VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
A sister still lost
Dianne Rock is one of 20 women Robert Pickton stands accused of killing -- and her family is one of many still waiting for a trial
Saturday, March 08, 2008
She was radiant in her wedding dress, the white lace of her veil a stunning contrast to her curly, raven locks.
GLEN LOWSON/SPECIAL TO THE VANCOUVER SUN
Lilliane Beaudoin holds a wedding photo of her adopted sister Dianne Rock, an alleged victim of serial killer Robert Pickton, in her home where she has a small shrine dedicated to her sister.
Her blue eyes sparkle and her white teeth flash a wide smile, displaying youthful happiness -- or at least a youthful desire for happiness.
The 1985 wedding was in a Catholic church in this southern Ontario town, the reception in the backyard of her parents' middle-class home.
Dianne Rock's life to that point was not tragic nor exceptional -- she was a fairly typical girl from a small town where, 23 years ago, it wasn't that uncommon to marry young.
She had five children and one more marriage and, despite some struggles over the years, was a woman who tried to provide for her kids and eventually moved to Vancouver.
How her life spiralled into despair when she was in her 30s remains a haunting mystery to her family in Ontario.
No one heard from Dianne after October 2001. Then the following April, her relatives got the devastating news that has consumed them ever since: serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton was charged with her murder.
Why? What happened?
Their questions went unanswered at Pickton's trial in 2007, when he was convicted of the second-degree murder of six women who vanished from the Downtown Eastside. A judge had earlier separated 20 other women Pickton was accused of killing, including Dianne, into a group to be dealt with at a second trial -- a decision that disappointed many families.
As a result, all the evidence police gathered about Dianne during the 20-month search of Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm is protected by a publication ban.
Her family has no idea what police found.
She was the second-last woman to disappear of the 26 victims Pickton is accused of killing.
GLEN LOWSON/SPECIAL TO THE VANCOUVER SUN
Lilliane Beaudoin rearranges photos of Dianne Rock, an alleged victim of Robert
Pickton. Ella Marin -- Beaudoin's
Andrea Joesbury and Sereena Abotsway vanished just before Dianne, in the summer of 2001; Mona Wilson was the last to go missing, in November 2001.
The heads, hands and feet of Abotsway, Joesbury and Wilson were found in buckets on Pickton's farm. They, along with three other women whose partial remains were also on the farm, were the focus of the first trial.
In dividing the charges against Pickton into two groups, Justice James Williams said the evidence regarding those six was "materially different" than the other 20.
"Being one of the last, where is Dianne's evidence?" her sister, Lilliane Beaudoin, said during an emotional interview in her Welland home.
Whether Dianne's grieving family will ever get answers to their many questions remains unclear, as the Crown confirmed this week that Pickton will likely never stand trial for killing Dianne or the other 19 women.
That leaves Beaudoin wondering if she'll ever find out: "Where is Dianne?"
GLEN LOWSON/SPECIAL TO THE VANCOUVER SUN
A group of pictures of Dianne Rock sits on a table in the home of Lilliane
Beaudoin, Rock's sister. Convicted serial killer Robert
A rough beginning
Dianne was raised a member of the close-knit Marin clan, but she didn't arrive at the family's house in the usual way.
Denis Marin, a crane operator, and his wife Ella, a nurse's aide, had four children and thought their family was complete. Their two oldest had already left home, and their two youngest, Lilliane and Denise, were teenagers.
Then in October 1967 Denise asked her mother if she could babysit a teenage friend's infant for an evening. That was the first time the family met Dianne, who was just a few weeks old.
Ella was worried about the newborn, who had a terrible cold and was wearing a thin nightie. She insisted the teenage mother and her baby remain at the Marins for the weekend so Dianne could get better.
That weekend turned into two years, as the Marins thought they could provide a more stable home for the teenage mom than the place she had been staying.
Denis was captivated by the happy, pretty infant. "He said, 'We can't let Dianne go that way,'" his wife recalled.
Their daughters, Lilliane, who was then 12, and her 14-year-old sister Denise, were thrilled to have a "baby doll" in the house.
"Dianne was such a loveable little baby. She was so pretty, with big eyes and smiles. She was just so happy," Beaudoin recalled. "She won our hearts over."
A few times over the next two years the teenage mother ran away with Dianne. The last time Denis called the police because he thought the baby wasn't safe.
The biological mother agreed to let the Marins adopt Dianne, who was doted on by the family.
"We spoiled her. We only had her, the other children were all grown up. So we couldn't say no to her," Ella, 78, recalled.
Framed photos of Dianne are displayed through the comfortable and welcoming home of her sister, Beaudoin: posing for the camera in a red velvet dress, her ringlets perfectly coiffed; hugging relatives in front of Christmas trees; on a family vacation to Florida; playing with her nephew and nieces.
Shelley Waters was Dianne's niece, but she was only four years younger and their relationship was more like sisters. They went roller-skating, spent summer weekends at the extended family's fishing lodge, and hung out with many friends.
"We'd listen to music and talk on the phone and eat sunflower seeds," Waters said.
Although outgoing and high-spirited, Dianne was also mischievous and stubborn -- a prankster with a fiery temper who hated going to school. She was a tiny, spitball of a teenager, who was not quite five feet tall but could take care of herself and protected those she loved.
At age 16, Dianne had a daughter. She moved into an upstairs apartment in the home owned by Beaudoin.
"Mom and Dad helped out a lot. Dianne was lost at the time. She wanted a child, but she wanted some freedom," Beaudoin recalled.
Then the next year -- within a span of a few weeks -- her beloved father Denis Marin died, she discovered she was pregnant with her second baby and she got married at age 17.
The young couple had one more child, but hit rocky times and separated after a few years. The single mother of three children got a job as a nurse's aide in the same retirement home where her mother worked.
"She was good with her kids when they were small," Beaudoin said. "And all of Dianne's co-workers told Mom that she was a good worker."
But it was hard to get a day-time babysitter, so she found a night job: exotic dancing.
Ella didn't approve, but drove her daughter to the strip club and picked her up afterwards to ensure she was safe.
"Mom respected the fact that Dianne was trying to support her family," Beaudoin said.
She was, her relatives say, ashamed of dancing and turned to drugs to mask those feelings.
"She said to me, 'Mom, it's pretty hard for me to go on to the stage and strip in front of all those men. That's why I'm doing [the drugs]'" Ella recalled, her eyes welling with tears.
Wanting to escape the judgment of her home community, Dianne moved in 1991 with her two daughters (the middle child, a boy, went to live with his father) to another Ontario city, where she continued dancing.
She met her second husband there, a man with the last name Rock, and got married in 1992. They had a baby boy.
But life was not ideal. There were struggles with drug addictions. Her family didn't understand why she was troubled.
A fresh start
"No matter how much love we gave Dianne, how much we tried to give her a good life, we wondered why she would be that way when we didn't raise her that way," Beaudoin said.
They knew little, she said, about Dianne's birth mother and nothing about her biological father. She wonders today if Dianne's medical history could have revealed some answers.
Later in 1992, Dianne moved to Metro Vancouver with her children and new husband, whose father got him a job paving driveways. Dianne's family hoped the West Coast would bring them some stability.
For a while, it did.
The couple had another baby boy, and Dianne worked as a caregiver to mentally handicapped adults. She was also studying part-time to be a registered nurse's assistant.
The Sun interviewed two of Dianne's bosses in 2002, who both praised her work ethic.
She looked after high-needs clients for Abbotsford's Mennonite Central Committee's support services from 1996 to 1998.
"She did an exceptional job," said manager Steve Thiessen.
And from 1998 to 2001, she worked at MSA Community Living in Abbotsford, where former boss Richard Ashton said she appeared healthy and happy.
"She was a hard worker and she was a good employee," Ashton said at the time.
Ella visited her daughter at least once a year in B.C. She said the couple appeared to be providing a stable home for the four children, although she thought Dianne was very strict.
"All she kept telling me is she didn't want her kids to be the same way she was when she was young," Ella recalled.
Dianne appeared drug-free until her marriage, which was rocky at times, broke up in 2000.
On her last visit to B.C., in February of 2001, Ella saw a Dianne she didn't recognize. She had lost custody of her children and had a court date to fight for their return. She took money from her mother without asking.
The relapse was difficult for the family to comprehend.
"I was angry because she did do so well for so long," said her niece, Waters, a hotel worker.
Dianne took a leave of absence from work in April 2001 and never returned. Her oldest daughter called Beaudoin several times that fall, wondering if she had heard from Dianne.
Then a police officer called Beaudoin in November 2001, asking if Dianne had returned to Welland. "He said she hasn't been to her hotel, and [police] had to go there and pick up her belongings."
The officer said nothing about Dianne, who was then 34, being missing -- and the Ontario relatives didn't know about the list of women who had disappeared from the Downtown Eastside. They wondered where Dianne was, but didn't dream there was anything wrong.
"Even though Dianne was a tiny, tiny girl -- soaking wet, 105 pounds -- she was tough. She could always take care of herself. I never worried about her," Waters said.
They were dumbfounded when, in April 2002, police charged Pickton with her death.
"I didn't believe it," Ella said, bursting into tears.
The police said Dianne had been selling sex to support a drug habit. The family says they had no idea. They believe that couldn't have been the case for much more than a few months.
Now the family grapples for an explanation.
Beaudoin and her husband Rene want Pickton's second trial to be held. They want a court of law to one day find someone guilty of Dianne's death.
They also want a public inquiry into the missing women case.
Rene Beaudoin has written to multiple politicians, right up to the prime minister.
They say they want Dianne's story told so she is not forgotten as count No. 4 on an indictment, filed away in a dusty legal folder never to be opened again.
"For us to give up on Dianne, that there will be no second trail, that just doesn't fly," Rene said.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008
Updated: January 01, 2007