By Michelle Oleman
Aielah Saric-Auger, was an aboriginal girl just 14 years old when she disappeared on February 2 of this year. She is the youngest and most recent of the young women to go missing along what is now known as the Highway of Tears (a stretch of highway in remote northern B.C.) which serves many aboriginal communities.
Aielah attended D.P. Todd High School, and lived at home with her family. She had left her home with her sister and brother for a day at the mall. Her mother describes the awful feeling when your child leaves home and a nagging feeling tells you to ask her to stay home today. As Aielah and her siblings left the home Mrs. Audrey Saric-Auger describes how beautiful she was, and telling her that she loves her very much, and to hurry home as soon as she’s done; and finally blowing her a kiss. One final kiss, which represents all the love that has been lost for many of the Highway of Tears victims and their families for the Saric-Auger family its tragic.
Tragic for a mother who was called to identify the body of her young daughter 10 days later, the loss of such a young girl is tremendous. “She was not a hooker, she wasn’t even hitchhiking! She just wanted to hang out with her friends at the mall, why did you have to pick my baby girl!!” is how Mrs. Saric-Auger expresses her anguish toward the perpetrator(s). Aielah’s small body was found, and identifiable, but so much of it was missing that the family had to have a closed casket funeral. This case of a missing girl only lasted 10 days, but the outcome of the search, which was delayed at Mrs. Saric-Auger’s own request, is the worst-case scenario for every family.
Tamara Chipman, 22, was last seen hitchhiking along highway 16 just outside of Prince George, in September 2001. She is an aboriginal woman who is spunky, fun-loving and very fond of her 6- year-old son Jayden. This behavior of not calling home to check in, like many other missing women, is not normal behavior for her.
Her aunt Lorna Brown pleads to the public to keep an eye out for her missing loved one. “Lord I pray that she’s found and that anybody who comes across her since September 21 (2005) would come forward to the RCMP. This is a girl who is loved by her mother, her stepfather, and her (entire) family…”
Tamara is described as being 5’10” tall, and a slight 130 pounds, with brown eyes and short brown hair. She is prone to wearing a variety of wigs, including blonde, red, and brunette. Police describe her lifestyle as highrisk, as she was known to hitchhike along the highway. She is one of the most recent women to go missing and not be found along the Yellowhead highway.
Nicole Hoar, 25 at the time of her disappearance, was a bubbly, vivacious young caucasian woman who worked as a tree planter in the Nothern B.C. region for a few years. Nicole hails from Red Deer, Alta., and had made plans to surprise her sister in Smithers B.C., she left Prince George on June 21, 2002, in hopes of showing up on her sister’s doorstep “out of the blue.”
The Hoar family had the swiftest and most impressive response of all the cases of missing women on the highway thus far, the Hoars are the only non-aboriginal family to have reported a missing loved one along this lonely stretch of road. Of the tragedy and the subsequent response Jack Hoar thanks the community for their tremendous support and the officials for their efforts in the search for his daughter. A massive police search has failed to find her.
Lana Derrick, aged 19, from Thornhill B.C., disappeared October 7, 1995 from a local gas station. She was enrolled in forestry studies at Northwest Community College in Prince George and was only home for the weekend. Lana’s friend Tania says of her ” I know in my heart that there is no hope to bring Lana Derrick home safe, but maybe your (publications) can help to solve this case so that Lana’s remains can be brought home and buried properly,” bleak words for remembering a young woman who had a bright future and friends and family who loved her.
Ramona Wilson was 15 when she vanished on June 11,1994. She was hitchhiking along the highway to meet friends in nearby Smithers. Ramona was also a high school student who lived with her family. She was a bright student, full of life, friendly high-school student who hoped to attend the University of Victoria. She had made a phone call to let her family know that she was heading home and was expected a short 10-30 minutes after that phone call. Her remains were found almost a year later, April 1995 near the Smithers Airport. She had been strangled and the police told the family that the murder had been sexually motivated.
Monica Ingas went missing some years prior to this December 13, 1974. Speculations are that she may have been one of the first victims. She was also a high school student who sometimes hitched a ride to and from school. Living with her family in Thornhill, just outside of Terrace promoted this activity for some of the young students who may have practiced extra-curricular activities in school or in town, which would involve missing a school bus.
Janet Hulkrans, an area resident recalls Monica had been near the age of her own children who were in school and seeing her hitchhiking along the highway. “Maybe she was the first (to disappear). She wasn’t much older than my kids and I had picked her up once and driven her to school, so she is forever in my memory. She was a nice girl and doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.”.
On April 6th, 1975 Monica’s partially nude body was found. Six kilometers from Terrace B.C., in a gravel pit, yet another grisly discovery after a short 4- month search for a missing loved one.
Alberta Williams, 24 and only 5’2″ tall weighing 115 pounds was reported missing August 26, 1989. She had moved with her sister Claudia Williams to work at a local fishing company earlier that summer and as the season came to an end the two went out for a night on the town with two other women (cousins) and one man (one of the ladies’ boyfriend).
Once she was reported missing the family searched for days. Her father commented that, “It makes me sad to see my children searching through bushes…” for the remains of their own sibling.
Several weeks later, mid September, hikers found the remains 37 kilometres outside of Prince Rupert, at a place called the Tyee Overpass.
Alberta’s sister provides a clear description of her personality in this simple, and sad but true statement, “She was just so kind, so tiny and so kind. Out of all my sisters she’s the best. I really think she’s be around today if she weren’t that friendly person that she was.”
Alberta’s body was flown to Vancouver B.C., for an autopsy, but 17 years later the family still has no answers and her body has not yet been laid to rest.
Delphine Nikal, aged 15, disappeared from Smithers B.C. on June 14, 1990 hitchhiking east along highway 16. Her home was in nearby Telkwa B.C., and her family describes her as a peaceful, fun-loving, spirited young girl who loves life and would never leave without explanation.
Roxanne Thiara, also 15 years old, went missing from Prince George in 1994. She had been out with a friend, and is the first to have anyone mention that she worked as a prosititute. She had mentioned to her friend that she was going to see a “customer” and disappeared around the side of a building in Prince George and was never heard from again. She disappeared the July long weekend, and was found two weeks later August 17, 1994. Sixteen kilometers outside of Burns Lake her body was found in the brush alongside deadly highway 16.
Leah Alishia Germaine, aged 15, was the second one who had reports of previously working in the sex trade. Her body was found by three teen-aged boys behind a Prince George elementary school, she had been stabbed to death. Leah’s family was aware of some of her activities, and her friend’s swear that she had left the lifestyle for a couple of weeks prior to her disappearance. Eleven years later, there’s still no closure for a family who clearly loved their little girl, and still miss her.
Leah’s (Alishia) aunt Connie puts it very simply in words of memory, “When Leah was young I had the pleasure of her living with my family and I… she was so full of life always smiling…she loved kisses, her kitty Pookie, but especially her Mom, and Dad, Ken Pirie.”
Her brother, Jonah Cunningham states on the Highway of Tears Website, “If more attention is brought to the many mysteries that have lived and lie along this lonesome stretch of road- and the communities that live along it- perhaps it will bring a long overdue spotlight to this part of our province…,” wraps it up very nicely for all the families who have had loved ones gone missing and/or murdered along the notorious Highway of Tears.