The Disappearance of Angeline Pete

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EARLY LIFE:

Angeline Eileen Pete was born at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on December 5, 1982 to her 16-year-old mother, Molly Dixon. The pair lived with Angeline’s grandmother, Eileen Nelson, on the Quatsino First Nations reserve before shortly relocating to Vancouver. Angeline’s father and Molly were not together at the time, and he is said to have been violent toward her during their short-lived relationship. Years later, he would be stabbed to death on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.

While living in Vancouver, Molly continued to struggle with a pre-existing alcohol problem, which resulted in the city’s child protective services intervening and placing her daughter in the foster care system. Molly tried numerous times over the years to get Angeline back, but was met with various obstacles from the courts and social workers, who questioned if she was complying with the guidelines set out for her to regain custody. Eileen would eventually gain custody of her granddaughter, and at the age of three Angeline returned to live on the reserve.

Many who observed Angeline upon her return to the reserve, which is located on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, say the toddler came back changed. She was more withdrawn and less affectionate toward others, and when asked about her time in foster care, she revealed she’d been placed with foster parents who subjected her to abuse.

Despite her difficult toddler years, Angeline was still a determined child with a vibrant and curious spirit. Known affectionately as “Angie”, she had an infectious smile and laugh, and was seen as the outgoing one within her friend group. She thrived when it came to sports, especially floor hockey, winning six ceremonial coppers in local tournaments. Unfortunately, she didn’t do so well in school, with teachers complaining of her disruptive behaviour, and she never ended up graduating.

Angeline was also known for being unpredictable and, at times, violent toward others. She began to drink heavily when she was a teenager, would hitchhike without care for her safety and cycled through relationships. According to her aunt, Cary-Lee Calder, it’s suspected by family members that Angeline had been sexually abused, but the allegations were never discussed by her niece in detail. At the time of her disappearance, she was seeking help for alcohol abuse.

During her mid-twenties, Angeline became a mother, giving birth to her son, Darryl Jr. Her then-boyfriend, Darryl Stauffer, was a soft-spoken man with a kind smile who worked with the ferries that ran between Alert Bay and mainland British Columbia. According to him, the pair’s relationship was rocky and fuelled by alcohol, and while Angeline had been excited about being pregnant, the impending birth of their child didn’t stop them from fighting.

When Darryl Jr. was born, the Quatsino band’s housing program found he and Angeline a place to live, close to relatives. Angeline had custody of him until he was three years old, after which he went to live with his father in Alert Bay. While Angeline didn’t challenge the arrangement, it was around this time that she gave up her belongings and home, and she eventually found herself spending more time in Vancouver, where she met a man online by the name of Robert Calden, a Saluteaux native with whom she eventually lived with in North Vancouver. Despite the pair being abusive to each other, they became engaged, with the wedding date set for October 31, 2011.

Overall, Angeline’s life was shaped by the legacy of residential schools, poverty, and sexual and substance abuse, all factors known to contribute to the disproportionately high rates of violence against Indigenous women in Canada. In 2002, she was charged with theft, which would later result in multiple charges of breaches of probation. Two years later, in 2004, she was put in a correctional facility after being charged with assaulting Darryl. In December 2010, she was convicted of three assault charges relating to an alcohol-fuelled brawl that occurred on the reserve, near Port Hardy, on January 16, 2009. This resulted in a dozen conditions being imposed upon her, including a court order that barred her from being on the reserve.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

According to Molly, the last time she spoke to her daughter was on May 19, 2011.

A day later, Robert and Angeline got into a fight near the North Vancouver terminal for the SeaBus passenger ferry from the city’s downtown core. The dispute got physical enough that it drew the attention of police officers, who questioned the couple. While Robert was charged with assaulting Angeline, the charge was eventually dropped, as she declined to provide an official statement. At the time of the fight, Angeline was under two conditional sentence orders, one related to her prior assault conviction and the other related to an assault on Robert, which meant she had been placed under a 9:00pm curfew and was barred from drinking alcohol. When the police intervened in the scuffle, they tried their best to ensure she was complying with these conditions.

After the fight, Angeline posted a picture of her split lip to her Facebook profile. At 7:45pm that night, she texted a friend to inform them that she and Robert had gotten into a fight. She also mentioned that she was planning on heading back to downtown Vancouver. At 10:37pm, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable went to the apartment to check on Angeline, but got no response.

On May 25, 2011, an arrest warrant was issued for Angeline by the North Vancouver RCMP, stating she had breached the conditions of her sentence. An officer with the detachment went to her and Robert’s apartment to execute the warrant and found Robert on the phone with his fiancé. Angeline promised to call the officer, which she did. She informed him she was no longer in the area, to which he suggested it best she turn herself in.

Angeline has not been heard from since.

DISAPPEARANCE:

According to a friend, Angeline was last officially seen on May 26, 2011, leaving her apartment in North Vancouver.

Her family noticed that the regular phone calls, texts and Facebook posts they got from Angeline had stopped, but they didn’t worry at first. She was known to leave abruptly, as she often worked the summer carnival circuit around British Columbia. In case she returned, Molly left messages at the First United Church Shelter and the Carnegie Center, a community hub in the Downtown East Side.

On June 20, 2011, a note was added to Angeline’s police file, suggesting she may have travelled to Alberta. Between July 1 and July 25, 2011, North Vancouver RCMP asked its counterparts in Alberta to check their databases for any sign of Angeline, but turned up empty. As well, the RCMP detachments in Vancouver and Port Hardy stayed in contact and were both aware of the arrest warrant.

On August 8, 2011, Angeline was officially reported missing by Eileen, whose concern had only grown since last being in contact with her granddaughter in May of that year.

