VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Missing woman's DNA located
Police say Sarah deVries identified, but not enough evidence to lay charges
The Vancouver Sun
Lindsay Kines and Kim Bolan
The DNA of yet another missing woman has been located at the notorious Port Coquitlam farm that is the focus of a massive police search.
Police visited the home of Maggie deVries late Tuesday afternoon to say her sister Sarah's DNA had been found "on an object" at the farm.
The two constables did not say what the object was, or what the source of the DNA was -- except that it was not blood, deVries said.
The police also told deVries the DNA was not enough to lay a murder charge in her sister's case. But the constables said detectives will be re-interviewing deVries family members and building a case in the event more evidence is found.
DeVries said she asked if other families were being notified Tuesday, but the officers said that to their knowledge there were no others.
Robert (Willy) Pickton, 52, one of the farm's owners, has already been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of seven of the 63 women who have disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The DNA of another five women -- including deVries -- has been located at the farm without charges being laid, according to relatives of themissing women.
Vancouver police Detective Scott Driemel said he could not confirm that additional DNA samples from the farm had been identified.
"Any conversation that the task force has with families we treat as confidential and we won't be sharing that publicly at this time," Driemel said.
Sarah deVries, who disappeared in April 1998 at the age of 28, helped raise the profile of themissing women investigation, in large part because her family and friends took the case to the media.
Maggie deVries, a children's author and book editor, was an early advocate for themissing women, and Wayne Leng, a friend of Sarah's, has for years run a Web site dedicated to her and the other missing women.
Sarah deVries' case has also attracted attention because she left behind a number of journals and poems documenting her life on the streets. In one of the poems, in which deVries seemed to foretell her own death, she asked the question: "Will they remember me when I'm gone, or would their lives just carry on?"
The youngest of four children, Sarah deVries was the adopted daughter of a university professor and a head nurse. As a black girl in a white family in west Point Grey, her family says, she experienced prejudice as a child, and began running away from home in her early teens. Eventually, she got caught up in prostitution and then drugs. She has two children, who are being raised in Ontario by her mother, Pat deVries, and her aunt, children's author Jean Little.
Maggie deVries, who is writing a book for Penguin about her sister's case, said Wednesday that the discovery of Sarah's DNA at the farm has brought "a mixture of grief and relief."
"I knew that was what they were coming for," she said. "The constable left a message and I phoned her back on her cellphone, and I knew, even then, that was probably what it was, because there was a certain urgency about it.
"I was trying to prepare myself that it might be something else. But I knew it really wasn't something else."
Crown prosecutor Mike Petrie, who is handling the Pickton case, declined to comment on the information about Sarah deVries's DNA.
"My concern is that there is an on-going investigation. There is an on-going prosecution and I don't want to say anything that could jeopardize either," Petrie said.
Maggie deVries said she has been waiting for months to receive a visit from police. "I'd see a police car near my house and I'd say, 'That's it, they're coming.' And they never are. So it's a shock, I think, when you wait for a long time for something like this, something that you want that's horrible."
DeVries said she was on the telephone most of Tuesday night, speaking to family and friends. But the news hit her hardest when she looked at a picture of Sarah, in her 20s, lying bundled up on a couch, with a kitten on top of her. "The juxtaposition of that picture and the idea of her DNA at the farm ... it's too horrible to quite face up to it."
DeVries said she realizes the DNA offers no proof that her sister died at the farm.
"All it literally means is something Sarah touched was on that property," she said. "So it doesn't even mean she was ever there. She could have lent her jacket to somebody, or her hat, or her shoes, which she did all the time."
But the news has brought a sense of acceptance to DeVries.
"Now I'm not going to be waiting to know more anymore," she said. "I'm going to be settled with this. So that's a good thing.
"But at the same time, I was afraid to close my eyes last night, because I was going to start to see things I didn't want to see, more than I had before."
Leng, who got the news from deVries, said he, too, was still in shock Wednesday. "It's still hard to believe, because I always had some hope, you know? Very little. But every time I would think, 'Well, is it possible that just maybe, just maybe, she left, right? She got out and just didn't contact her family.' But I kept going back to the same thing -- that was not Sarah, she would not have done that."
Leng said he only hopes other families and friends will get the same sort of closure that this news has provided him.
DeVries is convinced that will happen. She still has concerns about the way the police investigation has been handled over the years, but she has every confidence in the work now being done.
"You can't really feel that they are holding back in their efforts now," she said. "There seems to be so many of them. They seem to be working so hard. And the fact that they found Sarah's DNA on an object -- not blood -- that just shows how thorough they're being.
"I mean, they've got this huge piece of property and -- truly-- it feels like if there's a speck of anything, they'll find it. A speck."
Updated: January 01, 2007