Friday, April 30

Michael Briscoe charged with murder of sex-trade worker

Already awaiting new trial in Courtepatte killing


April 30, 2010

michael briscoe EDMONTON — Michael Briscoe, already facing a new trial in the rape and murder of Nina Courtepatte, has now been charged with first-degree murder in the 2005 death of sex-trade worker Ellie May Meyer.

Briscoe, 39, was already in police custody when he was charged this morning. There is no word on his first court appearance.

Meyer, 33, was found dead in a field east of Edmonton on May 6, 2005. The last confirmed sighting of her was on April 1, 2005. She was one of several sex-trade workers found around Edmonton.

Project Kare, an RCMP task force formed to look at those murders, has been investigating her death ever since. Joseph Laboucan, 24, was charged with first-degree murder in Meyer’s death last year. His preliminary hearing was held this month.

Courtepatte, 13, was found on a golf course west of the city on April 4, 2005, two days after Meyer was last seen on Edmonton’s streets.

ellie may meyer

Ellie May Meyer

Briscoe was the only one of five charged in Courtepatte’s murder to walk away a free man. However, he was placed back in custody in April when the Supreme Court of Canada determined he would stand trial again for first-degree murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping.

“Even Briscoe’s own statements to police, on which the trial judge relied heavily, suggest that he had a strong, well-founded suspicion that someone would be killed at the golf course, and he may have been wilfully blind to the kidnapping and prospect of sexual assault,” the supreme court said in its decision.

Laboucan was convicted of first-degree murder in Courtepatte’s death.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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Sunday, April 25

NamUs – National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

Published: 09:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 13, 2010
One step closer (maybe) to finding Billy Smolinski
billy_smolinski Billy Smolinski quarrelled with his much-older girlfriend on their Florida vacation about calls she was getting on her cell phone. It turns out they were from the woman's other lover -- a married guy she had no intention of dumping.

By the time they flew back to Connecticut, Smolinski and Madeleine Gleason were history. Smolinski returned home. He unpacked the suitcases he had borrowed from his folks. Forty-eight hours later, on Aug. 24, 2004, at 2:59 p.m., he bought lunch at Burger King. Then a neighbor claims the 31-year-old tow-truck operator and bus driver asked him to take care of his dog for a couple of days.

That's the last time anybody saw Smolinski. The next morning the neighbor couldn't find a key that was supposed to be hidden outside Smolinski's home, so he was unable to feed the dog. Meanwhile, Smolinski's truck was still at the house, only it was parked in a spot he never used.

Right away, Smolinski's parents wanted to file a missing person's report, but the Waterbury Police Department refused, saying they would have to wait three days because that's how long the neighbor claimed Smolinski would be away.

To its credit, the department has since changed its protocol. If someone wants to report an adult missing, its officers will launch an investigation on the spot. Law enforcement agencies always say that the first minutes and hours are critical in locating a missing person. Leads have a way of going cold. So it was three days later before any investigation into Smolinski's whereabouts even started. No one ever took fingerprints from inside his truck, let alone impound it.

The one thing everyone who's looked at Smolinski's disappearance agrees on is this: He's dead.

And it's no accident his body hasn't surfaced. Someone doesn't want him found.

Investigators from Shelton, Seymour and Waterbury have brought in cadaver dogs to scour construction sites when leads suggested that Smolinski's body was dumped and encased in concrete.

Every year, more than 100,000 people vanish in the United States, never to be heard from again. Close to 4,500 of these missing souls wind up on a cold metal slab in a medical examiner's office somewhere. They have no name. Instead, they are identified by a toe tag that bears their case number. And that's how they remain until the day comes -- if ever it does -- where some law enforcement agency figures out who they are.
How's that as a way to go into your eternal rest?

Compounding the problem is that federal law does not require medical examiners and coroners to notify their brethren that they have unidentified remains. A Justice Department study shows that 80 percent of medical examiners and coroners "rarely" or "never" enter the information into the FBI's National Crime Information Center database that all law enforcement agencies access.

"It's hard to believe that there are such gaping holes in our missing persons systems," U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, says. "So it's no wonder that there are thousands of unsolved cases across the country."

A bill Murphy introduced has won bipartisan support in the House and is now wending its way through the Senate. Billy's Law would link the national crime database with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, also known as NamUs, established three years ago from a Justice Department task force striving to solve missing persons cases. Unlike the FBI's database, NamUs allows families of missing people to enter information, anything from dental records to DNA, to assist law enforcement agencies. The information is posted after investigators verify it.

