VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
`I need to know what the hell happened to her'
Serial-killer hearing to resume
June 28, 2003
VANCOUVER—One day during the next month, Lynn Frey will rise in the pre-dawn darkness of her Vancouver Island home to begin a six-hour trip that will culminate in hearing more details of the case against the man accused of being Canada's worst serial killer.
That journey, from Campbell River to a courthouse in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam, is not one Frey wants to make but one she feels compelled to make in the seemingly endless quest to find out what happened to her stepdaughter.
Marnie Frey is one of more than 60 women — predominantly drug addicts and prostitutes — who have gone missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside since the late 1970s. Robert William Pickton, 53, is charged with the first-degree murder of 15 of them.
Although Marnie Frey, who disappeared nearly six years ago, is not one of Pickton's alleged victims, the police told the family last fall that her remains had been discovered on his Port Coquitlam pig farm 35 kilometres east of Vancouver.
Pickton's preliminary hearing is set to resume Monday after a 10-week break. By the time it concludes at the end of July, Lynn Frey will have taken a seat in the third row of the courtroom for a couple of days, just metres from where Pickton sits behind bulletproof glass.
Evidence at the hearing, which began Jan. 13, is covered by a publication ban. When it concludes, Provincial Court Judge David Stone is expected to briefly reserve his decision on whether the evidence is sufficient to take the case to trial. If he does send it to trial, the case is unlikely to begin until sometime in 2004.
During three earlier visits to court, once with her husband, Rick, Frey abruptly left at least once and broke down on several other occasions.
But, Frey says, it's crucial that she go back into the courtroom for the sake of Marnie's memory and as "a reality check" for a family that still struggles with its grief every day.
"Police come and tell you they found her remains but don't say what they found," she says. "We don't have a death certificate. We don't have her. All we have is their words.
"It's like she's still missing."
The Freys, who last heard from Marnie when she telephoned on her 24th birthday in August, 1997, have launched a lawsuit against Vancouver police over their early handling of the case, saying they didn't do enough to find their daughter or other missing women.
Frey was one of several people who say they brought the pig farm to the attention of police as early as 1998 after hearing about it from women on the downtown eastside.
Pickton was arrested and charged with two murders in late February, 2002. Thirteen other first-degree counts have followed and investigators, employing techniques likened to those used to comb the rubble of New York's World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, continue their search nearly 18 months after it began.
"I need to know what the hell happened to her," Frey says.
She's not alone. Over the previous three months of the preliminary hearing, other loved ones of missing women have passed through airport-style security and into the courtroom.
Some are parents, siblings or friends of one of the 15 alleged victims. Others, like the Freys, have been told their loved one is dead but no charges have been laid. Still more are looking for something — anything — offering a clue to the whereabouts of their missing daughter, sister, wife, mother or friend.
A few of Pickton's friends and acquaintances have also shown up, as have many curious members of the public with no connection to the case. Others in the court included media from across Canada and the United States as well as overseas.
No matter what the expectations of those in the gallery, Pickton offers little insight. He occasionally chats with the sheriff seated in the prisoner's box with him but almost never glances toward the staring eyes as he comes and goes from the courtroom. He takes many notes and passes the neatly printed pages to his lawyers.
At various times, Pickton has smiled, chuckled to himself, shaken his head or fixed stares on the witness box. The only times he spoke to the court were back before the preliminary hearing began when, appearing by video link, he said he could hear the proceedings.
Marilyn Kraft travelled from her home in Calgary in March to attend a few days of the preliminary hearing, hoping to hear details about her stepdaughter, Cindy Feliks, whom she last saw at Christmas in 1996. Police telephoned Kraft in December to say that DNA of the girl she raised from the age of 5 had been found at the Pickton farm.
No charges have been laid in connection with that discovery.
"That's the worst part," says Kraft, who moved from the Vancouver suburb of Surrey to Calgary two years ago. "It's like she's in limbo.
"We know she's gone. We know she's dead. But we still don't have any charges."
Despite her sorrow and anger, Kraft says she would like to return for more of the hearing but, as a retiree on a fixed income, cannot afford to pay her way again. That's frustrating, she says, because it's important families are there to represent those lost.
"We don't want their memory to die," Kraft says. "They may have been women who were into bad things but they were still human beings and should be treated as such."
Additional articles by Daniel Girard
Updated: August 21, 2016