The Murder of Aielah Saric-Auger

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EARLY LIFE:

Aielah Saric-Auger was born on December 30, 1991 in Edmonton, Alberta. A member of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, she was the youngest of six children. Her family were known to live in poverty and often didn’t have enough money to pay their bills, but this didn’t stop them from being a close and protective unit. Aielah, her siblings and her mother loved each other dearly, this despite moving around a lot, her mother’s struggles with addiction and the reality that child protective services would sometimes split them up.

Aielah didn’t have an easy life growing up. When she was young, she and her mother, Audrey, were driving when their car slid on black ice. The pair ended up in the ditch and Aielah is said to have temporarily lost consciousness. Then, in 2000, the family learnt that she was being abused by a relative who had come to stay with them. Despite Audrey removing the children from the situation, they found themselves living in various motels until CPS caught up with them and separated the children, with Aielah in particular being sent to live with her paternal grandparents.

After a year of being separated from their mother, the siblings were reunited after Audrey was able to prove she could provide for and take care of them. However, the same cycle of abuse against Aielah would once again rear its ugly head, this time in the form of an acquaintance who had come to live with the family. It was during this time that they began to experience unspecified threats from a local man.

In 2004, Audrey made the decision to relocate the family to Prince George, British Columbia, where her older brother resided. While she went to find a place to live, the children went to live in Enoch, a Cree Nation reserve located approximately 35km west of Edmonton. Once in Prince George, the family lived in a rented trailer just off Highway 16, on the western edge of the city. Unfortunately, they were eventually evicted from the property and were forced to live in emergency shelters until they were able to secure a place in a duplex on McIntyre Crescent.

While in Prince George, 14-year-old Aielah attended D.P. Todd Secondary School, where she was in the eighth grade. According to those who knew her, she was known to make friends easily, but trust others a bit too much. She was well-liked and her teachers say she was always helpful. However, she also began to engage in risky behaviour, which her brother, Tim, disliked. She’d gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd and had started to drink alcohol and smoke weed.

DISAPPEARANCE & DISCOVERY:

On February 2, 2006, Aielah, Tim and their sister, Kyla, went to the Pine Centre Mall, where they planned to spend the day shopping. It was located just four miles from their home, so Audrey was the one to drop them off. Little did she know that the last time she would see Aielah would be in the mall’s parking lot.

While at the mall, Aielah and Kyla ran into some friends, who had decided to spend the night drinking and asked if they wanted to come along. Tim decided not to join them and parted ways with his sisters in the parking lot. Before he left, he told them to not accept any drugs or drinks from anyone.

From there, the events of the night become uncertain. At some point, Aielah and Kyla became separated. Family members claim she’d spent the night at a friend’s house, with Audrey having received information she’d planned to go to a friend’s house for a sleepover. However, when Kyla arrived home early the next morning, she found her sister was nowhere to be found.

Audrey spent the day of February 3 waiting for Aielah to come home. Concerned, she questioned her children about her movements the previous day, in order to develop a more clearer timeline. She eventually went to the local police detachment to file a missing persons report, but was told she’d have to wait 78 hours to report her daughter as missing, despite her being a minor.

A missing persons report was officially filed for Aielah on February 6, 2006. While waiting the necessary 78 hours, the family had combed the city, contacted friends and family, and put up flyers all over downtown Prince George. Audrey failed to give up the search, with Tim often accompanying his mother as she ventured into the rougher areas of the city at all hours of the day, this including alleyways and residential yards. While Kyla and her friends would search areas where she was known to hang out, Aielah’s older sister, Sarah, stayed by the phone, in case she called.

Aielah’s disappearance received little in the way of media coverage. On February 7, the Prince George Citizen ran a story, with Audrey asking the public to help in the family’s search. The publication ran another story three days later, where police were interviewed and reported that, despite a confirmed sighting on February 3 and interviews with family and friends, there was nothing new in the way of information.

