**This story is part of our series examining the cases of missing and murdered women along The Highway of Tears. The Highway of Tears is an isolated 725-kilometer stretch of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia, Canada. This highway has been the location of many murders and disappearances beginning as early as the 1970s. Indigenous women make up the majority of these victims with almost all of their cases going unsolved and their families still searching for answers. For an in-depth look into this, and many other cases along this highway we recommend reading Jessica McDiarmid’s book Highway of Tears
Lana Patricia Derrick grew up in Terrace, British Colombia, and was part of the Gitanyow First Nation. Lana was known to family and friends as a bit of a prankster who loved the outdoors. She was determined to go to college after high school and in 1995, she enrolled in the forestry program at Northwest Community College in Houston, British Colombia.
Northwest Community College had many campuses in varying communities along the northwest stretch of Highway 16. Lana was attending classes in Houston which was a three-hour drive from Terrace. In college, Lana was known as a good student who took her studies seriously and a person who made friends quickly. She still visited her family often, going back home on weekends to visit them.
The Friday before Thanksgiving, Lana got a ride back to Terrace with a fellow classmate. She knew her parents Marge and Darvin Haugan were preparing to work all weekend in order to finish a forestry contract so when she arrived at their house, she dropped off her belongings and headed into town.
Lana’s stepsister Clarice Dessert was driving around town when she spotted Lana walking on the street and stopped to let her know that her father had given her cash for Lana to pick up. Lana asked if Clarice could pick up the money and take it to her apartment as Clarice lived downtown and it was easier for Lana to get it there. The girls then parted ways.
Clarice’s younger sister was spending the night with her that night and the two went to bed early. Sometime around 3:00 a.m. Clarice woke up to the sound of someone knocking on her door. Clarice remembered being half asleep and opening the door to find Lana, who had come to collect her money. She remembered chatting with Lana for a little bit and being invited to a party that she declined to go too. She gave Lana $30 and the two said goodnight. Clarice didn’t recall seeing a vehicle or headlights or any other person around. Lana seemed intoxicated but didn’t seem upset or anxious and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
On Saturday, Marge and Darvin noticed Lana’s bag at home, but they figured she had stayed over at a friend’s house after a night out. Rarely at home that weekend, on Monday they had still not seen their daughter and her belongings still lay untouched. When Lana did not show up on Tuesday, they knew something was not right as classes started that day and their daughter never missed school.
After contacting friends and family they realized that no one had seen their daughter in three days. They then went to the police to file a missing person report. Marge and Darvin remember feeling brushed off and having police suggest that Lana was probably out partying or staying with a boyfriend for a few days. Despite her family insisting otherwise, no real search occurred for Lana until nearly a week after this initial meeting.
Lana’s family, friends and community came together to search for her all over British Colombia before, during, and after any police help. After a couple of days assisting in the search, police decided it was time to call it off.
They had put in their seventy-two hours. Everybody go home now, we’ll let you know what we find out. And we said, you go home. We’re not done.Marge Haugan, Lana’s mother (Highway of Tears)
A month after the report was filed, a witness came forward to say they had seen Lana at the Petro-Canada gas station in Thornhill at around 3:30 am on the morning of her disappearance. Thornhill is located across the river from downtown Terrace and the gas station sits on the south side of Highway 16. The witness claimed to have seen Lana get out of the backseat of a blue car, walk into the gas station convenience store and then walk out and back into the car, before it drove off, heading north to the Northern Motor Inn.
Unfortunately, police could not recover footage from the gas station as that night’s security footage had already been recorded over. Sketches and detailed descriptions were also released of the two men thought to have been in the car with Lana, but nothing ever came of it. Lana’s supposed boyfriend was also a suspect. He was someone Clarice had also dated briefly, but whom she broke things off with after an incident where he became intoxicated and rough with her. Clarice had gotten a call the morning after Lana disappeared saying that he had committed suicide the previous night. Police looked into this but could not find any connection with his death and her disappearance.
Since Lana’s disappearance, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Task Force called E-PANA was created to investigate the series of unsolved murders along this highway, including Lana’s. The purpose of the task force was “to determine if a serial killer, or killers, is responsible for murdering young women traveling along major highways in BC” (E-PANA website). To date, however, this case still remains unsolved, as do all the cases along the highway included in E-PANA.
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