This week, the RCMP descended upon a property in Silver Creek, B.C. not far from the area where my cousin Ashley Simpson and two other area women went missing in 2016.
Word of the search spread like wildfire, as the RCMP set up a staging area in a local community hall. The cops were hard to miss with their backhoes and poles, as they combed every inch of the Salmon River Road property.
Back in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Simpson family heard about the search through the grapevine, and my cousin Cindy reached out to the RCMP. Other family members for Deanna Wertz and Caitlin Potts contacted the police as well.
Nothing to see here, they were told. The search was completely unrelated to the disappearance of their loved ones.
A man was arrested and charged with: disguising his face with the intent to commit an offence, intentionally discharging a firearm while reckless, uttering threats, careless use or storage of a firearm, possessing a weapon for dangerous purposes and possession of a controlled substance. The community will have to wait until October to hear the real story behind the arrest of Wayne Curtis Sagmoen.
But clearly, the man was well known to be a danger to the public.
In the meantime, the activity occurring in the Salmon Arm area has opened afresh the wounds of the families of these women, and heightened the fear in the small community where there are more women gone missing than fishing derbies held.
In November, Ashley would have turned 34. Instead of a birthday party, the family is putting its efforts into raising money to buy drones for use in spotting missing persons in areas where humans are unable to travel. They're also walking to raise awareness about this country's dirty little secret: the large number of unsolved cases related to murdered and missing women.
As of 2013, before the Salmon Arm trio went missing, the RCMP reported that there were 1,181 incidents of female homicides and unresolved missing Indigenous females. That number did not include cases of non-indigenous missing females, like my cousin Ashley.
The worst part about being the family of a murdered woman is never knowing what happened to her, and never getting to put her little body to rest. We continue to pray that someone will come forward and give the families of these three women some peace.
Meanwhile, every girl and woman in Salmon Arm is looking over her shoulder.