VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Missing women's families remember their loved ones
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Lost in the fresh horror that 12 additional murder charges have been laid against Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert Pickton are the details of the vulnerable lives of the women who died. Their stories, and the memories of their families, bear witness to the appalling toll exacted by the sex and drug trades that dominate life on the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
MARNIE LEE FREY
Rick Frey remembers his daughter, Marnie Lee Frey, as a cheerful child who loved animals and touched all those who met her.
"She was a happy-go-lucky kid," Frey said some time ago in a interview from Campbell River. "She was always joking about life.
"She just loved animals. We've got pictures of her with rabbits and all that. She loved all that stuff. She wouldn't hurt a fly. She was a great kid. She was at the Christian school."
Marnie Lee, born Aug. 30, 1973, got hooked on drugs through a gang in Campbell River, her father said.
"It is a terrible thing. It grabs hold of you and there is no letting up."
Before long, Marnie was headed to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, where she got caught in the cycle of working the streets to support her addiction. She was reported missing to Campbell River RCMP in August, 1997, the month of her 24th birthday.
In November 2002, the Frey family was notified that Marnie's DNA had been found at the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam.
"She was the out-of-town girl going to Vancouver," Rick Frey said. "Well, God, they are so vulnerable down there."
Rick and Lynn Frey have long been among the most outspoken critics of police, arguing that more should have been done earlier to investigate the disappearance of dozens of women from the Downtown Eastside.
"There is a lot of frustration and a lot of anger," Rick Frey said. "We couldn't get anybody to listen to us. They wouldn't listen to what we were trying to say. That is the tough part. I am angry for them not listening. Five years of not listening."
TIFFANY LOUISE DREW
Tiffany Louise Drew was last seen Dec. 31, 1999, but police say she was only reported missing in February 2002 -- days after the search began at the Dominion Avenue pig farm.
Cori Wilson, Drew's cousin in Victoria, has confirmed that the family received the grim news that Drew's DNA had been found at the farm, but declined to comment further.
Drew's sister, Kelly Prado, who lives with her family in Bellingham, told The Sun she continued to hope her sister was still alive.
"There's no proof that she is dead, just that she was there," Prado said in an interview two years ago.
Elaine Allen, a former coordinator at a Downtown Eastside drop-in centre for sex-trade workers, said she told Vancouver police on more than one occasion in early 2000 that Drew had disappeared. "It came from one of the clients who was very close to her," Allen said.
She described Drew as a "sweet, beautiful girl" who took good care of herself. "Her friend knew something was wrong."
Drew, born in January 1975, was a petite woman -- 150 centimetres (four feet, 11 inches) tall and weighed just 43 kilograms (95 pounds) -- with long, wavy blond hair and blue eyes.
Sarah deVries' disappearance in April, 1998, at the age of 28, helped raise the profile of the missing women investigation in large part because her family and friends took the case to the media.
Her sister Maggie deVries, a children's author and book editor, was an early advocate for the missing women, and Wayne Leng, a friend of Sarah, has for years run a website dedicated to her and the other missing women.
"I'm glad to see the charges laid," Maggie deVries said Wednesday. "I think it's a very good thing. It certainly represents progress.
"Personally, it's important, it makes it more concrete -- it's another step in finding out what happened to my sister and making it real to myself."
Sarah deVries' case also attracted attention because she left behind a number of journals and poems documenting her life on the streets. In one of the poems, in which deVries seemed to foretell her own death, she asked the question: "Will they remember me when I'm gone, or would their lives just carry on?"
The youngest of four children, Sarah deVries was the adopted daughter of a university professor and a head nurse. As a black girl in a white family in West Point Grey, her family says, she experienced prejudice as a child, and began running away from home in her early teens. Eventually she got caught up in prostitution and then drugs.
She has two children, who are being raised in Ontario by her mother, Pat deVries, and her aunt, children's author Jean Little.
Maggie deVries, who has written a book about her sister's case called Missing Sarah, said that the discovery of Sarah's DNA at Robert Pickton's farm brought "a mixture of grief and relief."
Cindy Feliks was a fighter.
"She never let anybody get the best of her," her stepmother Marilyn Kraft told The Sun in 2003.
But when friends and family began calling several years ago, saying that nobody had heard from Cindy, Kraft knew something had gone horribly wrong.