SEARCH:

The case was initially investigated by members of North Vancouver’s General Duty. It wouldn’t officially be transferred to the Serious Crime Unit of the North Vancouver RCMP until September 13, 2011. On August 9, 2011, officers with the RCMP interviewed officers with the Vancouver Police Department, friends, outreach workers, corrections officers, relatives, a former employer, and immigration and social welfare agencies across British Columbia and Alberta, in the hopes of gleaming some information about Angeline’s whereabouts. A day later, they checked with banks and various government agencies to see if the missing woman had cashed a cheque, used an ATM or filled a prescription, but those avenues also came up empty.

Robert was questioned and submitted to a polygraph test, which he passed. According to investigators, he has been cooperative with the investigation and is not considered a suspect. However, Angeline’s family believes he wasn’t scrutinized enough and that his abusive behaviour is indicative of his potential involvement. They also question why he was allowed to go on vacation to South America while the investigation was ongoing, despite their concerns.

The first public missing persons notice about the case was issued on August 16, 2011. It described her as a 28-year-old Aboriginal female with long dark hair and a tattoo of a butterfly on her chest. It stated she may have been hitchhiking and urged anyone who may have seen her to come forward.

On August 24, 2011, two RCMP officers canvassed the Downtown East Side, showing Angeline’s photos to those congregating in the area. Investigators also began obtaining DNA and dental records from the family.

On October 3, 2011, a press released was issued with an updated photo of Angeline and information about her potentially hitchhiking to northern British Columbia or the Peace River region of Alberta, after reports she may have been seen in Port Hardy, Grand Prairie and Kamloops. This information raised alarm bells with those within the Indigenous community, given one of the highways she could have been travelling along is Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert. It is known as the Highway of Tears, due to the amount of Indigenous women who have gone missing or been killed along its route.

Various other press conferences and releases would be shared, with quotes from the family and information on other locations the missing woman may have travelled. At one specific press conference, in May 2014, the family plead with First Nations chiefs across the country to help spread the word.

There is a man who falsely claimed he’d spoken with Angeline after she is believed to have disappeared, but his credibility is questionable, given he was incarcerated at the time he divulged with information.

Angeline’s family has done extensive searches and made numerous appeals to the public. Molly travelled to Vancouver, scouring the city and its numerous shelters, and contacted numerous organizations, including those that specifically serve Indigenous people. While investigators have searched several locations, they refuse to publicly state where they’ve looked.

Police have looked into rumours that Angeline may have been in trouble for stealing money or drugs, but they found the people involved and have ruled them out.

As aforementioned, Angeline was known to travel with the summer carnival circuit. According to investigators, they have not found any information that would lead them to believe she travelled that year, but a fellow carnival worker says differently. According to her, she and Angeline had run kids’ midway games together and had worked to set up and take the games down. She says that Robert would frequently show up at the carnivals to harass Angeline, who showed fear whenever he was around.

In December 2019, a billboard was installed along the Island Highway through Nanoose Bay, which shared information about Angeline and another missing Indigenous woman, Lisa Marie Young. It was up for four months, and was funded by the Lil’ Red Dress Project, which creates beaded “red dress” earrings and pins to help bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women, with the proceeds going toward the costs of creating and installing signage about missing women on Vancouver Island.

According the the North Vancouver RCMP, the investigation into Angeline’s disappearance is ongoing. They have followed up on numerous leads, but have been unable to corroborate any reported sightings. They have considered the worst, suggesting she was a victim of foul play, and have compared her dental records to the bodies of unidentified deceased women in the region. Angeline’s family has been openly critical about the investigation, voicing concerns that not all leads are being looked into, and the Quatsino First Nation has since offered up a $5,000 reward for information about the missing woman’s whereabouts.

AFTERMATH:

Angeline’s case is one of many that were included in Canada’s national inquiry into the county’s missing and murdered Indigenous women. Her aunt met with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett and other government officials, advocates and family members to talk about the inquiry.

Her family has held numerous candlelight vigils throughout the years, with the initial one in 2011 being sponsored by the Comox Valley Transition Society.

In 2017, Molly passed away after having a heart attack.

Angeline’s family and friends have set up a Facebook group to help raise awareness about the case.

In May 2019, Cary-Lee organized a gathering of cultural sharing and ceremony at the Kwakiutl First Nation, followed by two days at the Port Hardy Civic Center. It allowed for families, leaders, chiefs and elders from Kwakwaka’wakw nations to participate in cultural healing ceremonies, activities and teachings that are foundational to their wellbeing. It was supported by the British Columbia government, Island Health, the Quatsino First Nation and the First Nations Health Authority, and was held on the anniversary of Angeline’s disappearance.

Robert has since moved out of the apartment he and Angeline shared and has left his job as a senior youth worker. According to a Squamish Nation councillor, he is no longer working with them and they are aiding in the investigation into Angeline’s disappearance.

Darryl says that Darryl Jr. is doing well in school and enjoys playing hockey. His aunties and grandmother frequently attend his games to cheer him on.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Angeline Eileen Pete went missing from North Vancouver, British Columbia on May 26, 2011. She was 28 years old. At the time of her disappearance, she stood between 5’3″ and 5’4″ and weighed approximately 150 pounds. She has long brown hair, which she is known to dye, and brown eyes. She has a scar on her left knee, a birthmark on her left wrist and a tattoo of a butterfly on the left side of her chest.

Currently, her case is classified as a missing persons investigation, with foul play suspected. If alive, she would be 38 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the North Vancouver detachment of the RCMP at 604-985-1311 or the Quatsino Band Council at 250-949-6245. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Image Credit: Justice for Native Women

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