Hue and Cry

The Murder of Ramona Wilson
Highway of Tears

The Murder of Ramona Wilson

Location: Smithers, British Columbia  |  Year: 1994

In 1994, Ramona Lisa Wilson was 16 years old and living with her family in Smithers, British Columbia. Ramona was part of the Gitxsan nations and the youngest of six children in her family. She had a bubbly personality was known as a jokester and was well-liked by people.

Ramona played outfield on the local baseball team sponsored by the Native Friendship Center and also worked as a dishwasher at Smitty’s, a popular chain restaurant. Her mother, Matilda Wilson remembered Ramona telling her at the age of 12 that she wanted to be a psychologist and be the first in her family to attend university.

Ramona Lisa Wilson (Hazlitt)

The weekend of June 11 was known as a big weekend for teenagers in Smithers as it marked the weekend of their big graduation party. Teenagers were known to stay out all night with friends and other students for a night of celebration and partying.

Matilda remembered Ramona being in a good mood on Saturday night, singing and dancing around the house while getting ready for her night out with friends. She remembered Ramona leaving the house around 9:45 pm, presumably to meet her best friend Kristal Grenkie. Ramona was seen talking to some neighbors before heading on her way.

Kristal was attending her brother’s graduation that night and was planning on meeting Ramona afterward at a dance in Hazelton, a town 70 kilometers from them. However, Ramona never showed up to the dance that night and Kristal suspected Ramona’s plans had changed and she had gone to meet her boyfriend in the village of Moricetown, where he lived. Moricetown is located halfway between Smithers and Hazelton.

On Sunday morning, Ramona’s boyfriend called her house looking for her. Matilda told him that she was with Kristal. After calling Kristal and realizing Ramona was not there, Kristal called Smitty’s to see if Ramona was in, but she was not scheduled to work until the next day.

On Monday, Ramona did not appear at school or for her shift at Smitty’s. Matilda went to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that day to report her daughter missing but was met with indifference as the officers told her to “give it some time” and that her daughter was probably unhappy at home, had runoff, and would reappear. Ramona’s family didn’t wait and started their own search for her, calling friends and family and driving around town.

In the following week, Ramona’s bank account, possessions at home, and latest paycheck, all went untouched. Around this time, the RCMP started to actively search for her. The family also had support from the organization, Missing Children’s Society of Canada, which assisted with searches and contributing to reward money.

On April 9, 1995, two teenagers were four-wheeling in an area off Yelich Road just north of the highway, behind the Smithers’ airport, nearby a group of old rugby fields which was known as a popular partying place for teens, when one of their ATVs became stuck in the mud. The boys headed into a nearby wooded area to search for something to use to pry their ATV free.

The boys discovered Ramona Wilson’s body in the area, almost 11 months after her disappearance. Beside her body was yellow rope and nylon cables. Her clothing—leggings and a purple sweatshirt were found nearby but her shoes were never found.

The RCMP said they followed up on all leads that came in, including rumors of her attending a party at the rugby fields, a run-in with a group of local men in a truck, and visits to unknown apartment complexes on the night of her death, but no arrests were ever made. Since Ramona’s death, an RCMP Task Force called E-PANA was created to investigate the series of unsolved murders along this highway, including Ramona’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.

Ramona’s sister Brenda organizes a memorial walk for Ramona each June, where she and others walk along the highway for Ramona and all the missing women and girls who have disappeared along this highway.

Brenda Wilson, sister of Ramona Wilson (BC Local News)

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