So far, NamUs contains details on 6,200 sets of remains and another 2,800 missing people. Closer to home, in Connecticut, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has unclaimed and unidentified partial remains of 15 people that go back as far as Feb. 28, 1986.

Janice Smolinski, Billy's mom, is sure someone knows something more about her son's disappearance. Thousands of fliers have gone up all over Connecticut and Grand Central Station about him.

"Every day I miss my brother. He used to stop by a bagel place near where I live and come over in the mornings," Paula Bell, his younger sister, says. "He was always tinkering, and was into these really old cars.

He had a Camaro, a Monte Carlo that he was always fixing. And whenever I see one I want to call him and say `Bill, guess what I just saw?' But I can't," she says. "He needs to be found, and he needs to be laid to rest where he belongs. The ending of this is not going to be a happy one, but it will be a relief."

Connecticut Post columnist MariAn Gail Brown can be reached at 203-330-6288 or
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Friday, April 23

Out of darkness

Emerging as more than a victim, Misty Cockerill speaks at tonight's important forum; Offering a new perspective on victims of violence.

Christina Toth

Friday, April 23, 2010

For many in the Fraser Valley, Misty Cockerill's name will forever be linked to a brutal attack in 1995 in Abbotsford, when the teenager was beaten and her best friend, Tanya Smith, was killed.

misty cockerill
The killer was eventually caught and sentenced to life in prison, but only after he taunted the victims and the community for several months.
But Cockerill is much more than a victim.

Since that time, she grew up, fell in love and had children. She's a daughter, a friend, a mom, a student. She's ready to graduate from university and start a career in social work.

The upbeat young woman is a survivor, and from early on after her tragic experience, she became an eloquent voice for survivors of crime.

Cockerill is a panel member tonight at the free Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.)-sponsored Every Victim Matters forum in Abbotsford, held in part to mark National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.

Joining her are John Allore and Marjean Fichtenberg, both who have lost loved ones to violent crime. They'll discuss the on-going trauma endured by those left behind, and what society can do to help them heal.

"Murder victims have multiple deaths," said Allore, whose sister Theresa was murdered in 1978.

"There is the physical death, but then there is a second death when they are driven into silence by the voices of law enforcement, or the media who co-opt tragedy to tell a story (and in so distort the truth), and in some cases there is the death by the legal community who fashion facts for their own purposes," he said. "After a criminal death, there is only humiliation."

Cockerill's message is to take care of victims of crime, to give them a voice and to help them regain their lives.
"Strength is not just a word, it's the force that keeps you moving, breathing and laughing," she said. "There will always be violence and despair. It has followed us since the beginning of time.

"Instead of just trying to prevent violent acts, as a society we need to also learn how to support and nurture the victims of those acts.

"They should not feel as they are the ones being prosecuted."

For Cockerill, being pushed into the spotlight and giving voice to her experience helped her move on with her life.

"I felt like I had a new role, an advocate role, and it helped me so much," she said, adding that society tends to focus on the crime, and can sometimes unwittingly hold people in the victim frame of mind.

"People dwell on the event, but for me, it was one hour out of my life. The seven months that followed [until her attacker was caught] were traumatizing, and the months that followed after that," said Cockerill.

Also speaking is Marjean Fichtenberg, whose son was murdered. She will outline some preliminary findings of a feasibility study to create a healing centre for survivors of homicide, an initiative of the L.I.N.C. Society.

There will also be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

The event is supported by the University of the Fraser Valley criminal department, and is funded by the Department of Justice. The moderator is Fraser Simmons.

The forum starts tonight at 7 p.m. in Room B101, at the University of the Fraser Valley Abbotsford campus, 33844 King Rd., Abbotsford. Pay parking is in effect.

© Abbotsford Times 2010

© 2009 Canwest Digital Media, a division of Canwest Publishing Inc.. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.

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Thursday, April 22

City mom to give input on human-trafficking bill


By Jeremy Deutsch - Kamloops This Week
Published: April 22, 2010 2:00 PM
Updated: April 22, 2010 2:41 PM

glendenegrant The mother of a missing Kamloops woman is getting a chance to take her fight against human trafficking to the hallowed halls of Parliament.
Glendene Grant is thrilled to have been asked by a Conservative Manitoba MP to attend committee meetings in Ottawa for Bill C-268 — a private member’s bill that would set mandatory minimum sentences for anyone convicted of human trafficking.
Grant’s daughter, Jessie Foster, went missing after moving to Las Vegas with a boyfriend in the spring of 2006.
Grant believes her daughter has been taken into the world of human trafficking.
“All I’m thinking is more people are going to hear about Jessie,” Grant said. “I didn’t think about anything else.”
It wasn’t until later the mother of four realized she might help change laws.
“I have a hard time wrapping my brain around all that,” she said.
Grant admits she doesn’t know much about politics, but she hopes her presence at the committee meetings and her heartbreaking story will help educate politicians on the issue of human trafficking.
“Laws need to be changed,” she said.
Grant suggested all the education and effort will go to waste if there isn’t anything done to protect victims who have the misfortune of getting caught up in human trafficking.
She believes the bill, which is currently in front of the Senate, will be a good start.
The bill seeks to set mandatory minimum sentences of five years for anyone caught trafficking persons under the age of 18.
Grant was invited to Ottawa by Kildonan-St. Paul MP Joyce Smith.
The two met at the Walk With Me ceremony in Toronto earlier this month.
Organizers of the event named an award after Grant and Foster in recognition of the work Grant has done to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking.
The Jessie and Glendene Award honours police officers, social workers and media for their work with human trafficking and victims of the crime.
Grant has also been inspired to start her own non-profit organization, tentatively called MATH (Mothers Against Trafficking Humans), that will further her efforts to thwart modern-day slavery.
In March, KTW published a four-part series on human trafficking, written by staff reporter Jeremy Deustch. What follows is the complete series of MODERN-DAY SLAVERY:
Modern-Day Slavery: The four-part KTW series on human smuggling in its entirety.
By Jeremy Deutsch
It was a frightening proposition Heather Cameron just can’t shake from her mind.
On one of the many nights she would spend on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a familiar john offered her $500 to lure a 14-year-old girl to join the pair for sex.
Money is always tempting to a drug addict, but Cameron couldn’t do it.
“I remember that scaring me,” she told KTW.
She took a pass on the proposal.
It was an ironic situation for the Kamloops resident to find herself in as Cameron was a victim of a form of human trafficking — even if she couldn’t identify her plight at the time.
While experts tend to define human trafficking as an individual who either recruits, transports or controls someone for the purpose of exploitation, it’s a rather sterile definition to a teenager caught up in a world of addiction and prostitution.
Cameron’s journey began long before those two words would enter this country’s criminal lexicon.
The blonde-haired mother of two grew up in an upper middle-class home in Kamloops.
She attended Aberdeen elementary and Sahali secondary schools.
On the outside, Cameron was the girl next door.
Inside, however, she struggled with self-esteem issues throughout her childhood and what she calls “the disease of addiction.”
She began her dark behaviour by cutting herself.
When Cameron was 13, she was placed in a psychiatric ward and put on medication, but she progressed to an eating disorder and heavy drinking.
Her family did the best they could, but no one could figure out was wrong with her.
Once she got a taste of hard drugs as a teen, Cameron was hooked.
At the age of 15, she tried crack for the first time with a boyfriend several years older.
The pair then befriended a drug dealer in town who introduced her to heroin.
That’s when her drug use spiraled out of control.
“Looking back now, even though I wasn’t prostituting, it’s sexual favours for drugs is how it started,” Cameron said.
At 18, the former A-student married a man who made her work the streets of Vancouver as a prostitute.
Cameron said she had no idea what she was getting into.
“When you hear human trafficking, you think it will be upfront or you’ll know the warning signals,” she said.
“It’s a slow, progressive, subtle process. All of the sudden, you’re in it and you’re trapped.
“I remember looking around and thinking, ‘How did I get here? This is insane.’”
She naively thought the drug dealers were being nice, but she was never in control.
“The dealers will give you dope if you work right after,” she said.
At first, Cameron’s husband convinced her she didn’t have to sleep with the men. She just had to bring them back to their apartment so they could get the cash to buy drugs.
But, as her habit progressed, she became fully entrenched in the lifestyle.
After the short-lived marriage, she met the father of her soon-to-be first child and moved to the poorest neighbourhood in Canada — right on the corner of Main and Hastings streets in Vancouver.
“At that point, it’s very normal down there. It’s not like anyone calls anyone their pimp. It’s very normal that you need protection,” she said.
She eventually became pregnant with her first daughter, finding out in a less than glamorous way — while languishing in jail.
Cameron tried to go to detox several times, but it only fueled her boyfriend’s anger.
“It’s scary to leave,” she said.
“The scariest thing for me ever was to leave that five-block radius.”
But, 30 days before her due date and fearing the loss of her unborn child, Cameron summoned the courage to make a call.
“I didn’t want to lose that kid, like so many other women down there,” Cameron said.
She phoned her mom.
“Come get me tomorrow,” she desperately pleaded with her mother.
It would be the last night Cameron would spend on the streets of Vancouver.
The next day, her family picked her up and drove her home.
