a teen. When she lived in Campbell River, she babysat the infant daughter of Marnie Frey.

Frey eventually moved to the Downtown Eastside. Pickton has been convicted of killing her.

"Marnie was always about, at our friend's place. She'd bring over her daughter. All of a sudden she didn't come around anymore. We were all worried," Paul said. "She was gone."

That's a fate Paul doesn't want to meet herself.

Like Frey, three of Williams' friends are on a police poster of 65 women who disappeared from the neighbourhood from 1978 to 2001: Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Dawn Crey.

Pickton was convicted of killing Papin and Wolfe, who vanished in 1999; DNA belonging to Crey, who went missing in 2000, was found on Pickton's Port Coquitlam pig farm, but he was never charged in her case.

Williams fondly recalls "partying" with Papin, an outgoing, street-smart woman. "She was an incredible woman. Short, but a real ball of fire," Williams said.

"Police said since Willie Pickton was arrested, there was no more women missing [from Vancouver]," Williams said. "That's not true."

When asked for proof, she points to bulletin boards at resource centres covered with notices about women who haven't been seen by their friends or relatives.

The Sun saw clogged bulletin boards at WISH (Women's Information Safe House), the Salvation Army and the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre.

Cynthia Low, administrative coordinator at the Women's Centre, argues that sex-trade workers in Metro Vancouver are continuing to meet terrible fates, just as they did in the 1980s and 1990s. If you don't believe the posters papering the notice boards, she says, consider that prostitutes in recent years have disappeared, and some confirmed murdered, in other areas of Canada, including northern B.C., Edmonton and Niagara Falls, Ont.

"Even if you look nationally, internationally, sex-trade workers are targeted because they are vulnerable," says Low, who has been advocating for women here for 16 years.

There are also fears that growing poverty here is forcing more women into the survival sex trade, to support drug habits or children or to pay the bills.

While she praises efforts by Vancouver police in recent years to reach out to those in the Downtown Eastside, Low argues police, politicians and society generally do not have increasing safety for sex-trade workers as a priority.

Sgt. Ron Fairweather has been credited for turning the Vancouver police missing-persons unit from a dysfunctional office that largely ignored families reporting disappearing sex-trade workers in the late 1990s, to one filled with dedicated officers who track down the missing.

He says all 2,893 missing person reports the VPD received in 2007 were resolved, except for one file that was transferred to homicide because investigators believe the man is dead.

Fairweather cautions that some of the missing-people posters in the Downtown Eastside could be posted by worried relatives when a person isn't actually missing, and others could be out of date.

He acknowledges Vancouver streets may be no safer for sex-trade workers today, as their occupation continues to be a "risky, risky activity." However, he insists all missing-persons reports received by his office are followed up immediately.

"Long gone [is] the neanderthal way of thinking, the way things were in the past," he says.

VPD's missing-persons unit also solved all of its 4,004 files in 2006, Fairweather said.

There remain 20 outstanding missing-person files dating from 2002, when Pickton was arrested, to 2005. About eight of those are women but the majority aren't from the Downtown Eastside, Fairweather said.

One who was from the neighbourhood, Candace Giebel, is on some of the posters on the bulletin boards. But Fairweather says Giebel is believed to have left the country with Henry Peters, who is also listed missing.

Another poster in the Downtown Eastside says Michelle Delorme, 21, has been missing since January 2005, something that worried her sister Nicole for three years. The RCMP said they were notified the Burnaby woman was missing in March 2007 but did not put out a news release until two weeks ago - and 24 hours later she was located, alive.

Family members of the 26 women Pickton is accused of killing have long complained police were slow to respond when they reported their relatives missing.

Cpl. Alexandra Mulvihill, who speaks for the Burnaby RCMP, says there is no policy on when a missing person bulletin is issued, noting officers must balance a woman's safety with her right to privacy, and without inundating the public with bulletins.

In Delorme's case, police waited to ask for the public's help until they got evidence she might still be alive, Mulvihill said.

Jamie Lee Hamilton, a former Downtown Eastside sex-trade worker who is now a community activist, recently made a list of about 20 women she believes were involved in the sex trade, and who have been murdered or disappeared from Metro Vancouver since Pickton's arrest in 2002.

The list, compiled over the last six months with the assistance of a Simon Fraser University student, proves that violence against sex-trade workers did not dissipate once the Port Coquitlam pig farm was removed from the streets, Hamilton argues.

"We're trying to draw attention to the violence continuing," said Hamilton, who is more critical than some of the police response to sex-trade workers going missing.

She says the violence cuts across generations.

Hamilton runs a program with Vancouver Native Health for young people who were sexually exploited.

"One of the missing women, Michelle Gurney, her niece is in my program," Hamilton says.

Gurney, who disappeared in 1998, is on the poster of 65 missing women, but Pickton has not been charged in her case.

Hamilton's list includes Ramona Shuler of Fort Nelson, who was 36 when she was last seen in 2003. Several other women whose names are on the list are still profiled on various websites dedicated to women who have disappeared, but RCMP spokeswoman Const. Annie Linteau said they no longer show as missing in the police computer system.

