It's been ten months since my cousin Ashley Simpson disappeared with barely a trace from her home in Salmon Arm, British Columbia -- and it's getting ugly.
Frustrated by the lack of progress in the case, her father has committed to travelling from his home in Niagara-on-the-Lake this spring across the country to find her. The family has heard from different psychics that she will be found when the snow melts and the water is running, so her dad John is following that lead. He vows not to come back to Ontario without her.
Meanwhile, the persons of interest in the case, those who were the last to see Ashley, are scrambling. Her boyfriend Derek is keeping a low profile because he has received death threats. His best friend Brent Cox, the landlord who rented to Ashley and Derek, has reached out to the media to try to clear his name. The hockey dad recently talked to the podcast True Crimes and Mysteries and gave an hour long interview to give his side of the story. That podcast aired yesterday.
There are stories flying everywhere, ranging from unfounded reports of Ashley's state of mind to charges of domestic abuse. It's hard to know what to believe anymore.
In the middle of all this are the RCMP, who have refused to talk to anybody, citing "waiting for evidence". We know from news and first hand accounts that the police and rescue crews have scoured the land on Brent's property, taken away everybody's cell phones for evidence, and pretty much accused people of being murderers without providing any evidence whatsoever.
This is a disturbing state of affairs. There are three people missing from the general area where Ashley disappeared -- three -- and nobody's talking and everybody is blaming everybody. Ashley. Derek. Brent. The dogcatcher.
In reading the comments on the True Crimes and Mysteries site, I could detect the smell of vigilante justice in the air, and I'm worried.
What the hell is going on? Why haven't the RCMP held a newser if for no other reason than to rule out persons of interests, and give people their good names back? Why should Brent have to go so far as to go to the media to tell his side of the story after he took a lie detector test?
I'm not writing this blog to blame anybody, or point fingers, and people should just stop that, right now, before somebody gets hurt. I'm writing this to get to the bottom of this mystery and finally give our family some closure.
But in doing so, I've found myself perplexed that the RCMP has said nothing, and I want answers.
Tonight, I came across an article by an associate professor at the University of King's College in Halifax. Dean Jobb is an expert in media law. Last year, he wrote about the RCMP's lack of transparency in recent years when it comes to revealing information relating to victims of crime.
"The Mounties appear to have decided to err on the side of caution and withhold names, rather than consulting victims' families and making judgment calls as they have in the past," he wrote in reference to a number of cases related to major crimes and fatal accident victims.
"Shutting off the flow of official information about major incidents under police investigation will not make them less newsworthy. Journalists will be forced to get their information from other sources -- some reliable, others not. Mistakes will be made, and inaccurate reporting does not serve the public interest or the families of victims."
In the case of Ashley, the RCMP remains tight lipped and has turned down all requests from journalists. And that leaves us all searching. I contacted Brent Cox before Christmas. He was happy to talk because he wanted to clear his name. Derek's mother has also come forward because Derek has been unable to see his children because he remains under a cloud of suspicion. He's also shut down his social media.
Meanwhile, the drums are beating on Facebook, and it's gonna be the wild west if this doesn't get resolved.
This is a terrible situation that is rife with vitriol and innuendo. Everyone is flinging mud. Rumors are out of control. Tempers are flaring.
The RCMP has an obligation to speak out. Either charge somebody or tell us why they have not been charged and give people back their lives.
Last time I checked, people in this country were innocent until proven guilty.
I hope that is still the case.