Now 27, Cameron runs Mothers For Recovery.
As part of the Kamloops Family Resource Society, the grassroots agency lends support to mothers or pregnant women who are trying to break their addiction — the same situation Cameron was in just a few years earlier.
But the road back to reclaiming her life wasn’t as easy as the three-hour drive up the Coquihalla Highway.
Upon her return to Kamloops in 2004, Cameron stayed off drugs for five months, until she relapsed.
She looked for services in counselling to help her leave the sex trade, but felt there wasn’t enough being offered to keep her clean.
After three more years on the streets of Kamloops, it finally clicked for Cameron and she got clean.
But it was an effort she describes as a “long process.”
She credits her sobriety to having other female friends who were fighting the same, horrible battle.
“I never had that before, like friends,” Cameron said.
“I was very isolated. It was me and him in our apartment and that’s what my world revolved around,” she said.
Years later, Cameron remains haunted by her time on the streets.
“That’s the thing that screws my head the most — the flashbacks around the sex trade —
“Those memories and traumas.”
It could easily begin with a smile or a Facebook poke.
It might then progress to a gift or a secret rendezvous.
Often, a vulnerable teenage girl is the target.
She’ll be showered with gifts and given access to any drug imaginable. Without even suspecting a thing, the teen is being groomed for a life of prostitution.
They are common tactics used to lure young Canadian girls from their homes into a life of modern-day slavery.
According to one leading expert on the issue of domestic human trafficking, it’s happening right here in Kamloops.
Benjamin Perrin, an assistant professor at the UBC faculty of law, has studied human trafficking for several years and has just completed a two-year study on Canada’s involvement in the issue.
His research has found that, not only do trafficking rings operate in larger cities, but they’re active in smaller communities — recruiting young women from towns in the Interior of B.C.
In many cases, girls are lured to cities like Vancouver or across the border by lavish promises from a “boyfriend”.
They’ll offer drugs or gifts, such as a free airline ticket to a vacation destination.
But, in the end, the victim — often through the threat of violence — ends up being sold for sex.
“Kamloops has come up in our research as an area where traffickers have engaged in efforts to recruit Canadian victims,” Perrin told KTW.
Social-media websites like Facebook and MySpace have made it easier for traffickers to operate across vast geographical areas with the push of a button.
One of the highest-profile suspected cases of human trafficking in Western Canada is that of Jessie Foster.
The Kamloops woman went missing in the spring of 2006 after moving to Las Vegas with a boyfriend.
If getting caught up in human trafficking appears easy, getting out is a different story.
The underground nature of the crime makes it difficult for law enforcement to detect it within a community.
According to Perrin, the traffickers — most of them men — have ties to violent street gangs.
The federal government made human smuggling a criminal-code offence in 2005, but Perrin argued the province has been slow in prosecuting human traffickers.
While Perrin noted 30 active RCMP files of trafficking, not a single person has been convicted of the crime in B.C.
The province has also created an office to combat trafficking — but the B.C. Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP) has six staff members whose primary focus is on Victoria and Vancouver.
Perrin suggested there is little offered for Canadian victims of trafficking in the way of counselling, shelter or exit programs from life in the sex trade.
There is also little help for communities to defend against the growing scourge.
“We don’t see the same level of support for victims of human trafficking in our country as we witness in other jurisdictions,” Perrin said.
Instead, he said, victims are often left to fend for themselves once they are identified and rescued.
But the head of OCTIP said the agency’s intention is to pull together in a variety of communities the same sort of network of services it has on the Coast.
“Not building anything new, but linking and training the various community partners and agencies that would be involved,” Robin Pike, the executive director of OCTIP, told KTW.
The groups would include social agencies, child-protection workers and law enforcement.
Besides providing education and awareness programs, OCTIP works with the police when it encounters a situation of human trafficking.
Pike noted the agency has been to Kamloops to bring public awareness to the issue, but it hasn’t been asked to help specifically on any cases in Kamloops.
Pike couldn’t say just how large a problem domestic human trafficking has become.
“We just know there is a fair amount of movement of women,” she said, noting the agency has been involved in 50 different cases in the last year.
OCTIP hopes to start a greater public-awareness campaign this year. Pike said the first step is to help communities understand what human trafficking looks like.
If human trafficking is happening in Kamloops, it hasn’t come to the attention of the local RCMP.
Kamloops Mounties said they have yet to deal with a single trafficking file, nor do they have members set aside to deal with any cases.
Complaints of human trafficking are typically dealt with out of RCMP offices in Vancouver.
However, if there was an incident reported, RCMP Const. Pat Nagy said, police would treat it like any other file, with the seriousness of the complaint determining where on the investigative ladder it would fall.
Experts on human trafficking say there isn’t enough being done to help women once they get out of the sex trade.
It was the same helpless feeling that drove Kamloops’ Heather Cameron, a former prostitute, to create Mothers For Recovery.
The grassroots agency lends support to mothers or pregnant women who are trying break their addiction.