The list also includes women whose disappearances or murders remain unsolved: Danielle Larue, missing from Vancouver since 2002; Michelle Choiniere, of Surrey, whose skeletal remains were found last year; and Margaret Redford, whose body was found in an Aldergrove creek in 2006.

Davey Butorac, an Aldergrove man, was charged last month with the murders of two Surrey sex-trade workers, and is a suspect in Redford's death.

Linteau said the Missing Women Task Force investigates those whose names appear on the missing women poster, who all went missing before 2002. Women who have disappeared since Pickton's arrest are investigated by police forces where they are reported missing.

Hamilton and others argue there is anecdotal evidence that the number of women who are vulnerable on the streets is on the rise.

During The Sun's walking tour, dozens of people were sleeping on the streets - in sleeping bags, tents or lean-tos made of cardboard or plastic.

In Blood Alley, between Cordova and Water streets, rats scurried past a dozen people slumbering on the pavement.

Near a cluster of tents, under an overhang across from the Army & Navy department store, a young woman used a car's side mirror to apply lipstick as she gyrated on the sidewalk, bumming smokes.

"These are women who are mentally challenged," said Williams, who walks through the Downtown Eastside, checking bars and alleys for women in trouble, nearly every night.

"They remind me of Sereena Abotsway. Vulnerable women are being preyed on down here."

Abotsway, a well-known character in the area, was described by her foster mother as having the mind of a child. Pickton was convicted of her murder.

In the city-run Evelyne Saller Centre, about 50 people are watching TV on a cold February evening. In the back are six showers where the homeless can wash, delouse, and have their jackets and shoes sprayed to kill bedbugs. Seventy-three people had showers the day The Sun visited, a relatively slow day, according to the staff.

Employees use seven washing machines and dryers to do 85 to 100 loads of laundry daily in the winter, 130 to 140 loads in the summer - a big increase over the past few years.

Darlene Rowley, an attractive, outgoing woman, has spent time living and working the streets of the Downtown Eastside, a place she describes as rough and abusive. She has struggled for years with a drug addiction - her ups and downs are captured by the Vancouver police "Odd Squad" in its Blue Lens films - but she has been clean about four weeks and is trying to kick the habit for good this time.

During her first meeting with The Sun, she was in severe withdrawal and her eyelids were so heavy that just a thin strip of her green eyes peeked out. Her finger moved slowly across the 65 faces staring back at her from the police's missing women poster, and she painfully pointed to five she recognized.

"I remember Sarah, when she went," Rowley said of Sarah deVries, who vanished in 1998. "Everyone was upset. It was a big deal. She was a pretty girl. She dressed nice. ... I just remember her always being happy-go-lucky, smiling."

Pickton is charged with murdering deVries.

Rowley's eyes stop on the next face she recalls: Sheila Egan, who disappeared in 1998. Pickton has not been charged in her case.

Rowley and Egan lived in the same Downtown Eastside hotel. Rowley has fond memories of Egan's crazy sense of humour, but also recalls picking up her freckle-faced, blond-haired friend when she was dope-sick, nursing her back to health with food and small doses of heroin.

"She was a really nice girl and we'd phone her mom to tell her Sheila was okay," Rowley said.

But eventually Egan wasn't okay, and Rowley, 43, wonders why she is still here and her friend is not.

"It makes me sad because it could very well be me ... because of the predicaments I put myself in, because of my lifestyle. It's crazy. It's the chances I took," she said. "I'm lucky that I didn't go missing. It could have been me."

Wednesday: Rowley tries to stay clean in detox. Critics say there aren't enough resources to help women when they want to get off drugs.

© Vancouver Sun

Slain prostitute part of growing sex trade in Northern Alberta

Vice followed oil boom, driven by 'lots of men with lots of money'

Trish Audette

The Edmonton Journal


Monday, February 25, 2008


After she was found dead, the people who knew Theresa Merrie Innes couldn't remember the last time they saw her.

The known prostitute had slipped away from family and friends,

an anonymous drug addict working the bars of High Level. The town of 4,000 is home to the oil and gas industry, logging and lots of men with lots of money.

"There's all kinds of money up there," says JoAnn McCartney, a former Edmonton vice officer who is now an outreach worker with the city's Prostitution Action and Awareness Foundation.

"You can choose between standing on a corner here when it's 25 below or go up there and hang out in a bar where it's warm, and make more money."

The 36-year-old Innes was known to work as a prostitute in oil-rich Zama City, about an hour's drive north of High Level.

As the cash from the oil and gas industry flowed into northwest Albertan communities, so did the sex trade and social problems more commonly seen in larger cities. In Grande Prairie, there is a neighbourhood where as many as 40 female prostitutes wander in search of customers.

"Through the boom, we've seen this area increase in the last couple years," says Karen Gariepy, with Grande Prairie's Community Action on Crime Prevention.

Grande Prairie outreach workers say more escort agencies are popping up as a number of young men and women exchange sex for drugs, housing, food or even iPods.

"A few years ago, that was exceptionally rare," RCMP Const. Scott Hagarty says.

Grande Prairie's population growth was one reason that in 2005 the RCMP started working with community organizations to deal with the sex trade.

The other reason had more to do with Edmonton, where more than a dozen women once involved in the sex trade had disappeared.

"My big fear was whatever was happening in Edmonton, that person or persons (would) think they were under a lot of scrutiny in Edmonton, under Project Kare, and (they would) move to Grande Prairie," Hagarty says.

In the past 20 years, at least 16 Edmonton women have been killed. On Friday, the body of another sex-trade worker was found in Strathcona County.

Most of the slayings remain unsolved. Many are investigated by Project Kare, a specialized RCMP-led team created to get to the bottom of the deaths and disappearances of Albertans whose lifestyles put them at high risk.

Going north to work as a prostitute is no more dangerous than staying in the city, says a 48-year-old Edmonton escort named Monica.

She wonders if Innes went to High Level to get away. "Maybe the heat was on too heavy here in Edmonton."

Why stay where you're not wanted, she asks, when you could be somewhere no one cares about what you do?

Monica said she has been "in and out of prostitution" for about three decades. She says working up north makes good business sense.

"It's purely economics, really. There's a lot more money to be made in Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie because there's a lot less competition (and) that's where the men are."

How much money can be made "depends on the girl, her attitude, her energy levels, her marketing skills."

Often escort agencies send the youngest, newest women to places such as High Level. But Monica knows few independent escorts who choose to hit the road. It's a lot of money to spend with no guarantees -- the market may be good, but there's no calendar showing the perfect season to time a business trip.

Tracy Peltz is an outreach worker with HIV North, which provides counselling services and condoms, many times to sex-trade workers.

She has noticed some of the women who once called Grande Prairie home move further north. "I don't really know why. They don't really explain that. Some are just transient, they like to move around."

Hagarty, the RCMP officer, visits

the companies that bring large groups of men for work in northern communities.

Recently, he told about 200 employees at a company about Neighbourhood Watch efforts in Grande Prairie. Residents there have started taking pictures of the vehicles -- including company cars and trucks -- that stop to pick up prostitutes. The residents then forward those pictures to company head offices.

"As I was talking, I was scanning

the crowd. I could see a few guys, you could see their eyes getting wider, like, 'uh-oh,' " Hagarty says.

The warning is just part of the message he wants these men to hear.

"It's just not some nameless person performing an act. This is a person."

Innes had two sons, one who is now a teenager and one in his early 20s. She also had parents, who now live in Edmonton. A brother lives in the east end.

She had brown eyes, and as a girl she was described as bubbly, full of life. She grew up in British Columbia's Lower Mainland, moved to Nanaimo and then to Edmonton.

In the capital, she came to roam Little Italy as a prostitute. She also sought help and appeared to want to start out fresh, to escape.

In High Level she was discreet. Some women pass out business cards in the bars attached to booked-solid motels, but that wasn't her style.

Innes drank coffee and avoided alcohol while working. She went by the names of Terri or Theresa Goodwin. She was addicted to crack cocaine. People on the street called her Twitchy.

Her mother, Beverley, reported her missing to Edmonton police on March 16, 2006, almost two months before her body was found stuffed into a hockey bag in a Fort Saskatchewan home.

Thomas George Svekla is on trial in connection to Innes's slaying and the death of Rachel Liz Quinney in 2004.

taudette@thejournal.canwest.como

© The Edmonton Journal 2008


Sunday, February 24

Dan Rather Reports, A Safe Place to Shoot Up


Dan Rather Reports

A Safe Place to Shoot Up

Vancouver, Canada is often called one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It will host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. But it is also home to the highest HIV rate in the western world. And the city is supporting a controversial measure that allows for a safe place to inject drugs and, they hope, lower the risk of AIDS transmission. Also, as the presidential campaign moves to Ohio, more controversy over voting machines.
Watch the show online:

Saturday, February 23

Frey family speaks out against 'legal brothels'


Updated: Sat Feb. 23 2008

The Frey family is speaking out against a proposed 'legal safe haven' for sex trade workers.

Rick and Lynn Frey lost their daughter, Marnie, after she disappeared from the streets of the Downtown Eastside in August of 1997. Her remains were later found on convicted killer Robert Pickton's pig farm, a trial that was emotionally grueling for them to have to face.

Lynn Frey told CTV News she doesn't agree a brothel would be a safe place for sex trade workers.

"It just doesn't make any sense to me," she said. "Women are still going to be used and abused whether they're in a safe place or they're in a brothel or wherever they are. What goes on behind closed doors, who knows?"

Sex trade worker Susan Davis is advocating the idea for a brothel as a safe place for sex trade workers, partly as a result of Pickton's victims and partly out of a desire to give women a safer place to do business.

"They are engaged in the trade in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in North America, as far as this is concerned," she said. "(And) with the mortality rate, which is outrageous."

The Freys do not agree with the link between the Pickton victims and Davis' brothel proposal.
"It makes me angry," said Rick Frey. "God, the people out there now, you go down to the East end now and look at the people on the streets, the women on the streets, and how they're being used and abused and until we clean up that part of the problem, the prostitute problem is not going to change."