"She wasn't anywhere around, nobody had seen her, she wasn't in her usual haunts. We just said, 'Oh, oh, something's going on.'"
On Wednesday, Kraft said word of the new charges had left her "ecstatic."
"I am so glad that the charges are finally being laid," she said from her Calgary home. "It has just made my day. We've been pushing for this ever since the first charges were laid.
She does not use the term closure because, she said, "you still grieve, but it's the beginning of the final phase of it."
Kraft raised Cindy from the time she was five, with her two brothers and sister. She says she was a beautiful child who loved life. She attended school in Kitsilano and Surrey, and was a competitive swimmer before getting into drugs at 16.
"What can I say? Except for the drugs that took over a lot of her life and made her an old lady before she really was ... I remember her as a mother who had a beautiful little girl, who loved the little girl ... a good daughter and a good sister."
Kraft said she last saw Cindy at Christmas, 1996, and spoke to her on the telephone a couple of times in 1997, the year Feliks would have turned 43.
"I talked to her on the phone twice, and the next thing I know her daughter was phoning, asking if I'd seen her mom. And her sister kept phoning, because Cindy used to always call me when she was in trouble."
Kraft has expressed frustration with the way her step-daughter's case was handled by police from the outset.
"We notified them in 1997 that she was gone, that we knew something had happened," Kraft said. "And they didn't put her on the missing list until 2001."
ANGELA REBECCA JARDINE
Angela Rebecca Jardine was 27 when she vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in November, 1998.
In a moving tribute to their daughter, Deborah and Ivan Jardine created a website that features photographs of Angela from birth through adulthood.
She is a smiling baby in her mother's arms, sitting in front of the Christmas tree on a riding toy, laughing for the camera at her first birthday.
She is a cheerful child with her sister and dad in a paddle boat, climbing a tree, admiring fish she had caught.
Then she is an adult, still smiling in an embrace with her mother, her father and a family dog.
"I dedicate this site as a tribute to all of the many missing and murdered women from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver," Deborah Jardine wrote.
After Angela disappeared, Deborah Jardine's research led her to lay a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaints Commission in 1999 stating that Vancouver police failed to do a proper and thorough investigation of her daughter's disappearance.
The complaint said police never informed her that Angela was missing, failed to promptly interview key people who knew Angela, never inspected her room or belongings at the Portland Hotel, and were slow to issue a missing person poster.
Former commissioner Don Morrison dismissed her complaint, and her appeal was also dismissed.
Jardine earlier told The Sun her daughter was mentally challenged and had the capacity of an 11-year-old. Her family tried for years to help her and keep her with them in Sparwood, but the young woman continually ran away to the Downtown Eastside. She described her as laughing and smiling.
"Angela had many good attributes that were not always visible from the outside. She was a generous, loving, caring individual with a kind heart," Jardine said. "She had a hearty, robust laugh that made others want to join in and laugh along with her. Her persona was often boisterous and her mannerisms at times would make us cringe, but without those special characteristics, it just wouldn't be Angela."
Diana Melnick was just 20 years old when she disappeared at Christmas 10 years ago.
Of the 27 women Pickton is accused of murdering, she is one of the first victims. The only woman who may have been killed earlier is Jane Doe, the victim who remains unidentified and therefore no one knows when she vanished.
Melnick's picture on a Vancouver police missing person's poster resembles that of a private school student: Her tie is loosely knotted around the collar of a crisp white button-down shirt worn underneath a prim navy blue vest.
There's a sad expression on her girl-next-door face, her wavy brown hair cut in a short bob above her ears.
In a later picture of Melnick, on the Vanished Voices website, her longer hair falls onto the shoulders of a red plaid jacket.
The attractive woman, who usually wore her brown hair in a ponytail, has not been seen since Dec. 27, 1995.
The picture on the police poster is in stark contrast to its message: "Melnick is a known drug-user and sex-trade worker in the area of Victoria and Hastings."
Files at Vancouver provincial court show that during the summer before Melnick's disappearance, she had been charged with four prostitution-related offences by police officers posing as customers.
She was charged with soliciting on Triumph Street on June 20 and on July 10, on Pandora Street on Aug. 11, and on Franklin Street on Aug. 18,
She was also charged with theft of merchandise less than $5,000 from a Shoppers Drug Mart on June 2, 1995. On Aug. 24, 1995, she did not show up for her appearance in court, and there is no other activity after that in her file.