Cameron spent years on streets of Vancouver before finally getting free in 2004 (her story was featured in the March 17 edition of KTW and can be read online at
But, when she returned to Kamloops, she had trouble staying clean and out of the lifestyle.
Cameron believes part of the problem is the general attitude to the local sex-trade industry.
“It’s such a hidden thing, especially behind closed doors in Kamloops,” she said.
Cameron knows just how much of a problem the lure of prostitution is in the city. When she began her agency in 2007, she surveyed 30 mothers and found 17 were involved in the sex trade.
The AIDS Society of Kamloops’ SHOP (Social and Health Options for Persons in the Sex Trade program) has 94 open sex-trade client files.
An open file refers to someone who has had contact with SHOP in the past year.
That’s mostly at street level and doesn’t include escort agencies and massage parlours.
Heidi Starr, the SHOP co-ordinator, said the number of sex-trade workers in Kamloops is disproportionate for the size of the city.
She contends many of the minors involved in prostitution are owned by local gangs, often caught up in the lifestyle after being lured by a supposed “boyfriend” and a promise of drugs.
Starr said communities like Kamloops are popular recruiting grounds for human traffickers because there is the promise of going to bigger cities, like Vancouver.
After spending years in the trade, Cameron has some well-earned advice for teens who may find themselves in her shoes.
“Learn to listen to your own intuition,” she said. “If I look back, I know that feeling in my tummy told me something was wrong and I never listened to it.
“I got to the point where I could block it out.”
In addition, Cameron said it is crucial that young girls find women to look up to and confide in. Though it might not be a parent, Cameron said it can be someone who is safe and confidential.
They are the signs of modern-day human slavery.
A growing number of teenage girls are being targeted and recruited into the sex trade, in what is effectively human trafficking.
While the crime is difficult to detect, experts say there are warning signs parents and teacher can look for.
According to Benjamin Perrin, an assistant professor at the UBC Faculty of Law, the signs a teen is falling victim to human trafficking include unexplained absences from school, an inability to keep a regular schedule, bruising and depression.
In some cases, there could be some form of branding on body parts, like a tattoo.
At first glance, it would appear Mark Price and Glendene Grant would never need to cross paths.
Price is a gruff former cop who now heads the Kamloops and District Crime Stoppers Society.
Grant is a quiet mother of four and grandmother who worked at the Convergys call centre in Valleyview until recently being laid off.
But tragic circumstances have brought the two together for a very important project.
Grant’s daughter, Jessie Foster, went missing after moving to Las Vegas with a boyfriend in the spring of 2006.
Her disappearance is a case of suspected human trafficking.
Since then, Grant has worked tirelessly to find her.
Today, the cop and the mom are teaming up to educate Kamloops teens on the growing problem of human trafficking.
The pair will be a part of a three-person, 45-minute presentation at local high schools that will touch on two aspects of modern-day slavery — trafficking into the sex trade and slave labour in the global trade market.
The presentations will target senior grades in a classroom setting.
Grant hopes to use Jessie’s story as a warning to other teens, so they can avoid being lured into slavery.
“The kids need to learn while they’re in school that they could be a potential victim at that age,” Grant said.
No one knows that better than Grant herself.
While her daughter was seen as beautiful, she said she wasn’t as self-confident as she appears in her photos.
Grant said it’s easy for a girl with low self-esteem to be drawn to somebody who compliments her.
“Unfortunately, she [Jessie] fell victim to someone who gained her trust while still in high school,” she said.
For her presentation, Grant has put together a short video, set to music, filled with pictures that encapsulate Jessie’s story.
Experts on human trafficking say victims are often too afraid to come forward and get help.
Grant believes that was the case with her daughter.
That’s where Price and his organization come in.
Crime Stoppers International has been involved in human-trafficking education campaigns for several years.
Price intends to tell the kids that, if they are being targeted and don’t know where to turn, they can call Crime Stoppers.
“They can phone in and feel safe,” he said.
The idea for the program was actually the brainchild of Debra Noel, a member of the Catholic Women’s League.
She was interested in the subject and figured Grant and Price would be the perfect duo to talk to kids.
Noel said she wants to shine a spotlight on human trafficking and offer solutions to teens to avoid getting caught up in the sex trade.
“As I think about it more, often it bugs me that people don’t know enough about it,” she said.
“The problem of slavery is very well hidden. People get locked away and no one sees them.”
Noel will be presenting the slave-labour portion of the program.
While the group has just started putting a package together to bring to the schools, there’s already interest in the presentation.
St. Ann’s Academy, an independent Catholic school, has expressed interest, and Noel is confidant public schools in the Kamloops-Thompson district will follow.
Grant hopes the program will make its way through every school in the district and beyond.
“Even if all they saw was the video, I think it would be extremely effective,” she said.
• Trafficking in Canada has consequences estimated between $120 million and $400 million per year and accounts for approximately 8,000 to 16,000 people arriving annually in Canada illegally.
— Organized Crime Impact Study, Solicitor General of Canada
• Although accurate statistics on human trafficking are hard to obtain, the U.S. State Department estimates between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year.
Of these, 80 per cent are women and girls and up to 50 per cent are minors.