But experts say sex workers like Marnie Frey who survived on their trade would never have been allowed in a so-called legal brothel in the first place. That kind of brothel would be geared more towards women who have chosen prostitution, as opposed to those who are forced into the industry as a means to survive.

The Freys do not see the distinction -- they see it as exploitation.

The Conservative government has already refused the idea, so Davis' proposal does not have much potential -- for now.

But the idea will likely come up again with an expected increase in the number of sex trade workers leading up to 2010.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Stephen Smart
Do you have more information for us on this story? Email us at mailto:bcassign@ctv.ca?subject=More

Slain sex trade worker identified


Found dead on acreage

By Sun Media
February 23, 2008

The slain sex trade worker whose body was dumped on an acreage east of the city was 21-year-old Brianna Danielle Torvalson, of Edmonton.

Her body was found Thursday beside a private driveway on an acreage located near Township Road 534 and Range Road 220.

RCMP are investigating her death, as are detectives with Project KARE - a joint task force looking into the deaths and disappearances of several people who led high-risk lifestyles.

An autopsy has been completed, but police are not releasing the cause of death.

Police say Torvalson worked as a prostitute, but they don't know for how long.

She was not registered with Project KARE.

They are looking to hear from anyone who knew her.

Torvalson was 5-foot-6, 120-pounds with red hair and green eyes.

Anyone who may have had recent contact with her is asked to call Strathcona County RCMP at 467-7741 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Copyright © 2007, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 22

RCMP need the public's help with the latest homicide

Sex trade slay
RCMP need the public’s help with the latest homicide

By KEVIN CRUSH, SUN MEDIA

February 22, 2008

Word that a body found in a Strathcona County field was a prostitute is building frustration in the sex trade.

“They’re free game out here,” said sex trade worker Carol-Lynn Strachan.

Strathcona County RCMP confirmed Friday that a body found near a rural driveway Thursday morning was that of a 21-year-old woman who had some involvement in the sex trade industry.
They said her death was a homicide.

The discovery occurred in the shadow of the trial of accused prostitute killer Thomas Svekla.

“Right after Svekla was picked up, we still had women being left in our fields,” said Strachan. “Do they have no other possible subjects? No other people of interest? They must. Why haven’t they been arrested? Why are the girls’ statements being ignored?”

A homeowner at Range Road 220 and Township Road 534 made the discovery while outside just before 11 a.m.

Mounties don’t believe the body had been there for very long because the nearby driveway is used regularly.

An autopsy was completed Friday morning and while RCMP have said it is a homicide, they are not releasing the cause of death.

The woman’s identity has also not been released.

Cpl. Darren Anderson of the Strathcona County RCMP said the woman was not registered with Project KARE, but she has been entered into police systems. He said she was involved in the sex trade but it is not known to what extent.

Project KARE is involved in the case.

The discovery is one of a series of bodies of sex-trade workers that have been found in the Edmonton area. Anderson said it is too early to say whether they’re related.

“If you’re involved in that high-risk lifestyle, there are any numbers of risks that somebody could face and to jump to the conclusion they are in any way related to any previous investigations under Project KARE is very premature.”

Former vice-cop JoAnn McCartney, who is now involved in court diversion programs for prostitutes, said the latest news may only cause more problems.

“It does sound ripples. It makes them scared and that means they want to get high because that’s the only way they know how to cope with anything.”

Using drugs to forget their fears only leads to more prostitution, said McCartney, adding that after previous body finds, there were actually more women on the streets trying to get more drugs to cope with their fears.

She said a lack of social programs means the women have nowhere else to turn.

McCartney also pointed out the killing may not have been by a john. In some cases, these killings may be by drug dealers that have been crossed, she said.

Strachan said programs targeting johns are backfiring and just making the sex trade more dangerous.

Towing johns’ cars or Report-a-John programs forces transactions to take place in dark alleys or behind bushes. That, she said, leaves the women more vulnerable as they have less time to assess if a date appears safe.

RCMP are asking for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area between Wednesday night and Thursday morning to call police at 467-7741 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

kevin.crush@sunmedia.ca

Frey family against co-op brothel plan

By MATT KIELTYKA, 24 HOURS
February 22, 2008

She may be incorporated, but local sex-trade worker Susan Davis still has many hurdles to jump before her envisioned co-op brothel sees the day of light.

Consider Lynn Frey, the mother of Marnie Frey - one of Robert Pickton's murder victims - as one of those obstacles.

"I'm completely opposed to it," said Frey from her Vancouver Island home. "I don't see why [Davis] would say a brothel would have saved my daughter's life."

Frey believes any prostitution, whether it's on the street or in a brothel, opens the door to abuse against women and doesn't want her late daughter's name to be associated with decriminalization.

"Leave Marnie out of it. This isn't her legacy as a person," Frey said. "I personally don't believe it would have mattered where they work, there are still serial killers out there that can pick them off outside on the street."

Instead of giving survival sex-trade workers a place to do tricks, Frey wants the focus to be on treating drug addiction and getting women out of that lifestyle.

Davis stands by her claim that a brothel would help women in the same situation Pickton's victims found themselves in.

