Two years after her death, Jessica Patrick’s family is still looking for answers.
Patrick was last seen leaving Mountain View Motel in Smithers in the early morning hours of Aug. 31 2018.
Her body was not found until Sept. 15 2018 off Hudson Bay Mountain Road. To this day, the case remains unsolved, but RCMP say the investigation is active and ongoing.
However, Patrick’s cousin Jacquie Bowes doesn’t feel like police are doing enough.
“It feels like they are giving us the runaround,” she says. “The major crime unit would check in with us every six months, or three to four months, very sporadic. They basically just say they haven’t forgotten about you, Jessica is still first on our list, we want to make sure this case doesn’t become cold. Basically everything we want to hear. We are tired of hearing the runaround. They say Jessica is a priority but they feel overwhelmed with other cases.”
She added she told the major crimes unit in the very beginning that she refuses to let her case go cold and that they are setting a precedent allowing murderers to get away with it.
Patrick’s sister Kirsten echoed those concerns.
“I’ve been trying to call them, I’ve been asking the cops and no one is saying anything to me. I am getting very frustrated. I’m working on finding out who did it and why. I heard that she owed money, but that is about it.”
Kirsten said she misses her sister’s laugh and amazing humour, but also simply just misses loving her.
“I’m pretty heartbroken,” she added. “I raised her.”
Kirsten’s husband Floyd Hyzins is also concerned the case will be closed before finding out what happened to his sister-in-law.
“Why aren’t they doing anything anymore? It is hard for all of us knowing if we will get justice or not,” he said.
Bowes said the local detachment didn’t take the case seriously enough when Patrick was first reported missing.
According to Corporal Madonna Saunderson, Patrick was reported missing by her mother and sister on September 3, 2018 at 5:20 p.m. to Smithers detachment who initiated a missing persons investigation. On Sept. 6 the first media release was issued.
“As Jessica was not reported to the RCMP as missing until Sept. 3, there was no search or investigation conducted by the RCMP into her disappearance prior to the report date,” she said.
On Sept. 15, 2018, her body was located by a family member near Hudson Bay Mountain Lookout.
“During the period of Sept. 3 to 15, the RCMP conducted multiple searches some of which were done pursuant to warrants in an effort to not only locate Jessica, but identify anyone who may have been involved in her disappearance,” Saunderson added.
Bowes said a family member should not have been the one who found her body and that she felt her family did more of the investigating than police did.
She is also frustrated that the federal government has spent a lot of time and money on the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, but isn’t putting much into action.
“They need to create a trained team, so as soon as someone goes missing someone is assigned to be an investigator,” she said. “It was quite traumatic what we went through in order to find Jessica. It was bad enough that we were worried, we didn’t know what we’d come across when we were searching. We didn’t know if we would find her alive or deceased. A family shouldn’t have to go through that.”
Bowes is an aboriginal community legal worker and is advocating for better resources for Indigenous children.
“I work with children that are in children protection care. With Jessica, it became a passion of mine, especially knowing that Jessica was in care. She was only 18, she was still in MCFDC [The Ministry of Children and Family Development] care when she was deceased.”
Bowes also said she will miss Patrick’s smile the most.
“Even though she was going through so much and just basically trying to survive and she hid [her struggles] all so well. She wanted to give her daughter everything she didn’t have.”
While there may not have been much action on Patrick’s case, there is work being done in the community to help families of missing and murdered indigenous women heal. The Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society applied for a grant from the federal government’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Commemoration Fund for a mural to be painted on the outside of their building on Main Street in Smithers.
Further down the Highway of Tears, a name given to a stretch of Highway 16 where many Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered, a totem pole honouring Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was raised earlier this month.