The International Labour Organization estimates there are 12.3 million victims of forced labour (including sexual servitude) at any given time.
Other estimates range from four million to 27 million.
The RCMP estimates between 600 and 800 victims are trafficked into Canada each year, while another 1,500 to 2,200 persons are trafficked through Canada to the United States annually.
Trafficking in people ranks with the drug trade and arms smuggling as a major source of revenue for organized crime.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations estimates the trade in human life generates global profits approaching $10 billion annually.
— The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Flipping through the pages of the neatly organized newspaper clippings of Jessie Foster is like opening a vault to a heart-wrenching mystery.
With each turn, her bright hazel eyes, blonde hair and slightly roguish smile still seem to light up the pages.
But the images are in contrast to a brutal reality.
They were captured before the 21-year-old Kamloops resident vanished in 2006 after moving to Las Vegas with a boyfriend, a case of suspected human trafficking.
Four years later, that vault of stories is her mother Glendene Grant’s bible.
The collection also represents the crusade-like efforts by the mother of four to find her daughter and shine a spotlight on the issue of human trafficking.
Monday (March 28) will mark the four-year anniversary since Jessie was last seen alive.
She would be turning 26 in May.
Foster’s disappearance is a disturbing tale of modern-day slavery that has hit close to home for many in the Kamloops community.
Grant believes Jessie was lured to Las Vegas by a boyfriend who eventually forced her into prostitution.
She spoke with Jessie on the phone just days before she went missing.
At the time, Grant recalled having a sense something just wasn’t right with her daughter.
There was something in Jessie’s voice in those last phone calls that didn’t sit well.
Grant was close to Jessie and assumed the adventurous girl would open up.
She didn’t find out what kind of living hell her daughter was living in until it was too late.
“I knew better, but I didn’t think it was happening,” she said.
Following Jessie’s disappearance, Grant learned her daughter, who had maintained regular contact with her family, had previously been arrested by Las Vegas police for prostitution.
Jessie was last seen by her boyfriend, Peter Todd, a Jamaican national authorities have labelled a pimp.
Up until Jessie’s disappearance, Grant thought of human trafficking as a Third-World problem.
That was until the crime came crashing through her white picket fence.
She never thought her own daughter would end up in an international human-trafficking ring. She hopes her struggle will serve as a reminder to parents to talk their kids and not take answers to their queries at face value.
As the days turned into weeks, then months and now years, Grant has never given up hope the daughter she held in her arms countless times will some day return.
“My heart just isn’t telling me she’s dead,” she told KTW.
“I can’t argue with that.”
But Grant has not been sitting idly by, waiting for Jessie to walk through her front door.
Instead, she has worked with a dogged determination to find her daughter in the years following her disappearance, along the way educating others on the shadowy world of human trafficking.
Besides the dozens of stories in the media, including appearances on America’s Most Wanted and The Montel Williams Show, Grant hired a private investigator, flew to Las Vegas twice to hold her own search, held fundraisers, created websites and acquainted herself with various social media.
Grant is also teaming up with the Kamloops and District Crime Stoppers Society to give a presentation to local schools on the subject of human trafficking.
Most importantly, she will tell Jessie’s story to anyone who will listen with a kind ear.
Grant conceded her effort has almost become an obsession.
Her laptop computer rarely leaves her side.
“Not one person out there considered missing deserves to be missing and have their case sitting in a drawer,” she said.
But the preoccupation has taken its toll on Grant, both mentally and financially. Her teenaged daughter recently divulged to her that she can’t wait until Jessie is found so she can get her mom back.
Surely a sad admission, but even if Jessie were found today, Grant said she can’t go back to being the mother she once was.
“That mom is forever gone,” she said.
Grant also decided to take on the stress of Jessie’s cause alone, so the rest of the family can move on and try to live a normal life.
“Even if I don’t get Jessie back and, even if anything I’ve ever done will prevent one child from going missing, all that I’ve done was so worth it,” she said.
Matters were only made worse after she was laid off from her job at the Convergys call centre in November. Grant has spent thousands of dollars of her own money in the last four years in her search for her daughter.
While those efforts have left her near-destitute, none of that seems to matter to Grant.
All she wants is Jessie to come home.
While the case of Jessie Foster appears to have gone cold for investigators, it hasn’t for her mother, Glendene Grant.
The Kamloops resident has led a crusade to find her daughter and keep Jessie’s case in the media spotlight.
To mark the four-year anniversary of Foster’s disappearance, Grant will be flying to Vancouver for an interview on CTV’s Canada AM program on Monday, March 29.
She will be joined by forensic artist Diana Trepkov, who recently sketched new age-enhancement drawings of Foster.
A couple of weeks later, Grant intends to fly to Toronto to attend the Walk With Me ceremony.
Organizers have named an award after Grant and Foster in recognition of the work she has done to bring attention to human trafficking.
The Jessie and Glendene Award honours police officers, social workers and media for their work with human trafficking and victims of the crime.
The ceremony takes place on April 15.
For the latest updates and more information on the case, go online to