"It would provide them some place safer so that they don't have to go out to a farm in Coquitlam to turn tricks," she said.

VANCOUVER 24 hours
http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/News/2008/02/22/4867326-sun.html

Thursday, February 21

To Anyone Using Our Daughter's Legacy, Rick & Lynn Frey, parents of Marnie Frey speak out


It has come to our attention that there is a group of people who wish to legalize prostitution and set up a brothel in Vancouver. As the parents of Marnie Frey, who was murdered by Robert "Willie" Pickton, we believe that both these ideas are very dangerous recommendations.

Our daughter was forced into prostitution because of the need to feed her addiction to drugs. To think of prostitution as a 'job' and treat it as such is ridiculous. I am disgusted to think that anyone would think that prostitution is a job. It is not.

It is violence against women.

Neither legalizing prostitution nor having a brothel would have prevented the murder of our daughter. The women of the Downtown Eastside need meaningful solutions to their addictions.

We tried on numerous occasions to have Marnie admitted to drug rehabilitation facilities, but found that to be very difficult because of the chronic lack of beds and funding for such places.
When an addict reaches out for help, the resources should be available immediately. To think the best we can do for these women is giving them a safe place to sell their bodies is a joke. There is no such thing as a "clean safe place" to be abused in.

For a man to think he can buy a woman's body is insane, and should show us the attitudes that women have to fight against in society. Marnie did not choose prostitution; her addictions did, and any man who bought her body for their sexual pleasure should go to jail for exploiting her desperation.

What we need are facilities to get women off and away from drugs and keep other young girls from this horrible lifestyle by helping them when they are still young. Anything else would be a cop out and further fuel the abuse of women as playthings for men, who prey on sick, disadvantaged and hurting women.

My wife and I feel the legalization of prostitution and/or a brothel is not the answer. We ask that you IMMEDIATELY stop using the name and memory of our daughter to fight for a brothel or to legalize prostitution.

Marnie's name CAN be used to fight for more detox beds, more recovery beds, funding for long term counseling, making it illegal for men to buy the use of women's bodies and enforcing these laws. Her legacy CAN help in the fight towards women's equality, which cannot happen as long as we keep our women for sale.

We know we have a lot of support from other families of Pickton's victim's, in the community as well as across our Nation, who feel as we do. Prostitution in no way should be accepted as normal or legalized.

Yours truly,
Rick and Lynn Frey (Parents of Marnie Frey)

Tuesday, February 19

Shocking video opens Svekla trial

Crown says the case is circumstantial


By TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU


Delia Quinney, mother of an alleged victim of Thomas Svekla, Rachel Quinney, stands outside court today with a poster of her daughter. (Sun Media)

February 19, 2008

Gasps of shock, tears and visible anger greeted a video showing the mutilated body of a slain prostitute played on the first day of Thomas Svekla’s double-murder trial.

Crying relatives of slaying victim Rachel Quinney, 19, including her mother Delia and sister, hugged each other and victims services staff passed around tissues after the graphic five-minute video ended today's evidence.

Looking angrily over towards where Svekla sat in the prisoners’ box, a teary Delia Quinney stood with her crutches and said she “better never see pictures like that again.”

Charlotte Lajimodiere, who is married to Quinney’s brother, said the family had never seen the footage before and it was lucky her husband wasn’t in court to view it.

The family all wore black hoodies embroidered with Rachel Quinney’s name and the words “In living memory.”

The police video began with a view of a heavily treed area in Strathcona County and eventually came to rest on the spot where Quinney’s naked and mutilated body lay.

Svekla, the 39-year-old former mechanic who is facing two charges of second-degree murder and two charges of interfering with human remains, did not watch as the close-up was displayed on several computers in the courtroom.

Court has earlier heard Svekla reported finding Quinney’s body in 2004, but told police he wasn’t involved in her death and said he stumbled upon the body while smoking crack cocaine with another prostitute nearby.

Court has also heard Quinney’s breasts and genitalia had been removed.

The much anticipated trial, scheduled to last until June, began with Svekla quietly entering pleas of “not guilty” and was followed by the Crown’s opening statement.

In a nutshell, the Crown intends to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Thomas Svekla murdered Rachel Quinney and that Thomas Svekla murdered Theresa Innes,” said lead prosecutor Ashley Finlayson.

The veteran prosecutor told a packed courtroom it is a circumstantial case and no cause of death has been determined for either victim, both local sex-trade workers.

We do not have a confession,” said Finlayson. “We do not have an eyewitness saying that Thomas Svekla murdered either individual.”

However, the prosecutor said the Crown will call more than 120 witnesses during the scheduled four-month trial and play intercepted phone calls made by Svekla and recordings of police interviews and conversations the accused killer had with undercover officers.

Finlayson told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman that he will be asked to make certain “inferences” from some of the evidence.

That includes the mutilation of Quinney’s body and the allegation that Svekla transported Innes’ body in a hockey bag from High Level to Fort Saskatchewan and claimed it contained compost worms, said Finlayson.

As well, the prosecutor said inferences can be drawn from statements made by Svekla in a polygraph examination taken after Quinney’s body was found.

While Svekla denied being involved in Quinney’s death, he said during the polygraph “I see myself doing that.”

Then, two years later, Svekla was found with a body in a hockey bag, noted Finlayson.

The Crown will also be tendering “similar fact evidence,” said Finlayson, one of three prosecutors on the case.

Regarding the Innes slaying, Finlayson revealed the body of the 36-year-old prostitute was “elaborately” wrapped in three distinct layers with each layer bound with wire.

He said a shower curtain and a deflated air mattress made up two layers and alleged both objects belonged to Svekla. The third layer consisted of garbage bags.

RCMP Cpl. Douglas Standing, an expert in forensic identification, testified about police being called on May 8, 2006, to the Fort Saskatchewan home of Svekla’s sister where Innes’ body was in a hockey bag in the garage.

Standing told court police were unable to find any usable fingerprints on any of the wrappings.

Police allege Innes was slain earlier in High Level and her body was transported by Svekla the 700 km to Fort Saskatchewan inside the hockey bag.

Svekla is the first person to be charged by Project KARE, an RCMP-led task force investigating the deaths and disappearances of people who lead high-risk lifestyles, including more than a dozen Edmonton-area prostitutes.

Police say Svekla is a suspect in six other killings and two disappearances.


Victims in Edmonton prostitutes murdered trial were human, had families: Crown


The Canadian Press
February 19, 2008

EDMONTON - Thomas Svekla, a 39-year-old mechanic accused of killing two Edmonton prostitutes and interfering with their bodies, formally declared his innocence Tuesday on two counts of second-degree murder.

"Not guilty," he said twice in a small, tight voice as his trial began before a judge in Court of Queen's Bench.

The Crown's case against Svekla is purely circumstantial, admitted chief prosecutor Ashley Finlayson.

There will be no confessions and no witnesses, and investigators aren't even sure what killed Rachel Quinney, 19, and Theresa Innes, 36.

"There is no visible injury to which death can be attributed," Finlayson said.

But before he began entering the evidence the Crown does have - which includes a black hockey bag that was stuffed with Innes's tightly wrapped body - he reminded the court of who the victims were.

Although both women were sex trade workers, "that designation shouldn't define their lives," Finlayson said.

"Each person had a life and a family."

RCMP Cpl. Doug Standing repeated evidence previously made public that Innes's body was found in May 2006 at the home of Svekla's sister in Fort Saskatchewan, northeast of Edmonton. She had taken the bag out of the back of her brother's pickup. The victim had been wrapped in a shower curtain, three orange garbage bags tightly wound with wire and a deflated air mattress before she was stuffed into the bag.

Standing testified that extensive efforts failed to deliver any usable fingerprints on any of the wrappings. Nor was any evidence of blood found in vehicles associated with Svekla, said Standing.

Svekla reported finding Quinney's body in a field in 2004, but it wasn't until two years later that he was charged with murdering both her and Innes.

Throughout the testimony, several members of Quinney's family listened attentively, wearing matching black hoodies embroidered "In loving memory, Rachel Quinney."

The atmosphere in court was intent but quiet.

The trial of Svekla - whom police suspect in six other killings and two disappearances - is expected to last until June. It will be a defining moment for Project Kare, a massive RCMP investigation that has been working since the fall of 2003 to close dozens of unsolved murder and missing persons cases, some dating back decades, involving people with high-risk lifestyles.

The investigation has about 35 Edmonton-area missing persons files and 18 unsolved killings of prostitutes. Since 1988, the bodies of eight women have been found east of Edmonton, and police have said that they suspect a serial killer is responsible for at least some of the murders.

Just this past weekend, RCMP said two more women who were last seen three years ago at West Edmonton Mall have been added to the missing list.

Advocates for prostitutes and aboriginal women have welcomed the prominence Project Kare has given the issue of missing women, saying it's rare that offences against such women ever result in charges.

Svekla, who was charged with Innes's death shortly after discovery of the hockey bag, sat expressionless and showed no reaction throughout Tuesday's testimony.

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Copyright © 2008 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



Vancouver's gritty close-up. Dan Rather Reports


TELEVISION: DAN RATHER REPORTS

Working with students from UBC's Graduate School of Journalism, former CBS anchor Dan Rather takes an unflinching look at the drug-riddled Downtown Eastside for his newsmagazine show

MARSHA LEDERMAN
February 19, 2008
Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- When Dan Rather arrived in Vancouver last fall to do a story about the notoriously troubled Downtown Eastside, he was armed with piles of research provided by journalism students at the University of British Columbia.

"This was not a case where the school lent its name to it and we did most of the work," Rather said during an interview last week from New York. "[The students] did a lot of the work."

The result of that collaboration, A Safe Place to Shoot Up, profiles the not-so-photogenic side of Vancouver with visuals you won't see in any tourism brochure or Olympic marketing campaign. Rather greets viewers at the show's opening, "Good evening from beautiful Vancouver, Canada," but the initial shots of scenic English Bay, the North Shore mountains and sandy beaches quickly give way to scenes from the streets and alleyways of the Downtown Eastside, where syringes litter sidewalks, sex workers await customers and drug addicts shoot up in broad daylight.

