February 27, 2020

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Heartache for those lost and found

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/11/2018 (454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This is the truth of the matter, cold and hard and impossible to get around: not all who go missing are found.

The math is stark, the equation unsettling but simple: the world is big and human bodies are small. It is easy for creation to swallow them up. The shock isn't so many vanish forever, but that others are found at all.

Grim serendipity, sometimes that's all that can find them. Random acts of convergence. A dark sort of luck.

The stories always go something like this: a farmer, checking on his crops, spies a hole dug in the ditch. A scrap of something pokes out. He calls the police. Now, George and Melinda Wood's daughter, Christine, is no longer alone.

Or, a hunter, stalking about somewhere in the Rural Municipality of Taché, stumbles across something he recognizes as human. Investigators have their suspicions as to the identity, but the DNA tests take awhile to confirm.

When the results come back, it is official: after more than three years of searching, Thelma Krull has been found.

Winnipeg police said little about the discovery Thursday — only she was found in October in the woods east of the city and north of the Trans-Canada Highway, she had been murdered, and someone took "some effort" to put her body in that location.

Whatever else police learned from her remains, only they and whoever killed her know. For now, anyway.

But for the rest of the city, there is ripple of grief, an exhale, a rumination. For more than three years, the video of Krull's last walk — sunny day, quiet streets — flickered in Winnipeg's memory, whispering of dangers we dare not imagine.

Homicide Detective Wes Rommell announces that the remains found by a hunter.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Homicide Detective Wes Rommell announces that the remains found by a hunter.

Violence destroys too many lives in this city. Yet, this particular type of violence is still rare: a woman vanished in broad daylight on a residential street. No apparent ties to anyone who might have hurt her, no obvious link.

Discovering her remains does not soothe those fears: her killer is still out there. Last year, police released a sketch of a suspect.

Yet, for her family, and all those who helped search, it at least brings an answer, a painful sort of grace.

The human instinct, universal, stretching across every era and culture: all of us yearn to put our dead to rest.

Journalists see this yearning close, too close. It can haunt us. Two years ago, I sat at Debra Sinclair's dining room table and held her hand as she wept over her son, Waylon Smith, who was last seen near Lake St. Martin in 2006.

Over the years, she heard so many rumours about what happened to him, and who did it.

She wanted justice, she said, but above all she prayed for her baby to come home to her, so she could at least give him a "proper burial." So he wouldn't be missing. So, if nothing else, she would know.

"Let me do right by him," she said, echoing the desperate prayers of too many families since, and before.

We can remember them, as a city. There is Claudette Osborne, who disappeared in the summer of 2008. Or Amber McFarland, vanished from Portage la Prairie in October 2008, last seen on camera with two men inside a beer vendor.

The names go on.

Thelma Krull

CP

Thelma Krull

Jennifer Leigh Catcheway, missing since June 19, 2008. It was her 18th birthday. This summer, her parents bought her a birthday cake, and held a fundraiser to keep the search for their daughter going.

Sunshine Wood, just 16 years old the last time she was seen, in 2004. In photos that night, she laughed as she walked out the doors of the old St. Regis Hotel. The hotel is shuttered, now. She's gone, too.

Annie Yassie, 13 when she vanished outside of Churchill.

Christine Jack, murdered in 1988. Her husband's conviction was stayed and her body has still not been found.

Last year, Jack's daughter, Kairsten Fatland, told the Free Press she prays to find answers. Something that will close the broken part of the circle: "To find something that will allow us to give my mom a proper burial," she said.

Every so often, there are vigils for the missing. There is a little media coverage for each anniversary that passes, ticking up in number until the public begins to get fuzzy on the dates.

Eventually, there are not enough people left who remember. Eventually, those who are left have given so much, for so long, they have nothing left to give and nowhere left to turn. Then the media looks away and the news moves on.

There are always new names to take their place.

Not all who go missing are found. But those who are searching never really stop. They fear what they will find; but the not-knowing, they say, is the worst part of all.

As long as part of their heart is missing, whereabouts unknown, they can never again be whole.

So let this be something to honour: this week, one of Manitoba's missing came home. That homecoming is horrifying and grateful and lucky — at least one family will be able to lay to rest one sliver of the not-knowing.

May the discovery shine hope for those still searching. One day, may all we have lost be found.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin
Reporter-at-large

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History

Updated on Friday, November 30, 2018 at 6:39 AM CST: Corrects spelling of Taché

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