*This article erroneously stated that Lisa’s father, Don Young, attended a residential school. This has since been corrected.*
Lisa Marie Young was born on May 5, 1981 in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada to her parents, Don Young and Marelene “Joanne” Martin. She was very close to the pair, calling her father her best friend and often citing her mother as the source of her strength and honesty. This love extended to her younger brothers, Brian and Robin, of whom she was very protective. She especially took great care with Robin, who suffered from disabilities, and she hoped to one day earn enough money to take care of him, so her parents would be alleviated of the task.
Marelene was a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and she attended Kakawis Residential School on British Columbia’s Meares Island. Residential schools were government-sponsored schools aimed at assimilating Canada’s Indigenous youth into the general population. Run by the Christian Church, these schools were a hotbed for racism and abuse, with Indigenous children being forcefully taken from their families and made to endure degrading and oftentimes traumatic conditions. Many lost their lives, and the negative effects of Canada’s residential schools are still felt today by both survivors and their families.
Growing up in Nanaimo, Lisa was very involved in her community. Not only did she partake in numerous school activities, she held numerous volunteer positions, including one as a crosswalk guard and another as a day camp leader with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture. She also enjoyed recreational activities, such as basketball, water sports and rollerblading, and had dreams of one day becoming a sports broadcaster.
Lisa was also known for being an independent and hard worker, with an inner strength that those around her were envious of. Her confidence radiated in everything she did and made her the centre of attention, which was evident in her large social group. People were drawn to her bubbly and outgoing personality and she kept them around with her caring nature.
At the time of her disappearance, Lisa was moving into her own apartment in northern Nanaimo and was preparing to start a new job at a call center while she decided on whether or not she wanted to pursue higher education. She was hoping to have a new start in a new job field, as she’d grown tired of working in the service industry, having held positions at McDonald’s and a local night club.
LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:
At 11:00pm on June 29, 2002, Lisa left her parents’ residence with plans to visit a local nightclub with several friends in celebration of her friend Dallas Hulley’s 21st birthday. This struck the pair as odd, as she had a full schedule for the upcoming week, and Don was concerned about how late she’d be out, as they were planning on moving the into her apartment the following morning.
Lisa and her friends arrived at the Jungle night club (now known as Evolve NightClub/Cub 241) at around 12:00am. She knew the club well, as she’d worked there years prior and spent many nights out at the location. The majority of her friends left approximately two hours later, while Lisa, Dallas and another male friend stayed behind.
At around 2:30am, one of Lisa’s friends struck up a conversation with a 27-year-old male, who offered them a ride to a house party in southern Nanaimo. Despite just meeting him, they felt he seemed friendly enough and decided to take him up on the offer. It’s unknown if Lisa had already planned on going to the party and was trying to get a ride there or if the man was the one who suggested they attend.
According to reports, the group of friends spent about an hour at the party before leaving to attend another. However, some feel this timeline is incorrect and don’t believe there to have been enough time for this to have occurred, as they arrived at the second party in the Westwood Lake area of Nanaimo between 3:00am and 3:30am.
Lisa was reportedly last seen between 3:00am and 4:00am leaving the house party with the aforementioned man, who is said to have been driving an older model red Jaguar. He’d offered her a ride to a nearby sandwich shop, as she was hungry and was looking for a vegetarian option that wasn’t available at the party. Her last known contact with anyone was at 4:30am, when she contacted Dallas and told her that the man hadn’t taken her to the sandwich shop and that the pair were sitting in his car in the driveway at another house party on Bowen Road. She reportedly was either waiting in the car or was locked in and unable to get out. She didn’t feel comfortable and asked Dallas, “Come get me, they won’t let me leave.” It’s unknown if he saw these messages at the time. According to reports, she also made a phone call to another female friend around the same time and shared the same concerns.
None of this information has been officially corroborated by police.
The final signals from Lisa’s cellphone came from the Departure Bay area of Nanaimo.
Initially, her parents weren’t too concerned when they hadn’t heard from her, assuming she was simply too busy to answer the phone, but their concern soon grew when her former roommate came by to ask of her whereabouts. By that time, many of her friends were already out in their cars, looking for her. By July 1, her parents’ worry was insurmountable.
After calling every number in Lisa’s phonebook, her parents contacted the Nanaimo detachment of the RCMP. Initially, they were told they had to wait until she’d been missing 48 hours before filing a missing persons report, but an officer ended up coming over to the house later that evening to ask question and obtain a photo of her. However, he told Marelene and Don that he would be off the next four days and would therefore call them the following Friday. Eventually, they were told the case would be investigated by the detachment’s Serious Crime Unit.
While the family waited for the official police search to begin, they contacted local media. They also assembled men with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to arrange volunteer searches based on tips from the public.
Very little information is publicly available regarding the RCMP’s investigation into Lisa’s disappearance.
The fist land search occurred in September 2002, a few months after she was last seen.
The family has never heard what happened regarding attempts to trace the whereabouts of Lisa’s cellphone and it’s currently unknown what happened to it.
One to two months into the investigation, investigators with the RCMP identified the red Jaguar Lisa was last seen in and the man she’d been with. While his name has been released by some news outlets, Stories of the Unsolved will not be naming him in this article, as his family has threatened to sue those who publicly name him. While he has not been arrested or charged with any crimes related to the case, he remains a strong person of interest. According to reports, he’d previously been convicted of numerous charges, including theft, assault and fraud in Kamloops, British Columbia and for unauthorized credit card use in Edmonton, Alberta. After Lisa’s disappearance, he would be charged with Breach of Conditional Sentence and Assaulting a Peace Officer.
