Jul. 24, 2003. 01:00 AM

Families, loved ones `in limbo'
Women are dead, but no charges laid

`They were loved, they were important'


PORT COQUITLAM, B.C.—Marilyn Kraft needs to know her stepdaughter's life mattered.

Last December, police told Kraft that Cindy Feliks, the girl she raised from the age of 5, was dead and that her DNA had been found at the Port Coquitlam pig farm that has become the focal point of the largest serial murder investigation in Canadian history.

But yesterday, as Provincial Court Judge David Stone ruled there was enough evidence for the farm's owner, Robert William Pickton, 53, to stand trial in connection with the deaths of 15 women, Feliks' name was absent from the list of alleged victims.

Feliks, who was reported missing in 1997 when she was in her early 40s, meets the profile of the other 62 women on a list of those who disappeared from Vancouver's downtown eastside as far back as the late 1970s. She was a drug addict who sold her body on the streets of one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods to feed her habit.

But these women were also daughters, sisters, aunts and mothers who left behind grieving families and friends.

So, for Kraft, 57, and a handful of other families who have learned that their loved ones are dead but no charges have been laid, the pain of their loss is particularly acute.

"Until there's a charge, it's like she's in limbo," Kraft said in an interview from Calgary. "I know she's dead but there's no acknowledgment she died or that she's a victim.

"It's like her life — and her death — didn't matter."

It always will to Kraft, who became mother to Cindy and three siblings through marriage and continued to raise them when she and her husband divorced. Just a teenager herself when she became a parent to 5-year-old Cindy, she watched, helplessly, as her stepdaughter fought a decades-long battle with drugs that ultimately cost her her life.

Kraft last saw Cindy at Christmas in 1996. Their final conversation was in the summer of 1997, when her stepdaughter was getting out of jail.

Today, Kraft has a photo album of pictures from happier times to thumb through. But she has no grave to visit, no memorial service to remember and no one to hold to account.

"It wouldn't bring her back," Kraft said of charges in Cindy's death. "But I would still find a lot of comfort if she was acknowledged."

In his ruling, Stone said if the preliminary hearing had begun a month later than it did, he would have committed Pickton to stand trial on 22 counts of first-degree murder.

For families who have been told their loved ones are also dead, the lack of additional charges at the end of a six-month preliminary hearing leaves bitterness and sorrow.

"We're not any closer to closure," said Lynn Frey, who learned last fall that remains of her stepdaughter, Marnie, were found at the pig farm although no charges have been laid.

"We need justice and someone to be held to account for what happened to her — either him (Pickton) or someone else," Frey said in an interview from Campbell River, B.C.

Maggie deVries, whose younger sister, Sarah, disappeared in April, 1998, at the age of 28, said she knows the laying of charges, which has not happened, is completely out of her control.

"But one thing I can do is change people's attitudes towards sex workers and drug addicts," said deVries, 41.

"They were loved. They loved us. They were important and they mattered.

"Each of us has the power to look sex workers in the eye and smile rather than turn our head away."

Additional articles by Daniel Girard

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B.C. pig farmer to be tried in the deaths of 15 women-July 24, 2003



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