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Families pay tribute to victim

Friends, relatives mourn Dawn Crey, whose DNA was found last week

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

February 2, 2004

CHILLIWACK - When Dawn Crey's two families learned of her death last month, the news confirmed their worst fears but also answered the nagging question of where she was, a pastor told mourners in a Chilliwack church Sunday.

Ernie Crey and his wife, Sarah, join other family members at a service for his sister Dawn Crey at Christian Assembly church in Chilliwack.

CREDIT: Peter Basttistoni, Vancouver Sun 

"This is in many ways a very momentous day for a lot of people. There has been a lot of mystery, a lot of unknown. For many months now the name Dawn Crey has because familiar to a lot of people as she was one of the missing women in the city of Vancouver," Pastor Elmer Martin, of the First Avenue Christian Assembly Church, said at Crey's funeral.

Martin said there were still many unknowns in Crey's sad story, but the recent discovery of her DNA allowed mourners Sunday to celebrate her life and pay tribute to a woman they loved.

Last week, the missing women task force announced they had found the DNA of Crey and five other women on Robert (Willy) Pickton's Port Coquitlam pig farm.

Elder Joe Alec sings and drums at a memorial at a memorial to his slain foster sister Dawn Crey at Christian Assembly Church in Chilliwack on Sunday. Crey was remembered in her youth as an energetic girl who loved animals and artwork.

CREDIT: Peter Basttistoni, Vancouver Sun

At the same time, investigators said they had the DNA of three unidentified women, but wouldn't confirm whether it was also found on the farm.

Crey and the other victims were on a list of 65 women -- most of them drug-addicted sex-trade workers -- missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Pickton is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder, and the Crown says it intends to charge him with seven additional counts. He is accused of being Canada's worst serial killer.

Police have not indicated whether any charges will be laid in connection with the most recent DNA findings.

Dawn Crey was 43 years old when she disappeared.

She spent her life haunted by the memory of her 57-year-old father, Ernest Crey, dying of a heart attack while playing with his young daughter outside their small home in Hope. His death caused Crey's mother, Minnie, to start drinking again, and eventually the government would take the seven Crey children and scatter them in foster homes in the Fraser Valley.

Dawn endured abuse at her first foster home, and found love with her second set of foster parents, Jake and Marie Wiebe. She had a baby boy Jonathon at age 17, but she eventually returned to the streets and the Wiebes adopted her son.

Crey drifted into drugs and prostitution, endured having acid thrown in her face, and in late 2000 joined the mounting number of women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

On Sunday, her biological family and her foster family came together in a show of support for Crey.

Soowahlie Indian Band Chief Doug Kelly, who spoke on behalf of the Crey family, said seeing Dawn Crey's biological nieces and nephews, together with the Wiebes' children and grandchildren, sent a strong message of survival and strength in the next generation.

"When I reflected on the pain and suffering that began with the passing of Dawn's father, and how he died, and how that heavy burden was carried by Dawn," Kelly said, "it gave me hope that families suffering in the world ... can be resolved with love."

Each side of Dawn Crey's family thanked the other for playing an important role in her life.

"The Crey family wants you to know how much they appreciate the love and kindness you gave to Dawn," Kelly said to the Wiebes.

After the ceremony, Jake Wiebe told reporters: "It's been a privilege to have Dawn in our home. We have very many precious memories of her with the family. In recent days we've been getting to know the Crey family ... to share our grief and love."

Wes Wiebe, Dawn Crey's foster brother, said during the ceremony that she became the fifth child in his family when she moved into their Chilliwack home at age nine.

"Dawn was a talkative and fun-loving girl... She has a distinctive laugh that was contagious," Wiebe said. "I remember my sister Dawn as a beautiful girl who always liked clothes and fashion and always liked to look her best."

He recalled an energetic girl who loved animals and artwork.

"She also liked to rearrange the living room furniture when it was her turn to do the dusting and vacuuming," Wiebe said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

"I was only two when Dawn came into our family ... she has always been one of my big sisters."

Even after Dawn Crey left the Wiebes' home to drift into a troubled life on the street, she would regularly return to visit her son and the rest of the family.

"Until not that long ago, you expected she would phone or walk in the door as if she hadn't been gone," Wiebe said.

Kelly also told the few hundred mourners in the church that the Creys extended their best wishes to the families of the other missing women on the police list.

"The Crey family wants to lend love and encouragement to all the other families who have loved ones who are missing," he said.

Several of those families attended Sunday's service, including Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry is still missing, and Bert and Anna Draayers, the foster parents of Sereena Abotsway. Pickton has been charged with Abotsway's murder.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

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