By Clint Buehler
EDMONTON – The search is still on for the one or more serial killers suspected of murdering more than 20 women since 1983, their bodies found in the Edmonton area.
In that time, only five cases have been solved. Dozens more are still missing in the Edmonton area and across western Canada.
Many of the women were Aboriginal, and most of them were sex trade workers.
A reward of $100,000 has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible.
The search for the killer or killers has become a joint effort of the Edmonton Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, dubbed Project KARE.
The RCMP’s Behavioural Science Branch has issued a profile of the killer, based on information gathered in investigations and provided by informants:
· Drives a reliable, high-mileage truck, van or sport utility vehicle, and is comfortable driving in rural areas.
· Likes to hunt, fish, camp or participate in other outdoor activities.
· Has a past or present connection to the area south of Edmonton, including Leduc, Camrose and New Sarepta.
· May clean his vehicle at odd times of the day.
Police say they took the unusual step of releasing that information because they believe there are those who know the murderer and are suspicious of his activity.
They say at least eight of the murders have enough in common the lead them to suspect they were committed by the same person.
For the second year, a special commemoration for the murdered and missing women will be held on National Aboriginal Day, June 21st, organized by the School of Native Studies (SNS) at the University of Alberta (U of A) and the Institute of for the Advancement of Native Women. (IAAW).
The event will consist of an all night vigil on a quad on the U of A campus, and speakers from various advocacy groups, community service organizations, scholars and professionals. There will be moments for silent reflection, candlelight marches and other activities
Often categorized and dismissed as “sex trade” workers, says vigil organizer Kristy Leman, “these are women who must not be forgotten; these women are sisters, mothers, daughters and friends.”
Says IAAW Founder and President Muriel Stanley Venne, “we’ve cried enough. It is now time for action. On behalf of Aboriginal women, we ask Canadians to join hands with us to create positive change in our city and society.”
Adds Dr. Ellen Bielawski, SNS Dean, “I feel very strongly that those of us at the university need to work with the larger community to stop violence against women. The School of Native Studies teaches about the historical and social conditions that allow these women to disappear. I tell my students: ‘This not only history; poverty, racism and risk exist today.’ We need to change the aspects of society that allow this to happen.”
“With this project,” Leman says, “we want to facilitate awareness, education and action to make our city a safer place for women and their families.”
Here is a list of women who have been found under similar circumstances since 1983:
Oct. 20, 2005
Edmonton police announce they suspect Delores Brower, who had been reported missing five months earlier, may have been a victim of foul play.
May 6, 2005
The body of sex trade worker Ellie May Meyer, 33, is found near Sherwood Park, just east of Edmonton.
April 18, 2005
RCMP in Alberta identify the body of Charlene Gauld, 20, who burned remains were found near Camrose, 70 km. southeast of Edmonton.
Jan. 25, 2005
The body of 19-year-old Samantha Tayleen Berg is discovered under snow in a parking lot on Edmonton’s North Side. The teenager worked in the sex trade.
June 11, 2004
The body of 19-year-old Rachel Quinney is found in a wooded area near Sherwood Park.
July 7, 2003
The body of 40-year-old Katie Sylvia Ballentyne, who worked in the sex trade, is found in Leduc County, about 20 km south of Edmonton. She is the fourth female found in a field outside Edmonton in 2003, the fifth in 10 months.
April 12, 2003
The skull and remains of 29-year-old Debbie Lake, a former prostitute, are found near Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, approximately 70 km southeast of Edmonton.
Jan. 12, 2003
20-year-old Melissa Munch is found dead in a stand of trees on a farmer’s field in Strathcona County, bordering east Edmonton. The discovery is made four days after the body of Monique Pitre was found less than 10 kilometres away.
Jan. 8, 2003
The frozen body of Monique Pitre, 30, is found in a field south of Fort Saskatchewan, a few minutes northeast of Edmonton.. There is trauma to her entire body.
Sept. 23, 2002
The burned body of 28-year-old Edna Bernard is found in a field east of Leduc, half an hour south of Edmonton.
Jan. 27, 2001
24-year-old Kelly Dawn Reilly is found dead behind a gravel operation near Villeneuve., half an hour north of Edmonton.
Sept. 1, 1997
22-year-old Cara King is found in a canola field in Sherwood Park.
June 14, 1997
The body of 24-year-old Jessica Cardinal is found in an alley behind a commercial building at 9325-111th Avenue. Her body is discovered behind a discarded shelving unit. Edmonton police have no suspect in her death.
Oct. 19, 1997
The body of Joyce Hewitt is found in Sherwood Park. She had a “high-risk lifestyle.” The circumstances of her death were not available.
Dec. 25, 1996
24-year-old Joanne Ghostkeeper is found strangled in her Edmonton apartment. Police have no suspect in her death.
Feb. 11, 1993
The partially decomposed body of 25-year-old Elaine Ross is found stuffed under a bed in a motel room in west Edmonton. Autopsy results were inconclusive and a cause of death is unknown, but police are treating it as a homicide.
Dec. 21, 1990
Lorraine Wray, a 46-year-old masseuse and mother of one, is found strangled in the bathroom of her west Edmonton business. According to Edmonton police spokesperson Dean Parthenis, several autopsies were performed, leading investigators to determine “manual strangulation” as the cause of death.
Oct. 25, 1990
29-year-old Mavis Mason is found stabbed to death on a rural road west of Edmonton.
Oct. 25, 1989
Bernadette Ahenakew, a 22-year-old mother of three, is found dead in a ditch alongside a rural road near Sherwood Park.
Sept. 13, 1988
The body of 20-year-old Georgette Flint is found in Elk Island National Park, just west of Edmonton. An exact cause of death is not determined.
Sept. 21, 1986
The body of 21-year-old Melodie Joy Riegel is found on a hotel-room bed. She was last seen entering the hotel with a client.
The skeletal remains of 21-year-old Gail Cardinal are found 10 kilometres south of Fort Saskatchewan. RCMP spokesperson Roxanne Beaubien says Cardinal had a “high-risk lifestyle.” No cause was determined in her death.
· 1993: Linda Giles (circumstances unavailable)
· 1996: Charmaine Pidlesny (circumstances unavailable)
· 1999: Sherry Ann Upright (circumstances unavailable)
· 1999: Catherine Ann Burrell (circumstances unavailable)
· April 26, 2001: Ginger Lee Bellerose is found in the courtyard area of Edmonton’s International Hotel (since razed). The 26-year-old mother had been beaten to death.
The murder was solved March 14, 2003 and 52-year-old Medicine Hat resident Richard David Douglas was charged with second-degree murder. Edmonton police do not suspect this murder was connected with the others.
Edmonton City Police are also reopening old case files involving missing women to see if there is any connection to the most recent crimes.
The magnitude of the situation led to a gathering of experts from across North America in Edmonton in late January to exchange information and strategies. Details of their deliberations were not released, but the conclusion was that the cases will be solved with dogged determination and a combination of the latest techniques and good old-fashioned police work.