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Sunday, April 11

Key witness dies before top court can rule on Robert Pickton's appeal

By Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun

April 11, 2010 6:02 PM

gina_houston-richard lam photo Gina Houston, a close friend of accused serial killer Robert Pickton, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster for her second day of her testimony at Pickton's trial.

Photograph by: Richard Lam, Vancouver Sun files

VANCOUVER — An important Crown witness in Robert Pickton’s 2007 trial has died, just as the Supreme Court of Canada is set to decide whether to grant the convicted serial killer a second trial.
Gina Houston, who was a longtime friend of Pickton’s, died last week in a B.C. hospital after suffering from breast cancer for eight years, a relative said in an interview. She was 42 years old.
Houston was remembered as a caring mother to her three children, who are between the ages of 10 and 23, by a relative who doesn’t want to be identified because of the notoriety of the case.
When she took the stand in 2007, Houston was taken into B.C. Supreme Court in the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster in a wheelchair and needed to take frequent breaks because her cancer had left her fatigued.
She was one of five star Crown witnesses at the trial, all of them people who had spent time on Pickton’s pig farm in nearby Port Coquitlam, where the victims’ butchered remains were found.
Pickton was convicted of the second-degree murder of six women, who all vanished from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
He has launched an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is expected to rule in a few months whether his conviction will stand or he will be granted a new trial.
Crown attorney Roger Cutler, speaking for B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch, said prosecutors would not confirm the death of a trial witness.
However, he said if a Pickton witness dies, there are provisions to allow that person’s previous testimony to be read into evidence at any future trial.
“They’ve already given evidence under oath, and parties have had the opportunity to examine and cross-examine a witness,” Cutler said. “So the Criminal Code allows for that sort of evidence to be readmitted at (any new) trial.”
B.C. justice officials have said that if Pickton loses his bid for a new trial, then 20 other counts of first-degree murder he is facing will be stayed since he is already serving a life sentence. However, if Pickton is granted a new trial, then the Crown would like to proceed on all 26 counts together.
RCMP Cpl. Annie Linteau, who speaks for the Missing Women Task Force, would not comment on how the loss of a key witness could affect any future trial for Pickton.
She said the group had not kept in contact with Houston after the trial.
“All we can say is to offer our condolences to the family,” Linteau added.
Houston wept in the witness box when asked if it was difficult to testify against Pickton. She described him as polite, gentle, naive and gullible — a kind man who two of her three children called “Daddy.”
She estimated Pickton had given her up to $80,000 to pay her bills when she fell on hard times.
Houston also testified that Pickton wanted her to make a “double suicide” pact just days before his 2002 arrest because “he didn’t want to go to jail.”
In her key evidence, she told the trial that Pickton had mentioned up to six bodies buried at the farm.
Houston recalled the name “Mona” was mentioned during a conversation. The partial remains of Mona Wilson were found in his slaughterhouse. However, she also testified she didn’t believe Pickton had killed “Mona.”
Houston said she saw Pickton’s friend Dinah Taylor with two of the victims: Sereena Abotsway and Andrea Joesbury. Taylor was arrested, but not charged, in this case.
Vancouver Sun
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Saturday, April 10

GINA HOUSTON friend of Serial Killer Robert Pickton dies after lengthy illness.

