They will be remembered

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Barb Sweet
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Vigil being held for 60 women and girls missing or killed

Becky-Leigh Michelin was only four when she woke to a bang and she and her sister discovered the body of their slain mother, Deidre Marie Michelin. Then they found the body of their father, Jobe Wolfrey, with a shotgun lying next to him.

Deidre Michelin (left, at rear) was the victim of a 1993 murder/suicide in Rigolet. Her partner, Jobe Wolfrey (right, at rear) shot her and then killed himself.  (Left, in front) Becky-Leigh Michelin was only four at the time. Her mother is among 60 women from this province whose lives are being remembered at an upcoming vigil. — Submitted photo

From what Michelin remembers, she and her then five-year-old sister — one of four siblings in the Rigolet house at the time of the Jan. 20, 1993, murder/suicide — walked to a relative’s house for help.

“This night, she was going to leave and take us with her. He couldn’t handle it,” said Michelin, who is now in her 20s.

“It started in the living room. That’s where my mother was to.”

Her mother, just 21 when she was murdered, is among the 60 killed or missing women and girls who will be remembered in a public vigil in St. John’s Feb. 3, a project organized by Marguerite’s Place, the Coalition Against Violence - Avalon East, the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre and the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre.

READ the list of murdered and missing women here

Michelin remembers her mother as someone who loved the outdoors, going to cabins and boating.

After the killings, the children stayed for a time with their grandmother, but Michelin said they were eventually separated into foster homes, which brought more trauma.

“None of that would have happened. It just hurt knowing (my parents) weren’t there,”  she said.

Now Michelin, a youth worker in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has her own little girl and no mother to turn to for advice.

Talking about what happened, though, helps her cope.

“She was a person, from what I am told, that loved us dearly,” Michelin said of her mom.

She also had to deal with the fact that her father, with whom she had been close as Daddy’s little girl,  committed the horrific act.

Michelin said at the time, there was no dedicated RCMP detachment in Rigolet. (According to the RCMP, it had an active patrol cabin in the community and the area was policed by the Goose Bay detachment.)

Michelin said she has seen video of herself and her siblings and their mom at Libra House, a Labrador shelter for abused women, but ultimately her mother’s cries for help went unheeded.

“(My mom) was kind of stuck, I guess,” she said.

 

Many lives touched

At the vigil, there will be readings by 60 people, one for each of the women and girls who have been killed or who are missing and presumed murdered in the province.

Some deaths occurred at the hands of partners or husbands, while  others included sex-related violence.

The researchers involved have tried to find as much information on the victims as they could, tracking down old court documents and newspaper and media reports and interviewing family and friends.

The resulting database will be maintained and updated, said Leslie MacLeod, executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council/Women’s Centre.

“Those of us who have worked on the list can never let it go. Every time we add a name or find more information, it is very hard and so important. These women are the face of violence. This is what violence looks like in our province. The most murders we have seem to be women who are being killed,” Mac­Leod said.

“It’s everything — shooting, stabbings, stranglings, throwing bodies away. It’s axes, it’s knives, it’s hammers, it’s cars — every weapon you can think of, iron bars smashing women’s heads in, lots of shootings, lots of stranglings.”

 

The people behind the headlines

The list includes high-profile cases such as the unsolved 1981 murder of Dana Bradley in St. John’s, the 1979 Corner Brook murder of  Janet Louvelle and the 1983 murder of Marilyn Ann Newman in Corner Brook. There are also the unsolved disappearances of Sharon Drover in 1978 and Henrietta Miller in 1982.

The murders of Brenda Marie Young in 1993 and Catherine Carroll  in 1990 — in which Young’s boyfriend and Carroll’s son were wrongfully convicted, with DNA evidence eventually identifying the real killers in each case — are also there.

Marguerite Dyson, for whom Marguerite’s Place was named, was beaten to death in her downtown rooming house in 1996.

The killing of 13-year-old Samantha Walsh of Fleur de Lys by her friend Michael Lewis gripped the province in 2000.

Chrissy Predham-Newman was 28 when she was found stabbed to death in her Airport Heights apartment in 2007. Her estranged husband, Ray Newman, was acquitted of the crime.

Her anguished mother, Yvonne, is still awaiting justice in the case and told researchers, “It is still surreal and heart-wrenching when I say the words ‘my daughter’ and ‘murdered’ in the same sentence.”

Ann Marie Shirran, 32, of Kilbride was killed in 2010. Her body was found in the woods in Cappahayden and her boyfriend, David Folker, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013, although he is appealing it.

Also on the list is the horrific case in which Juliane Hibbs, 35, was murdered along with her fiancé, Vince Dillon, in October 2013 in Villa Nova Plaza, Conception Bay South, by her former boyfriend Brian Dawe, who was found dead in a cemetery from a self-inflicted gunshot the next morning. He was wearing body armour and had weapons and ammunition.

