VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Daughter's fate revealed when expert detailed drilling 'holes in meat packages' from Pickton farm
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE APRIL 17, 2012
A woman who raised her tiny stepdaughter Cindy Feliks as her own was “kept in the dark” by police after Cindy disappeared in 1997, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry heard Tuesday.
Marilyn Renter told the inquiry about the “living nightmare" she has lived in the last 15 years since Cindy’s disappearance, due to apparently callous treatment she and some other families say they got from both the police and Victims’ Services workers who were supposed to help.
It was in a Port Coquitlam courtroom when Renter — without any warning from lawyers, police or Victims’ Services — heard from a DNA scientist what happened to her daughter.
“Unbeknownst to me, there was a DNA scientist on the stand (at Robert Pickton’s preliminary hearing) and when they came to No. 19 (Cindy), the lawyer asked the DNA expert how they found her DNA,” Renter recalled, choking up on the stand. “He started to say there were six packages of meat and they drilled holes through the core of each meat package and found Cindy’s DNA.
“And that’s how I discovered what happened to Cindy.”
When she heard the “gruesome” information, Renter said the room swam and she felt as though she were going to faint. “I put my head down and got an elbow in the ribs from Marilyn Johnny (a Victims’ Assistance worker) who said: ‘Don’t go to sleep, the judge frowns on that,’” recalled Renter.
When Renter managed to stumble out of the courtroom, no Victims’ Assistance worker came to her side. It was left to sheriffs to get her to sit outside the court and ask her if she was alright, Renter said.
“Later I asked the Victims’ Assistance worker why she hadn’t told me, and she said we’re not allowed to talk about it,” said Renter. “I said that’s for reporters. I’m family, I’m a family member.” Renter — who has recently married and was known previously as Marilyn Kraft — told the inquiry that no grieving family member should ever suffer again as she did.
Renter said she last spoke to Cindy in the fall of 1997. Renter didn’t really believe she was missing because Cindy, one of four children Renter adopted after she married their father Don Feliks in 1960, still had American citizenship and was deported frequently and often in trouble with the law.
Cindy had grown up an athletic teen who was headstrong and rebellious, starting to experiment with drugs in her early teens, as did her sister Audrey. Cindy married and had a daughter, but the marriage dissolved and Cindy’s drug use got worse.
Renter thought that Audrey, who is still troubled by poor health and addictions, had filed a missing persons’ report on Cindy in 1997. But the Vancouver police had no file on Cindy, until 1999. And then Audrey told police not to contact “the step-mom,” an edict which the VPD inexplicably obeyed.
“In the last 15 years I’ve been involved with Cindy’s disappearance trying to get answers, they just don’t come,” said Renter, saying at each step of the way she was notified in the most brutal possible way of what had happened to the beautiful, strong-willed Cindy.
Renter heard in the news about the junk-strewn Pickton farm after the pig farmer was arrested in February 2002, and the first murder charges were laid. “But I never thought that would be a place Cindy would go.”
Then one morning in 2002, Renter was phoned by RCMP at 7 a.m. She was alone and went into shock when she was abruptly told, over the phone, that Cindy’s DNA had been confirmed on the Pickton farm.
“I was kept completely in the dark,” Renter said in summing up her experiences to Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal. Asked for her recommendations to the inquiry to improve police handling of missing persons, she was succinct.
“Talk to all the relatives, don’t leave any of them in the dark,” she said. “If women go missing, don’t wait till 20 people are missing before you start investigating just because there are no bodies.
“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.”
Tim Dickson, lawyer for the Vancouver Police, said that “on behalf of the department, I want to apologize that Pickton was not caught sooner. I apologize for the way the report of Cindy’s disappearance was handled in 1999 and especially for you not being notified.
“We hear you on that,” said Dickson, noting the VPD is trying to improve its Missing Persons Unit.
Oppal thanked Renter, as he has all of the relatives of five missing and murdered women who have testified this week. “I cannot imagine anything worse than having a child you’ve raised all of her life go missing and then learn that she’s met this horrific end,” said Oppal.
The inquiry also heard Tuesday from the three sisters of Georgina Papin, a mother of seven who went missing in March 1999. Elana Papin, Bonnie Fowler and Cynthia Cardinal read a long list of recommendations into the record of the inquiry, which will conclude formal hearings in May. Oppal will hand in his final report by the end of June.
© Copyright (c) The Province
Updated: August 21, 2016