The car the man had been driving that night was owned by his grandmother, who was a prominent member of a business community in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia until her death in 2011. By the time it was seized for forensic testing, it had already been steam cleaned. It was sold shortly after Lisa’s disappearance. The results of the tests were never made public and it was returned shortly after. In a video released by Nanaimo Crime Stoppers, the public was urged to contact the RCMP if they happened to see the red Jaguar in a suspicious area between 3:30am and 2:00pm on the day Lisa went missing.
According to reports that have not been confirmed by investigators, Lisa’s mother spoke with the man in a police interrogation room. She asked where her daughter was, to which he responded, “I can’t. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to disrespect your family.” Prior to the meeting, she’d been asked to bring pictures of Lisa from when she was a child, in the hopes of guilting him into a confession, but the tactic did not work.
Lisa’s family does not know where the man claims to have dropped her off and investigators say they are unable to release this information, as it might prejudice the investigation. According to Marelene’s sister, Carol Frank, he claims to have dropped her off after she said she wanted to take a taxi home, but there are no records of her having called one.
Marelene was the one to ask Crime Stoppers to create a re-enactment of the night Lisa went missing, as she was desperate to generate new leads. The video was released in May 2009.
According to Carol, she initially tried to hide the fact that Marelene and Lisa were of First Nations ancestry, as she feared the public would assume her to be a sex worker, living on the street, or an alcohol or drug addict.
The RCMP made an appeal for information as to Lisa’s whereabouts on February 25, 2011.
In December 2019, a billboard featuring information about Lisa’s case and that of another missing Indigenous woman, Angeline Pete, was put up along the Island Highway, which passed through Nanoose Bay. Money for the billboard was raised by the Lil’ Red Dress Project, which sells red dress earrings and pins to help fund signage for missing and murdered Indigenous women on Vancouver Island.
Investigators conducted two searches in relation to the case in December 2020. One was at a Nanaimo Lakes Road property, which her family had heard mentioned a few times through word of mouth. It backed onto Morrell Sanctuary, a nearly 280 acre park that was also partially searched. According to a neighbour, they’d seen what looked like a body in a hammock in the house’s backyard around the time Lisa went missing. Soon after, he saw equipment moving soil, which piqued his interest and pushed him to contact the police. The current owners of the house had purchased it in 2003 and only learned a month prior that police were interested in searching it.
In the years since Lisa went missing, her family has covered Vancouver Island with missing persons posters, followed leads, consulted with psychics and spoken to countless members of the media across British Columbia.
Investigators suspect foul play in the case and have stated it’s currently being looked into as a homicide, as Lisa did not have a reason to disappear. They have interviewed numerous people in relation to the case and have followed up on every tip. Despite their efforts, no charges have been laid and her body has never been found.
Lisa’s family has been critical of the investigation. They have publicly complained about the attitudes of the officers who’ve been in contact with them and feel they only hear from investigators when they themselves call to ask for updates. They say the support they’ve been given has been neither helpful nor practical, and that the information they hear from police often contradicts that learnt from Lisa’s friends and those in the community.
In November 2003, Lisa’s friend, Allison Crowe, produced and released a song in her memory, titled “Lisa’s Song”, which was featured on her debut EP, Lisa’s Song+ 6 Songs. All of the tracks had been recorded beforehand, but she chose to do one more recording session after her friend’s disappearance.
Lisa’s case has received increased attention as part of Canada’s national inquiry into the country’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Her aunt and her grandmother, Cecilia Arnet, gave statements and Carol was the only Nuu-chah-nulth representative to attend the ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec, where the report was handed over to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Lisa’s friends and family hold an annual march in her honour and have held numerous candlelight vigils over the years. Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog declared June 28 Justice for Lisa Marie Young Day, while June 30 has been dubbed Lights On For Lisa Day, where residents are encouraged to leave their porch lights on in her memory.
Carol has looked into Lisa and the memories of other missing Indigenous women having a lasting legacy in the village of Tofino by making red dresses and shawls. This is done with the help of a small neighbourhood grant from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, and is done to remind those living in the community about the area’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Marelene passed away on June 21, 2017 from liver failure. The 54-year-old had been on dialysis, suffering from hypertension, and had been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Her family believes her health issues were caused by the stress brought about by Lisa’s disappearance.
On March 25, 2018, Dallas died after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 19A. He’d been walking with a female friend around 1:00am and had stepped into the northbound lane to retrieve something he’d dropped when a female driver struck him. He was pronounced dead at 6:15am that morning. The driver was not speeding at the time and had been unable to avoid him, due to his lack of reflective clothing.
Lisa’s case has been the topic of many podcasts, including one called Island Crime.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Lisa Marie Young went missing from Nanaimo, British Columbia on June 30, 2002. She was 21 years old, and was last seen wearing a black top, a black skirt, a pair of high black boots and a silver hooped necklace. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’4″ and weighed approximately 115 pounds. She has long dark brown hair and brown eyes. She has a tattoo of a band of flowers with a heart in the middle of her right arm.
Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing and is being investigated as a homicide. If alive, she would be 39 years old.
Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Nanaimo detachment of the RCMP at 250-754-2345. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Image Credit: The Toronto Star