But a number of the cases are either long forgotten or were never publicized. Some occurred out of province.

In 1815, Mary Hearn was violently assaulted and beaten to death by her husband, John, a harbour pilot. He was sentenced to be hanged and left on the gallows in public view.

In 1833, Mary Fanning was eight months’ pregnant when she was beaten to death in Harbour Grace. Her husband, Peter, admitted to it and was convicted of manslaughter.

Jane Geehan of Riverhead, Harbour Grace, was murdered in 1871 and her body was thrown in a pit.

Newfoundlander Sarah Ann McDonald was living with her family in North Sydney, N.S., in 1921 when, while nursing her nine-month-old, she was killed with an axe by her husband, Dan. Two other children were locked in a room off the kitchen.

In 1998, Joan Hicks, 48, and Nina Hicks, 11, were living in Moncton, N.B., when they were strangled. Michael Wayne McGray pleaded guilty to Joan’s murder.

In 2002, Serena Colson, 26, had been planning to move back home to Newfoundland when she was stabbed to death with six different knives in front of her three children in their Bedford, N.S., apartment.

The 2011 murder of Newfoundlander Carol King in Herschel, Sask., has not been solved.

 

Faceless Dolls

Much of the research was done through the national aboriginal Faceless Dolls project. In this province, the Faceless Dolls organizers decided to include all women because of the interconnections and ancestry, said Amelia Reimer, women’s outreach worker at the Native Friendship Centre.

It became an eye-opening experience to see the extent of the crimes, Reimer said.

The intent is to reveal as much as possible about who the victims were.

“A lot of people focus on the crime and what happened. We were really trying to focus on who they are in life before this happened,” Reimer said.

“These were living, breathing women before they became a statistic.”

Among them is Yvonne King, who in 2002 went missing on her 40th birthday while walking in Fox Harbour, Placentia Bay. She is remembered as being kind-hearted and an A student at Memorial University. Family members commented that her father died without ever knowing what happened to his beloved child.

Among a dozen murder/suicide victims listed are a few whose names were never revealed. One woman, in 2011, was shot in St. John’s while washing her dishes.

The vigil will take place at Salons A & B of the Holiday Inn on Portugal Cove Rd., St. John’s, from 7–8:30 p.m. There is room for about 160 people.

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Organizations: Rigolet house, RCMP, Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis Libra House Women Council Airport Heights Salons A B Holiday Inn on Portugal Cove

Geographic location: Goose Bay, Newfoundland, Avalon East Happy Valley Corner Brook Fleur de Lys North Sydney Moncton Bedford Herschel Sask. Fox Harbour Placentia Bay Hull

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Recent comments

  • Alice Asprey Lefurgey
    July 14, 2014 - 15:43

    I am the aunt of Pamela Asprey. Missing from St. Johns NFL, Nov 12, 1984. I found a page on Facebook put up by a Tracy Bishop today. She said Pam lived with her family. When I went back to the Pamela Asprey page put up by Tracy Bishop it was taken down???????????? I would like to know more about what your organization does. I also found a posting from a Poole lady asking for identifying marks on Pam. She is suppose to be a private investigator. .I checked her Facebook page and she looks about 20 yrs of age. I am growing more curious by the second!. Alice Asprey Lefurgey

  • albert fowler
    January 28, 2014 - 15:26

    Jean Way Came From Hare Bay

  • St. John's Native Friendship Centre
    January 27, 2014 - 14:15

    Thank you so much for the response to the article. We have a larger list of missing/murdered women/children of NL for the Faceless Dolls project, but we are well aware there are many more cases out there that have not yet been brought to our attention. Please feel free to phone us at 709-726-7902 or email to amelia@sjnfc.com with information on missing or murdered women/children of NL so that we can follow up and add them to this (tragically) growing database. This database is the first of its kind here in the province, and we are working with a variety of other organizations to try and ensure no missing/murdered women/children are forgotten. Thank you.

  • stella michelin
    January 27, 2014 - 10:16

    Beck not a day goes by I don't think of my first cousin dd.. stay strong I love you guys...

  • Marie Norman
    January 26, 2014 - 14:00

    What can I say??? I just thank God I never experienced any thing like that...and I pray that all of these beautiful women are in heaven with God.. and as for the murderers... I hope the paid for their crime....

  • Ruth Evans
    January 26, 2014 - 10:40

    This takes my breath away.... As the mother of two girls and two boys, I fear for them in a society which clearly doesn't teach respect for women and their choices... Rebecca Michelin- what a remarkable person! congratulations and thank-you to her for her accomplishments, strength and bravery! RUTH

  • Herb Morrison
    January 26, 2014 - 08:25

    The horrific incidents of violence against women recounted in this article are understandable, at least in part; when you consider that we live in a culture where women are , on occasions objectified when they are referred to as "nice pieces of gear." On the other hand, the portraying and demonization of every male, by portraying all males as "male batterers," or "tarring all males with the same brush,"as the saying goes, is not the way to deal either appropriately or effectively; with the reality of the shockingly high level of incidents violence against women, as well-edocumented in this article, women. Holding all men accountable for the horrendous acts of violence doccumented in this article; is every bit as unjustiabe, as the objectification of women or the commission of acts of violence against women; regardless of whether the violence take the form of verbal or physical abuse. The key to eliminating vioplence agasainst women, as well as other injustices which exist in our society, is to temper our desire to see injustices,of which violence against women is one of many,is to temper our desire for justice with an appropriate sense of righteousness.

