Hue and Cry

Highway of Tears

The Murder of Roxanne Thiara

Location

Prince George, British Columbia

Year

1994

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**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

Roxanne Thiara was born in Manitoba, Canada. She spent the majority of her childhood growing up in Quesnel, B.C. under the foster care of Mildred Thiara and her family of three. Mildred was eventually granted legal guardianship of Roxanne when she was a child.

“She was quite a good kid – a really happy, bubbly kid,” recalled Mildred.

Roxanne Thiara (The Vancouver Sun)

As an adolescent, Roxanne began struggling to attend school regularly and started to hang out with a crowd that was considered a “bad bunch,” according to Mildred. At the age of twelve, Roxanne was incarcerated in a youth detention center for an unknown petty offense. In the detention center, Roxanne befriended another girl, Kristal Grenkie. Kristal remembered Roxanne as just a young and innocent child in the detention center. Roxanne’s former brother-in-law, Rene Beirness said the incarceration was, “the worst thing that happened to her” and that after her release “she went wild.”

After her release, Roxanne spent the majority of her time in Williams Lake, a town just outside of Quesnel. Finding it difficult to reintegrate she turned to drugs and engaged in survival sex, a form of sex trafficking in order to survive.

Despite all these difficulties, Mildred still remembered Roxanne dropping by her house or calling every couple of days. Her family kept faith that things would turn around for her, and in late June of 1994 Roxanne even told Mildred that she wanted to enter rehab to stop her addiction. She had always wanted to be a fashion designer and wanted to pursue a better life. She made an appointment to enter a drug treatment program.

On June 27, 1994, Roxanne left Mildred’s house in Quesnel to return to Prince George to collect her belongings. She told Mildred that she would return the next day. That was the last Mildred ever heard from or saw Roxanne as she did not return to Quesnel as promised. Shortly thereafter, during a long weekend in July, Roxanne told a friend that she was going out with a customer in downtown Prince George. She walked around the corner of a building and was never seen again. Throughout the month of July Mildred began searching and calling around to see if anyone had seen or heard from Roxanne, flyers were handed out and she was officially reported missing, but there was no news of Roxanne.

On August 17, 1994, approximately one month after she disappeared, Roxanne’s body was found dumped in the bush along Highway 16, just before the town of Burns Lake. She had been murdered and was 15-years-old.

When she did want to change, she wasn’t given the chance.

Mildred Thiara, legal guardian of Roxanne Thiara (Highway of Tears)

After her body was found, police released Roxanne’s photo to the public in hopes that someone would come forward with information and they received close to forty tips after releasing her photo. They believed that whoever murdered Roxanne did so elsewhere and then dumped her body by Highway 16. They believe the killer knew the area around the Highway well.

We’re still having a hard time coming to terms with everything. She was a well-loved little girl; she was well-adored.

Mildred Thiara, legal guardian of Roxanne Thiara (Highway of Tears)

The family had a small funeral to honor Roxanne’s life and the tips unfortunately did not lead the police to her killer. Since Roxanne’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 Roxanne’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.

All images and videos used for this story are not the property of The Hue and Cry and are displayed for informational purposes only. They are property of their original owners/publications. Photos are from Justice for Native Women and The Vancouver Sun.

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