Rather calls it "a city of contrasts" in his report, describing "a landscape studded with snow-capped mountains and multimillion-dollar condos cradling a downtown that's home to one of the worst urban blights in North America." He cites stunning statistics from the United Nations: One in three residents of the Downtown Eastside is HIV-positive, and the rate of hepatitis C infection is 70 per cent.

The plight of the Downtown Eastside is not exactly news to Vancouverites. The area, in fact, is often a first stop for journalists - or journalism students - new to the city, and looking for a good story to tell.

But this time, the story is being fronted by a celebrity journalist and will get international airplay on HDNet, a television network based in Dallas, which also streams already-aired stories online. So Vancouver's reputation as the most livable city in the world (a title, the story notes, the city has earned repeatedly) may be in for a little tarnishing.

Rather, 76, is a veteran journalist who has covered events ranging from wars and elections to the John F. Kennedy assassination. He joined HDNet in 2006, a year after his bitter departure from long-time employer CBS.

Rather is now suing CBS, arguing the network and its executives made him a scapegoat for a questionable story that aired about President George W. Bush's military service. He is expecting a ruling to be made soon - possibly this week - in CBS's move to have the case dismissed. At the same time, the legal discovery process is continuing.

"I have no illusions about this," Rather says. "I knew going into it that it would be a long, hard, expensive road [with] odds against."

Rather said he's focusing not on the lawsuit but on his new show, which launched on HDNet three months ago.

The idea for A Safe Place to Shoot Up came from the advanced TV class at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. Hoping to introduce his second-year masters students to the real world of working journalism, associate professor (and long-time 60 Minutes producer) Peter Klein developed a course in which students would spend a semester producing an item for Dan Rather Reports. The students were each asked to come up with a story idea for the show.

Ten pitches were whittled down to three, and those were presented to Rather and his producers. They chose to tell the story of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The students then got to work - doing research, lining up interviews, writing questions for Rather to ask.

"A number of them have said it was the highlight of their journalism education experience," says Klein. "I think initially there was that star quality, anticipating working with a star journalist ... [but] there was a wonderful rapport between them and I think they lost that sort of starry-eyed thing really quickly."

To the students, "Mr. Rather" became "Dan" and eventually they felt comfortable making suggestions to the highly experienced reporter. "He was really like the farthest from a prima donna - really easy going," Klein says.

The half-hour of television focuses heavily on the safe-injection site for drug addicts, but also touches on homelessness, a plan by sex workers to open a prostitute-run brothel, the trial of mass-murderer Robert Pickton and the proposal being touted by Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan known as CAST (Chronic Addiction Substitute Treatment) that would see addicts get their drugs from pharmacies rather than on the street. Lurking in the background is the spectre of the Winter Olympics, two years away.

Before shooting this story, Rather had been to Vancouver many times. But he had never before walked the streets of the Downtown Eastside. When he did last November, even after extensive research, he was still surprised by what he saw - in particular how far the squalid neighbourhood stretches.

"It's impossible to spend time [in the Downtown Eastside] and not wonder to oneself how such a crime-ridden, poverty-devastated area could exist side by side and literally right in the midst of what is clearly a wealthy community," Rather says. "Very few places in the world would ... have those contrasts, literally cheek by jowl."

He was impressed, though, with the thinking-outside-the-box attempts at solutions, and by the idealism displayed by those trying to clean up the city's problems - from the volunteers at the safe injection site all the way up to the mayor's office.

"As a journalist, I try hard not to be cynical, but part of my job is to be skeptical.... Do I think the problems can be addressed in the main and overall and substantially between now and Olympic time? I have my doubts," he says. "I'd love to be proven wrong."

A Safe Place to Shoot Up on Dan Rather Reports airs on HDNet today at 8 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. PT.

© Copyright 2008 CTV globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 18

Missing women join list

Two from B.C. last seen at West Edmonton Mall; relied on hitchhiking to travel

By RENATO GANDIA, SUN MEDIA

February 18, 2008

A young Fort St. John mother and a Dawson Creek teenager, both B.C. hitchhikers, have been added to Project KARE's list of missing persons in Alberta - following three years of police investigation.


RCMP Cpl. Wayne Oakes speaks to the media after releasing details on the disappearances of two young women, for whom Project KARE investigators are looking. (Duncan Kinney/Special to Sun Media)

The RCMP-led task force is looking for clues in the suspicious disappearances of Rene Lynn Gunning and Krystle Ann Julia Knott, who both vanished Feb. 18, 2005.

"What has been frustrating is the amount of time that it has taken to get to the point where investigators are confident in the information that leads them to believe these two young women went missing either directly from West Edmonton Mall or at the very least that's the last known location they have been seen," said Cpl. Wayne Oakes.

B.C. Mounties put out a series of press releases in 2005 following a report Gunning was missing. But Knott's file was only created recently by Project KARE when it became involved in the case last July.

"Three years is a really long time to be gathering information, especially if they were called in missing three years ago," said Danielle Boudreau, whose friend Rachel Quinney, 19, was found slain in a field east of the city in June 2004.