  • Joanne Broomfield
    January 26, 2014 - 08:16

    As a coworker of Becky Michelin, her moms twin I call her (her mom was a teenage friend of mine), Becky has grown into a beautiful young mom herself, who her mom would have been very proud of. Good job Becky for speaking out and praying this never happens to another family. You are young and have overcome so much in life already. Can't even imagine walking in your shoes! But you did it!

  • Cecilia Williams
    January 25, 2014 - 21:08

    I want to share something I wrote myself, I guess I was one of the lucky ones who got away. Praying for all woman who are still there. A thousand times u kissed me, a thousand times u lied. A thousand times u hit me, a thousand times I cried. When the sun comes up tomorrow, and u have no ugly words to say, all the bruises will be hidden but they'll never go away. Thoughts r buried somewhere in the dark, and one day brought to light. The day I finally left u I knew I'd have to fight. U took a lot away from me, one day I'll take it back. Slowly I will start to heal and put my life back on track. U over looked some details, when I was under your control. U underestimated me and some how I broke your hold. Somewhere under all the loss came a strength from deep within. A small voice started to speak uncovering all your sins. A thousand times you'll think of me, a thousand times you'll cry, a thousand times you'll miss me, a thousand times you'll wonder why.

  • Sheila
    January 25, 2014 - 19:56

    Kimberley Lockyer should be on this list.

  • Frances Murphy
    January 25, 2014 - 18:32

    Our loved one, my only sister, Sharon Murphy was 17 years old, 11 months, 21 days old when she was shot and murdered on April 6th, 1981 in Nain, Labrador while babysitting 4 children. She was being stalked and harassed and her case was known to police. We think about her all the time, she would have turned 50 last year. We love you Sharon and miss you so much.

  • navek
    January 25, 2014 - 17:09

    "One woman, in 2011, was shot in St. John’s while washing her dishes." How does this not get reported?

  • seanoairborne
    January 25, 2014 - 14:18

    Then there was, Chris Tapper, a lady of the night, who was found dead from blunt trauma on Princes St. in 1960.Her head was caved in and she was stabbed.I don't think they ever found the perp.Also a guy by the name of, Joe Myrick, was found with a knife in his chest across from Bannerman Park by a friend of mine while walking home one night in 1963.He ran all the way to the police station in the old courthouse building and reported it.There were many more,men and women, who died violently when I was a kid growing up in St.John's!God rest their souls!!

    • seanoairborne
      January 25, 2014 - 14:54

      Also there was,Leo Pitman and Gertie House.Pittman was a friend of my older brother and was found floating in St.John's harbor a month after his disappearance.His head was bashed in.They never found his killer.Gertie House was attacked by her live in boyfriend,Max, at her house on New Gower St.in about 1967.He was convicted of her murder and went to prison.Gertie ran a small store on the corners of New Gower and Queen Sts for about 7 years.IMe and my buds used to hang out there playing the pinball machine.She was a nice lady but her BF Max was an A**!!!

    • Marilyn Meaney
      January 26, 2014 - 10:31

      To the person who mentioned Chris Tapper...I am living with her son and her family have been years trying to get information abut her. Please contact me via email if you knew this woman. Chris had four children that finally found each other thru a lot of searching. Two of them are passed away. The other two would like more info about her if you can help us please do.

    • Marilyn Meaney
      January 26, 2014 - 11:41

      I forgot to put my email address in the plea to the person that wrote about Chris Tapper. My email address is mmeaney1@nl.rogers.com. Please contact me if you read this.

  • Roxanne Michelin
    January 25, 2014 - 11:02

    good job Becky, loves how you spoke out about our parents

  • Lewis McNeil
    January 25, 2014 - 10:37

    I'm pretty sure there was also a girl in Port-Aux-Basques in April of 1986 who was shot and killed.Her name was Elaine Pierce or Pearce.

  • Christine Goodwin
    January 25, 2014 - 08:33

    I would like to see Jean Way's name on the list. She was from Daniel's Harbour I believe and was murdered in Montreal in the very late sixties or early seventies ( not sure on the dates) she was a very beautiful person inside and out.

  • gertie
    January 25, 2014 - 08:04

    there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about and remember my sister(SHARON DROVER).this vigil would be such an honour for her and all of the others. THANK YOU GREATLY EVENING TELEGRAM.GERTIE DROVER