VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Mother tells inquiry about shocking phone call in 2002 about missing daughter
After Marilyn Renter's daughter Cindy Feliks was reported missing in 1999, the firsts contact she had with the police came in 2002 with a shocking phone call.
VANCOUVER -- After Marilyn Renter's daughter Cindy Feliks was reported missing in 1999, the first contact she had with police came in 2002 with a shocking phone call.
"They said Cindy's DNA was found at the [Pickton] farm," the mother told the Missing Women inquiry Tuesday.
"That floored me," she said, adding she found it reprehensible that police informed her by phone while she was living in Calgary.
"They should have called Calgary police and asked them to come tell me about it," Renter said. "It would have been nice because I didn't have any support at home at the time."
Even more shocking was the evidence that emerged at Pickton's trial in 2007 about where Cindy's DNA was found -- in packages of meat in a freezer at the Port Coquitlam farm of serial killer Robert Pickton.
She said she almost collapsed when she heard the evidence.
Renter recalled her daughter Cindy was one of four children of her husband Don, whom she married in 1960 in Vancouver. Don and his kids were from Detroit and Renter said she adopted all the kids, who lived in Vancouver for many years.
She split up with her husband when Cindy was in her teens, when Cindy's father moved to Florida, she said.
Cindy ran away from home and went to Florida to visit her dad, who gave his daughter alcohol and marijuana and convinced Cindy to have sex with him, the mother recalled.
"Needless to say, that's what started it all," Renter explained about Cindy's drug use.
"I sent her money to come back."
She recalled Cindy's youngest sister, Audrey, also got into drugs. Audrey had said she reported Cindy missing to police in 1997, her mother said, but the record shows the Vancouver police missing person report wasn't filed until Feb. 5, 1999.
Audrey had asked police not to contact her stepmother, which led to Renting having no contact from police until December 2002.
"I was her mother," she testified. "Her stepmother, but I raised her since she was five."
Tim Dickson, the lawyer representing Vancouver police at the inquiry, apologized to Renter on behalf of police that serial killer Robert Pickton wasn't caught sooner.
"I hope with all my heart that you apology is heartfelt," Renter responded. "I thank you for that."
Pickton was charged with the first-degree murder of Cindy Feliks but the charge was stayed in 2010 after the Crown decided not to proceed with a second trial.
Pickton was found guilty of six murders at his first trial in 2007.
Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal thanked Renter "for the strength you have shown for coming here and sharing what you went through...it's unfortunate you have to live with the tragedy, pain and suffering that you've gone through."
Renter became choked with emotion.
"As you can see, after 15 years it still hurts," she said.
Renter had some advice for changes to police procedure.
"If women go missing, don't wait till 20 people are missing before you start investigating just because there are no bodies," she said.
"Don't treat drug addicts and prostitutes as they're throwaway people, they're not. They have children of their own, daughters of their own that we're left to raise, and it's a tragedy," Renter said.
Her advice was met by applause by families of victims attending the inquiry, which is probing why Pickton wasn't caught before February 2002.
After his arrest, he told an undercover officer that he killed 49 women.
He was convicted in 2007 of the murders of six women, including Mona Wilson, whose eldest sister Lisa Bigjohn testified Tuesday about the pain she went through when Mona disappeared.
"The system failed her as well as the other missing women," she said. "I didn't want her to die like that."
At one point, she turned to Oppal and asked: "You understand how I feel? How I live in hell?"
Bigjohn added she wanted to know why police failed to protect her sister.
"That's why we're here -- to find out what happened," Oppal said. "I wish I had some easy answers."
Oppal must conclude his final report to government by June 30.
Earlier in the day, three sisters of Georgina Papin -- Bonnie Fowler, Elena Papin and Cynthia Cardinal -- told the inquiry about their troubled younger years, when they siblings were separated and placed in foster care.
Fowler told Oppal that Georgina was put in an Indian residential school and ran away from home at 14 to live in Las Vegas, where she became involved in the sex trade.
Georgina had seven children, including a daughter in Las Vegas, and led a fairly normal life in Mission until a breakup with her boyfriend in 1999, which triggered her fall into drug use, the loss of her children and doing sex work in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
She was reported missing in 2001. Her DNA was later found on the Pickton farm.
On Wednesday, the inquiry will return to probing the Crown decision in 1998 to stay charges against Pickton, including aggravated assault and attempted murder arising from a March 1997 knife attack on a Downtown Eastside sex worker.
Pickton had brought the woman to his farm and tried to handcuff her. She fought him off and grabbed a kitchen knife, slashing his neck.
Pickton stabbed her a number of times before the woman, known as Ms. Anderson, managed to run to the street and pass down a passing car.
Roxanna Smith, a victim services worker who was present during the Crown's interview of the woman in 1998, will testify Wednesday, to be followed Thursday by the testimony of Judge Richard Romano, who in 1998 was the administrative Crown who oversaw the decision by Crown counsel Randi Connor to stay the charges against Pickton.
Pickton killed 19 women after the Crown stayed the charges.
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Updated: August 21, 2016