"When nobody says anything, you don't really know what's happening. They could be in Germany or their bodies may be decaying somewhere. Who knows?" asked Boudreau, who organized a memorial for missing women Feb. 14. "Three years is a long time for a trail to go cold."

Oakes emphasized that cops didn't wait three years to release the information.

"It took that amount of time to gather the information," he told reporters. "You can't release what you don't have."

Police believe Gunning, who was 19 when she vanished, and Knott, then 16 years old, were not involved in the sex trade but they were living a high-risk lifestyle because they relied on hitchhiking while travelling between northern B.C. and Alberta.

Project KARE became involved with the case because the two may have become victims of violent crime.

On Feb. 17, 2005, Gunning hitchhiked from Fort St. John via Grande Prairie and eventually arrived at West Edmonton Mall on Feb. 18.

Gunning was last seen at the mall with Knott, who had arrived in Edmonton earlier in the month.

That day, they both told their respective friends they were going to hitchhike back to Fort St. John or Dawson Creek.

They haven't been heard from since.

Oakes said it's not known if the pair actually left the mall area on Feb. 18.

Gunning was described as five-foot-two and 111 pounds, with black hair and tattoos of a moon and star on her back.

Knott is five-foot-one and 121 pounds, with black hair, a heart tattooed on her ankle and pierced lower lip and ears.

Anyone with information is asked to call Project KARE at 1-877-412-5273 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).


Sunday, February 17

Missing and slain women remembered



By NICKI THOMAS, SUN MEDIA
February 17, 2008

Emotions ran high last night as the families and friends of murdered and missing women were joined by almost 200 supporters for a memorial march in their honour.

Organizer Danielle Boudreau choked back tears as she thanked the crowd for coming to the third annual march, which she brought to Edmonton after her friend Rachel Quinney, 19, was found slain in a field east of the city in June 2004.

A similar march has been held in Vancouver every Valentine's Day since 1992 to draw attention to the large number of women missing from that city's Downtown Eastside.

"Though they can't walk with us, they are among us," said Morningstar Mercredi, who kicked off a series of speeches at the Sacred Heart Parish at 10821 96 St., where people gathered after the march from City Hall.

"Our sisters want to be remembered for the joy they brought us," she said. "Though we mourn, though we grieve, let's celebrate their lives, too, and remember our sisters who are still out there."

Cynthia Cardinal, whose sister Georgina Papin was one of the six women Robert Pickton was convicted of killing on his suburban Vancouver pig farm, said the march is an opportunity for families to come together and support each other. "Sometimes you feel so alone, like nobody understands," she said.

At the march, "you know you're not by yourself," said Bonnie Fowler, another of Papin's sisters.
The march - which was attended by city councillors Linda Sloan and Amerjeet Sohi - is growing in size every year, said Boudreau.

Mayor Stephen Mandel sent 51 red roses to symbolize the murdered and missing women, she added.


morningstarwarriorwomen

RCMP COLD CASE FILES - UNSOLVED HOMICIDES

As each day passes, an already cold case grows a little colder. Memories fade and with them the chances of solving the crime.

Your assistance could make the difference. If you have any information at all that you can share, please contact us. Help us bring these criminals to justice and bring closure to the family and friends of the victims.

John Doe: www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/missing_persons/doe_john-2_e.htm
John Doe:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/missing_persons/doe_john_e.htm
Karthryn-Mary HERBERT (SUTTON):
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/herbert_e.htm
Michael MASSON:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/masson_e.htm
Shawna VANDERBASCH:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/vanderbasch_e.htm
Alfred and Dolores PALMER:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/palmer_e.htm
Roberta FERGUSON:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/ferguson_roberta_e.htm
Jennifer CUSWORTH:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/cusworth_jennifer_e.htm

COLD CASE FILES:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/index_e.htm

Ramona Lisa WILSON:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/wilson_ramona_e.htm
Victoria Lynn YOUNKER:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/younker_victoria_e.htm
Tammy Lee PIPE (aka: Starr):
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/pipe_tammy_e.htm
Tracy Fadola OLAJIDE:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/olajide_tracy_e.htm
Shizuo KADO:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/kado_shizuo_e.htm
Rhona Margaret DUNCAN:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/duncan_rhona_e.htm
David Jon Malloy:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/molloy_david_e.htm
Lindsey Jill NICHOLLS:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/nicholls_lindsey_e.htm

COLD CASE FILES:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/index_e.htm

Kelly Jane Evelyn COOK:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/cook_kelly_e.htm
Tara Jane WHITE:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/white_tara_e.htm
Pauline Elizabeth BRAZEAU:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/brazeau_pauline_e.htm
Elaine KRAUSHER:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/krausher_elaine_e.htm
Joanne Marie PEDERSON:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/pederson_joanne_e.htm
Jane and Cathryn JOHNSON:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/johnson_jane_cathryn_e.htm
Melissa Ann REHOREK:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/rehorek_melissa_e.htm
Barbara Jean MACLEAN:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/maclean_barbara_e.htm

COLD CASE FILES:
www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cold_case/index_e.htm

Flickr Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshuatree