Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Alone with Shawn Lamb

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1Was it the same Shawn Lamb I'd met?

There were two reasons why I remembered him: his 2008 letter to me and his visit.

The letter was an 11-page "story of my life." It detailed a childhood of severe abuse, foster care and jail.

He was part of the '60s scoop that put thousands of aboriginal children into CFS care. He said he found out about his Ojibwa and Chipewayan heritage 11 years before and found hope in native spirituality.

He said he was going to try living a positive life once he got out of jail.

I think it was a few months later when Lamb paid me a visit at my office on Selkirk Avenue where I was publishing Urban NDN.

It was a sunny day and I was alone. I thought he was my son coming up the stairs.

Lamb looked like an ordinary white guy. I thought he had the wrong address until he introduced himself.

He was friendly enough but had that tense, "just got out of jail," vibe. He kept looking around as if he expected someone to come up behind him.

I was a little surprised by his fair appearance and long, scruffy, dirty blonde hair. But he was unassuming and polite.

At the time, he didn't seem much taller than me. He looked taller in news photos now, making me doubt it was him.

He made me a little nervous. It wasn't the ex-con thing; I've known many jailbirds throughout the years. I've just learned to always be on guard when I'm alone with a man -- even if it's just for an elevator ride.

I was uneasy but made sure he didn't notice. I played it cool. We talked a bit about his past and what he was doing now. He said he was taking a class somewhere down the street.

Then he did something that worried me. He said he had something to show me and turned away to dig in his bag.

Oh great, I thought -- he's going to pull out a knife or something creepy.

I glanced at my desk. I decided I'd whip my stapler at him if he tried anything.

I was relieved when he just pulled out a book and some papers. The book was about his home reserve and its history.

He showed me a few pages and spoke proudly of his heritage.

We talked about his letter. He told me he was still afraid to visit his birth family on the rez. I told him he should go in spite of the difficulty, that he had an important story to tell and should think about writing a book.

I kept hoping someone would show up. Eventually, my son came in.

Lamb told me he had to get going. It bothered me that he took his bag but forgot his book. He never came back for it.

That's all I remember.

-- -- --

My mind was racing. Was it really the accused serial killer I met that day?

I locked my doors and sat glued to the news all day.

Finally a photo of the suspect appeared. It looked like the guy but I wasn't 100 per cent sure. If I could find that letter I'd know for sure.

-- -- --

More facts about Lamb unravelled in the news and they matched what I remembered.

The next day, I started digging around in my basement, tearing boxes of papers and files apart. I'd done some major recycling and threw out a bunch of Urban NDN stuff.

Maybe I threw away the letter Lamb -- or whoever that guy was -- had written to me.

I was about to give up when I spotted a stack of boxes tucked away in a corner.

There it was. A name jumped right off the page: Shawn Lamb. The hairs on my arm stood on end and I half-ran, half-stumbled upstairs. There was no denying it now.

"Was it him?" my son asked.

"Yes," I said.

I started reading. There were four letters in total. I couldn't believe it. My mind is still boggled today. What would have happened if my son hadn't shown up?

My heart goes out to the families of those three lost young women.

If there's a lesson to be learned from meeting an alleged serial killer it is this: He was just like anybody you'd meet, and he could have been anyone.

Please trust your instincts, even if you think you might look foolish. Take care of yourself, and never trust anyone completely. You could meet someone today and not have a clue about what they are capable of.

Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.

colleen.simard@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 1, 2012 J1

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