The Murder of Angel Carlick

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EARLY LIFE:

Angel Carlick was born on June 11, 1988 in Dease Lake, British Columbia as a member of the Kaska Dena First Nation. Her family, which included her mother, Wendy, and her brother, Alex, resided in Good Hope Lake, British Columbia, where Wendy supported them by working three jobs. Despite Alex becoming upset over his mother’s lack of time spent at the house, Wendy was proud to be able to support her family and put a roof over their heads.

Wendy describes Angel as having been “the greatest love” she’d ever known. The pair were very close, and her mother respected how confidently her daughter carried herself. Angel was known for her bubbly personality, which influenced her love of painting and music. She also had an interest in her traditional beliefs and had planned to learn how to tan moose hide from her grandmother.

In March 2004, the family moved to Whitehorse, Yukon. While Wendy was hesitant to uproot her children, given how much support they had in Good Hope Lake and the rift it would cause between her relatives, she knew she had to make the move, as Social Services were beginning to get involved. Upon arriving in Whitehorse, the three stayed with Wendy’s nephew. Afterward, they stayed at the youth shelter located in the old Fort Yukon hotel and got accepted by Whitehorse Housing. The trio lived in their new home for approximately one year before being evicted, the result of the children throwing house parties while Wendy was away.

Upon being evicted, the family split up. Wendy ended up living on the street with her partner, while Alex was taken into government care and placed in a group home. Angel lived with a friend for a while, before she too became homeless. This resulted in her dropping out of school and turning to alcohol. She eventually found her way to the Road to Home youth shelter, where she stayed until its closure in late 2004.

Eventually, Angel decided to seek help, which she did at the age of 17. She began to work for the Youth of Today Society at their Blue Feather Youth Centre, where she ran the dinner program and helped paint murals. She also became a one-on-one mentor for those who attended the centre and was seen by many to not only be a good employee, but someone they could turn to in times of need. It appeared Angel had found her stride and she became a youth advocate within her community, using her personal experiences to help those around her.

Angel’s work with the Blue Feather Youth Centre changed her life in other ways as well. She returned to school and earned her high school diploma, with hopes of attending college. She also was rooming with a friend and saving money to put a downpayment on her own place, so that she could adopt her brother and get both he and her mother into a stable home environment. Now leading a sober lifestyle, she was off the streets and was working toward numerous life goals she’d set for herself.

DISAPPEARANCE & DISCOVERY:

On the day of May 27, 2007, 19-year-old Angel was preparing for the second of two graduation ceremonies she was to attend. Her and Wendy went out to purchase some new shoes, before attending a celebration barbecue with friends and family. That evening, she left the home of a friend and went to downtown Whitehorse, where she called another friend at a payphone and informed her she’d be joining others later in the night. This would be the last time her loved ones heard from her.

According to the RCMP, officers came into contact with Angel on May 31, 2007 at the waterfront in downtown Whitehorse. While they initially wouldn’t say why they’d spoken to her, sources have revealed she was questioned about the murder of 52-year-old Colin Stephen Sawrenko, a homeless man who’d been assaulted near Shipyards Park and later died. According to her friend, she’d witnessed the assault. Angel was not detained or arrested during this encounter with the RCMP.

Her loved ones began to worry after Angel failed to attend her graduation ceremony at the Aboriginal Learning Centre. She also hadn’t kept in touch with those close to her. Their fear heightened when she failed to show up for work, which struck the centre’s executive director, Vicki Durrant, as strange, as it was payday and Angel hadn’t called ahead to inform them of her absence. She’d also left behind her ID and clothes at the centre. Given this was out-of-character, Vicki contacted the Whitehorse detachment of the RCMP to file a missing persons report, but found the officers didn’t share her concern.

It took weeks for the RCMP to initiate a search for Angel, as they believed Angel was simply a runaway, given her age and past. After sending out a plea for the missing girl to contact her family, they were criticized for not taking the disappearance seriously. They responded by saying the case was being given priority attention and she was soon added to a missing persons database.

Wendy and others searched endlessly for Angel. Searches were conducted throughout Whitehorse, as well as in Vancouver and Edmonton, but to not avail. Numerous rumours began to swirl around the city as to what happened to Angel, which troubled Wendy. One such rumour was that Angel had gone up to Pelly Crossing, located along the Klondike Highway. The resulting stress led Wendy to increase her drinking.

During the search for Angel, the RCMP conducted more than 100 interviews with the missing girl’s friends, family and co-workers in an attempt to determine her whereabouts. They also extended their search to Alaska, Alberta and British Columbia, after rumours arose that she’d been seen outside of the Yukon, and flyers were sent to the provinces’ law enforcement agencies. One such sighting referenced the West Edmonton Mall, which led her family to worry she may be living on the streets of Edmonton.

The RCMP also conducted extensive air, ground and water searches across Whitehorse and surrounding offshore islands, some with the use of a dog team.

During one weekend in July 2007, 40 volunteers searched for Angel, without the aid of the RCMP. They combed Grey Mountain Road, Fish Lake Road, the Millennium Trail, Haeckel Hill and the woods near the city’s baseball diamonds. While clothing, an electronic device and other personal effects were located and handed over to investigators, no clues were uncovered regarding the disappearance.

That same month, friends located Angel’s bike, which had been locked up in front of the Family Hotel in Whitehorse. The hotel’s owner shared that it had been parked there for about a month, but that they were not sure who it belonged to.

The search for Angel came to an end around 2:51pm on November 9, 2007 when a hiker walking along a hydro access road north of the Pilot Mountain subdivision located her decomposed remains in a shallow grave. They immediately contacted the RCMP. The wooded area had not yet been searched by investigators.

INVESTIGATION:

An autopsy was performed on the remains upon them being brought in for examination. The results were inconclusive and investigators were unable to determine the manner in which she had died. While the autopsy was going on, a thorough search was conducted of the Pilot Mountain area by the RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit, the Forensic Identification Unit and the Police Dog Services. While a helicopter flew overhead to photograph the scene, officers went door-to-door interviewing nearby residents. They also asked anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the area between May 2007 and November 9, 2007 to come forward.

Irma Scarff, the leader of numerous searches for Angel during the summer of 2007, spoke out about the discovery of Angel’s remains, saying government inaction and the absence of a youth shelter in Whitehorse may have been contributing factors in her death. She called on politicians to create a place where homeless youth could find shelter and safety, so that they would be protected.

A few days after, local politicians paid tribute to Angel with her friends and family in attendance. They wore blue ribbons with a small, golden angel glued in the middle.

Numerous memorial services were held throughout Whitehorse in celebration of Angel’s life. One such service was held at the Blue Feather Youth Centre a week after her remains were located and it featured traditional drumming and singing, a balloon release, and a feast. Her friends and colleagues also made a commemorative wreath and passed out blue ribbons that attendees could wear to show their support for the family.

Angel’s body was taken home to Good Hope Lake, where the funeral service took place.

Wendy had to seek counselling after her daughter’s death. While she spoke to the media numerous times in the hopes of bringing more awareness to the case, she often had to visit her own mother when things got too much. She also shared that she found it difficult to visit the youth centre, as it reminded her too much of Angel.

In June 2008, friends and family visited the Blue Feather Youth Centre to mark the one-year anniversary of Angel’s disappearance. An RCMP officer, First Nations leaders, MLAs, the Justice Minister and victim services workers were also in attendance.

In 2010, Wendy participated in the Sisters In Spirit march that occurred in Whitehorse. A year later, Angel’s case became one of the ones highlighted.

To ensure all leads were correctly followed-up on and that nothing had been missed, the RCMP conducted a file review in 2010 of the entire investigation.

Between 2010 and 2011, the Yukon RCMP and the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council teamed up to resolve the territory’s outstanding cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, which occurred around the same time the RCMP and the Assembly of First Nations agreed to to work together to resolve similar cases across Canada. The initiative helped formalize a relationship between the two.

After Angel’s death, Wendy became an outspoken advocate for Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She repeatedly shared her frustrations regarding the investigation into her daughter’s murder and shared that she hoped the country’s national inquiry would help bring more attention to cases like hers. Her activism saw her travel to Ottawa, where she pushed for the inquiry to occur. She also became protective of the Indigenous women she met on the streets of Whitehorse and worked to draw attention to the violence and poverty they faced.

In January 2012, a partnership between the Yukon branch of the Sisters In Spirit and the RCMP was announced, which aimed to renew attention on 29 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the Yukon, including Angel.

On April 19, 2017, Wendy was found murdered, along with her friend, Sarah MacIntosh, inside Sarah’s bungalow on Murphy Road, located in Whitehorse’s McIntyre subdivision. Initially, the RCMP wouldn’t identify the two deceased, simply stating they were investigating a report of a “sudden death”, but later revealed the pair’s identities. As news of the murders spread, community members began to wonder if there was any connection to Angel’s death. However, the RCMP shared that no such connection had been found.

On April 26, 2017, relatives, neighbours and supporters from throughout the Yukon marched through Whitehorse in remembrance of Sarah and Wendy. They also marched to remember Greg Alvin Dawson, a man who had been found murdered in the city’s Riverdale neighbourhood. They sang songs and said prayers while holding handmade drums and wearing traditional regalia. Some carried tributes to Angel. Afterward, a sacred fire was lit at the subdivision’s baseball diamond, which served as a place for residents to grieve.

The memorial march was one of many vigils and tributes to honour the deceased women. The attention spread to the territorial legislature, where MLAs from all three political parties voiced their support for Sarah and Wendy’s families, while also commending the RCMP for its work on the investigation.

In May 2018, 44-year-old Everett Chief was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in relation to the deaths of Sarah and Wendy. The announcement was made through a video posted to the RCMP’s Facebook page. While they wouldn’t reveal how the pair died, they did say it’s believed they were killed on or around April 10, 2017. Later, the charge Chief faced in relation to Wendy’s death was upgraded to first-degree murder.

In 2017, Angel’s cousin, Melissa Carlick, was named the community relations officer and health coordinator with Canada’s national inquiry for those located in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alberta and parts of British Columbia. After the Edmonton hearings in November of that year, she and two other staffers were fired without just cause.

Angel’s uncle, William Carlick, testified during the national inquiry. Her brother did as well, though his testimony had been unexpected.

In March 2018, a three-person, full-time dedicated team were created to look at the Yukon’s unsolved cases. The announcement was made by the territory’s government, which said that the project would be funded through the 2018-2019 budget. Called the Historical Cases Unit, it was part of the RCMP’s “M” Division and was tasked with reviewing every unsolved homicide and missing persons case in the Yukon to decide how to best proceed with each individual investigation. It would also act as a liaison for the victims’ families, Yukon First Nations and community organizations. The government shared that the initiative would receive $442,000 in annual funding over a three-year period, after which its success would be evaluated.

According to the Whitehorse detachment of the RCMP, the case is still under investigation. However, they will not publicly discuss where it stands, given its active nature. Despite the lack of public updates, Vicki has shared she speaks with officers every April and says three are currently working on the case.

Alex feels the fact his sister’s murder is still unsolved reflects how the RCMP handles cases when those who are affected are of Indigenous heritage. The family believes her missing persons report wasn’t taken seriously because of her age and race. While Vicki won’t personally condemn investigators, she does wonder why the case is still unsolved all these years later.

THEORIES:

1) The primary theory in the case is that Angel was met with foul play and was murdered by an unknown assailant, this given she disappeared without any contact with friends and family, as well as the fact her body had been buried in a shallow grave. Given how little the RCMP have shared regarding the investigation, it’s unknown if they have any suspects in the case or if they’ve tied Angel’s murder to any one person.

As aforementioned, the RCMP had approached Angel in late May 2007 regarding the stabbing death of a First Nations man in Whitehorse. Her family and friends have also shared that she may have been a witness to this crime. If that’s the case, could someone have murdered her in order to keep her silent?

2) A theory that has since been disproved is that American serial killer Israel Keyes was involved in Angel’s death. Before he died by suicide in his cell in Anchorage, Alaska, he had admitted to killing eleven people across the United States and is suspected in many more cases. It’s been revealed that Keyes had traveled through northern Canada in early 2007, which led some to infer his possible involvement in Angel’s case. After getting in touch with the FBI, the RCMP were able to conclude Keyes had been in the area in March 2007, two months before Angel’s disappearance, and that he’d been in Anchorage during May of that year.

AFTERMATH:

The Blue Feather Youth Centre has held numerous memorial projects in Angel’s honour, including a memory book and reflective art. In July 2017, a mural was painted in her and her mother’s honour on the wall of the Staple’s store at the corner of Ogilvie Street and Third Street. The idea had begun months earlier, when those who worked with the centre were invited to attend a conference about Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, and it grew into a way to help the community as a whole heal after the tragedies. Through the government’s Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund, volunteers were able to purchase supplies and painted a mural featuring Wendy and Angel framed by two red eagles.

Angel’s friends hoped to create a lasting legacy for her, in the form of a homeless shelter, which is something she’d advocated for while alive. In November 2008, Vicki launched a fundraising campaign for a new shelter and eventually the Youth of Today Society was able to purchase the former Hide on Jeckell Hostel. They named the shelter Angel’s Nest, after her.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Whitehorse detachment of RCMP at either 867-667-5551 or 867-667-5555.

Image Credit: Whitehorse Daily Star

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