GINA HOUSTON involved in the Vancouver missing women case and friend of Serial Killer Robert Pickton passed away April 5, 2010. Gina Houston: I'm the other suspect -
I’m the other suspect-Neighbour
The Province

Monday, March 18, 2002

Gina Houston
TORONTO -- Police are investigating a woman in the case of more than 50 missing women, mostly prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, CBC's Sunday Report and CTV National News reported.
While Gina Houston has denied any connection with the missing women, the 34-year-old mother told the CBC she believes she's the number one suspect still at large.
Robert William Pickton, 52, the owner of a pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam which has been the focus of an intense police investigation, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson.
"They've been making my life a living hell -- the police," Houston told CBC, adding that she's been under investigation for four years and has been closely monitored by police.
The woman was a neighbour of Pickton's and has publicly defended him and visited him in jail, CTV reported. Houston has not been charged.
CBC also reported that police executed search warrants at a storage facility, seizing all of Houston's personal possessions, including furniture, dishes and her children's toys.
Police could not be reached for comment last night. In the past, detectives have refused to discuss the specifics of their investigation but have acknowledged that they are investigating other suspects.
Houston has denied having anything to do with the disappearance of any of the women but thinks she could be arrested at any time. She could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The pig farm has been one of the biggest criminal investigations in B.C. history. Investigators with the joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force won't say what they have found at the farm but insist the two women that Pickton is charged with killing are dead.
Families of the missing women continue to raise questions about why police didn't move sooner to investigate reports of activity more than four years ago at a farm, CTV reported.
Police did not follow up on information because of the cost of surveillance and a jurisdictional problem involving Vancouver police and the Mounties, CTV said. It did not provide details of the jurisdictional problem.
© Copyright 2002 The Province
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Wednesday, April 7

No charges, no victim services: Manitoba Justice

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | 5:42 PM CT
CBC News
claudette osborne Families of women declared murdered and missing in Manitoba are angry over the provincial government's refusal to pay for counselling or other advocacy programming for them unless their cases result in charges being laid.
Bernadette Smith's sister, Claudette Osborne, has been missing and her disappearance the subject of an ongoing police investigation since July 2008.
In that time, Smith said she's had no choice but to lean on family and friends for support.
'They should help [families] through … from the beginning to the end, not just the end.'—Jessica Houle
Manitoba Justice's Victims Services department has rebuffed her requests for help dealing with Claudette's disappearnce, she said on Wednesday.
Smith suggested that provincial justice officials admit Claudette has been the victim of a crime, but won't offer help.
"'There's been a crime committed, we know it,'" she said she was told, "'but we don't have someone charged so we can't offer you any services.'"
Smith said sometimes families need more than just relatives and friends to talk to, but can't afford professional help.
That can lead to other problems, Smith said.
"I see a lot of addictions happening within families because they don't have coping skills," she said.
Cherisse Houle's body was found July 1 in a creek near a section 
of dirt road just off Highway 221.Cherisse Houle's body was found July 1 in a creek near a section of dirt road just off Highway 221. (Winnipeg Police Service)Jessica Houle, the sister of Cherisse Houle, whose body was found dumped in a creek in the Rural Municipality of Rosser, northwest of Winnipeg on July 1, 2009, agrees.
"They should help [families] through … from the beginning to the end, not just the end," she said.
Police have not publicly said Cherisse's death was a homicide, and no charges have been laid in connection to her death.
Officials with Manitoba Justice would not grant an interview for this story, but confirmed they won't pay for services for victims until a suspect has been charged.
Smith said she is hosting a retreat for 10 families of murdered and missing women in Manitoba this weekend. The event is being paid for with money from private donors, she said.
Last September, the provincial government announced the creation of a police task force to investigate unsolved and historical cases of murdered and missing women.
Police officials have said little about the task force's progress so far.
The task force is staffed with three RCMP officers, two RCMP analysts and four officers from the Winnipeg Police Service.
Read more:

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