About a week after she went missing, on February 10, a motorist travelling east to Prince George on Highway 16 contacted police after seeing something in the ditch, near the Tabor Mountain ski resort. When officers arrived on location, approximately 23km east of the city’s downtown, they discovered the nude body of a deceased female. Through the necklace found around her neck, Audrey was able to positively ID the body as Aielah. The public were notified of the identification on February 15, 2006.

INVESTIGATION:

The highway on which Aielah’s body was found is known as the Highway of Tears. It’s a 725km stretch of desolate road between Prince George and Prince Rupert and has been the site of many murders and disappearances, starting in the late 1960s and continuing to this day. The majority of the cases involve Indigenous women and girls, and many remain unsolved.

The autopsy confirmed that Aielah had died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. According to reports, much of her body was missing due to animal activity, so the family were forced to have a closed casket funeral. Given they couldn’t afford one, the vice president at D.P. Todd Secondary School launched a fundraiser to not only pay for the service, but provide the family with food. Aielah’s body was eventually brought to Alberta, where she was buried in Gift Lake with a traditional native burial.

The investigation into her death revealed that Aielah had gone to a friend’s house late in the night on February 2 in order to ask said friend’s mother for a ride home, as she hadn’t wanted to call Audrey. When she was unable to obtain a ride, she was seen walking toward a house where drug users are said to frequent. Dozens of individuals known to spend time there were questioned, but were eventually cleared by investigators. A police officer who had run into her that night was also questioned and given a polygraph test, but was ruled out as having any involvement.

Surveillance footage of the surrounding area was collected. It showed Aielah walking north on the 2100 block of Quince Street. At around 1:00am, she was seen passing the Save-On-Foods gas station on 100-1600 15th Avenue. This helped investigators better develop their timeline of events, as the footage was considerably later than what they had gleaned from their chats with family and friends.

According to Audrey, Aielah was last seen getting into a black van. However, it’s not clear where she obtained this information.

Less than two weeks after Aielah’s body was found, the Lheidli T’enneh band council wrote a press release, where they called on First Nations, the government, the police and the public to put an end to the violence young Indigenous women were facing. This led to the Highway of Tears Symposium, which was held in Prince George just weeks later. The result of the community and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women coming together led to a host of recommendations aimed at improving the overall safety of women throughout the area.

Aielah’s case is currently being investigated by Project E-PANA, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police task force dedicated to investigating unsolved murders linked to Highway 16. It has examined hundreds of unsolved murders, sexual assaults and missing persons cases over the past four decades in order to determine if a serial killer(s) is responsible for the cases. According to investigators with the task force, none of the leads or clues have led to any arrests or even a suspect in the case.

AFTERMATH:

After Aielah’s death, her family fell apart. The children spread across Canada, while Audrey moved back to Edmonton, where she fell back into the throes of addiction, using drugs and drinking alcohol. She lived on the streets and refused the help offered to her.

Audrey never gave up on finding out what happened to Aielah, despite the struggles brought about by grief. One day, she realized she needed to sober up, and in 2007 she eventually set out on a walk along Highway 16, from Prince George to the family’s traditional home of Driftpile Cree Nation. Dubbed “The Highway of Hope” walk, she was determined to create awareness about the murders and disappearances that have occurred along the highway, and through her journey she found herself wanting to further better herself and return to school. Her walk became an annual event, and while she often walked alone, there were usually support vehicles in her wake.

Unfortunately, Audrey passed away on March 5, 2013, the victim of a vehicle collision on Highway 16, just west of Edmonton. At around 1:20am that morning, her vehicle veered into the path of a tractor trailer and she died at the scene. According to reports, she had been drinking. After her death, “The Highway of Hope” walk went silent, but was revived in 2015 and she is now one of the individuals honoured by those who participate.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Those with information regarding the murder of Aielah Saric-Auger are asked to contact the Prince George detachment of the RCMP at 250-561-3300. Tips can also be submitted anonymously via British Columbia Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Image Credit: Vancouver Sun

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