Debra Lynne Jones has long been listed as one of the missing women of the Downtown Eastside, and police met with her relatives in 2004, but refused at that time to say what they had discussed with the family. Her inclusion in the latest list of murdered women is the first time she has been linked by police to Pickton.
Little is known of Jones, other than that she was described as a drug-user and sex-trade worker who disappeared around Christmas, 2000, a few days short of her 43rd birthday
At a meeting of families of the missing women in October 2002, her sister Kathleen McKenzie clutched a photo of Jones that had just been returned to her by police. She remembered Jones fondly, noting that "she was a wonderful musician."
"It's sad," Elaine Allan, a former coordinator at a Downtown Eastside drop-in centre for sex trade workers, said Wednesday. "She didn't leave a lot of her own personal information behind."
WENDY LYNN CRAWFORD
Wendy Lynn Crawford, 44, has been missing since November 1999 and was last seen near Columbia Street in Vancouver.
Before Crawford fell victim to the streets, she was "a mother of two beautiful children. She was a sister and an aunt, as well as a great-aunt and a friend," her sister Susie Kinshella said in a letter to The Sun. "She was not on the streets every day selling her body and she did not take drugs all the time.
"As the kids grew and Wendy was more free to roam, she would go off and do her thing. But someone, be it her children or other family members, would usually have a basic idea of her whereabouts."
Crawford, who owned a mobile home in Chilliwack, suffered from diabetes and Crohn's disease as well as other health issues that required daily medication. Kinshella said Crawford did her best to raise her children on a welfare budget. When times got tough, Crawford resorted to selling her body on the streets.
"I pray to the Lord and ask for His strength, not only for this family, but also for the families of all the missing women who were much more than prostitutes and drug addicts," Kinshella said.
Kerry Koski was 39 years old when she was reported missing in January 1998. Her brother-in-law Terry Hughes said Koski was employed and married, with three children -- a beautiful woman from a middle-income family -- when she decided to try heroin.
"Kerry was a fairly average person. The thing that really breaks my heart is the fact that she decided to experiment with a drug, and that drug was so devastating that within three months of trying it, she was no longer here," he said Tuesday. "A normal person who one day decided for some ungodly reason to stick a needle in her arm."
Her children were aged 12, 14, and 16 when she disappeared.
"They're having a bit of a tough time," Hughes said.
The family, through Koski's sister Val Hughes, is concentrating on building the Missing Women Legacy Society, which hopes to run a house in Maple Ridge as a refuge for women addicted to drugs and working as prostitutes.
Terry Hughes said the project will be something positive rising from the ashes of such a negative story.
"Kerry was a lot of fun. She just had a big smile on her face," he recalled.
ANDREA FAY BORHAVEN
Andrea Fay Borhaven vanished in 1997 when she was 25. She was a known drug-user and sex-trade worker in the Downtown Eastside.
The year before, she'd been arrested for shoplifting at the Army & Navy. There was an outstanding warrant for her arrest when she disappeared, and the booking information noted she was unemployed, had needle marks on her right wrist, and had a unicorn tattoo on her body.
Borhaven was last seen in the Lower Mainland, but her family reported her missing to Vernon RCMP.
She lived with her mother in Vernon when she wasn't working in the Downtown Eastside. She was 167 centimetres tall (five feet, six inches) and had brown hair and hazel eyes.
CARA LOUISE ELLIS
Cara Louise Ellis was last seen in 1996 when she was 25 years old.
She was reported missing in October 2002. The petite woman had long brown hair and brown eyes, and several tattoos, including a heart on her left hand, a Playboy bunny on the left side of her chest and a rose on her left shoulder.
She was also known by the name Nikki Trimble.
She was a recent addition to the missing women list. Police announced in 2003 that she was missing, but at that time were still looking for more information about her before officially adding her to the list of 65 women missing from the Downtown Eastside.
Her DNA was later identified on Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm.
Jane Doe is an unidentified victim. As evidenced by the standard substitution of her name with that of a generic, unknown woman, little is known about her identity, other than she is an apparent victim, distinct from the others.
© The Vancouver Sun 2005
Updated: August 21, 2016