A nightmare has come true for the family of Deanna Desjarlais.
The 27-year-old Saskatoon woman was missing for five months, last seen in British Columbia, including the North Okanagan. Last week, her body was identified as one found months earlier in a wooded area of Hawthorne Park near Surrey.
“Her family is pretty devastated and going through a lot. I guess they have closure now,” said Dana Morenstein, a family friend who helped lead the efforts to find Desjarlais.
In July, Vancouver city police confirmed Desjarlais was reported missing by her family and that she was seen in Vernon in January, in Vancouver in April, and in Surrey in May.
Morenstein said she believes someone killed Desjarlais, who was not familiar with the Surrey area, didn’t drive a car and was afraid of the dark. She said there’s no way her friend would have stumbled into the wooded area alone.
Surrey RCMP confirmed that a body was found in Surrey on May 17. It wasn’t until last week, on Sept. 13, that the remains were identified as Desjarlais’ and her family was notified.
Morenstein said for months she and the family feared the worst because it was out of character for Desjarlais not to be in touch.
She said no one took the case seriously, and if it wasn’t for a Facebook page about Desjarlais’ disappearance, the media and others would not have known about it.
“It would have just been another missing indigenous woman, another dead indigenous woman,” she said.
“If it weren’t for this Facebook page, no one would know she was missing, no one would know she was murdered.”
Her family has said Desjarlais lived a “high risk lifestyle” and suffered from addictions issues that may have put her at a higher risk out on the streets.
Her addictions are no reason for her case to be ignored, they said.
Morenstein is not optimistic about the RCMP investigation. She said because the body was so decomposed, it will likely be difficult to get any physical evidence.
She said even with a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women underway, more pressure needs to be put on police to take cases like this more seriously.
“If you look at the injustices in the past, why should we have faith?”
She said she hopes someone comes forward with information that will eventually solve the mystery of how she went missing and why she ended up dead.
In the meantime, Morenstein said the family is simply trying to find a way to bring her body home to Saskatchewan for a traditional burial.
Surrey RCMP is asking for the public’s assistance in determining the movements and last known whereabouts of Desjarlais, age 27, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
“The Surrey RCMP is asking anyone who may have seen Ms. Desjarlais in the weeks leading up to May 17 to call us,” said Cpl. Scotty Schumann. “If we can determine her movements during this time, it may assist us in determining what ultimately led to her unfortunate death.”
Anyone with more information is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or Crime Stoppers, if they wish to remain anonymous, at 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca.