Debbie Pelletier: Murder is Never Pretty

When I read and re-read the CBC article (nd) about the murder of Debbie Pelletier it hit me in the gut stronger than a physical punch. Insensitive? Dismissive? It almost sounds as though Debbie deserved  to brutally murdered on Christmas Day in 1988.

Yes, yes I know about the 5-Ws and being objective as I am a writer. But couldn’t we get a bit of compassion? Some questions about why the murder has never been solved? Why do reports about the missing and murdered Indigenous women continue to read like statistics?

The background

I met Sharon – Debbie’s older sister – when Jimmy Durocher gave me a job at the Metis Society in 1975 as he knew I was a struggling student.

When I went to teach in Stanley Mission in 1976 I would stay with the Pelletier family when I was in Regina. No need to phone ahead — besides there wasn’t telephone service in Stanley Mission at the time– I would just rock up knowing that Alex – Sharon’s mother – would have a bed for me.

I got to know Debbie over the years. The adjective that first comes to mind is that she was gentle. Sensitive. Almost shy. And she was always conscious of the other people around her. She was the sort of person who would get up and bring you a cup of coffee when she noticed you were tired. She had a kind of awareness that I wish I could develop.

While I don’t think she came from an abusive home, she ended up in an abusive relationship. I could not tolerate her partner as he made my skin crawl. If he was in the room, I would leave.

The murder

When I heard of Debbie’s being stabbed to death and thrown in the back of a half ton truck on Christmas Day, I burst into tears. How could anyone brutally stab and cut the fingers off such a kind person? What sort of twisted pervert would do that? She was 27 years old and the mother of four children. Not a Christmas Day goes by that I don’t think of Debbie.

As I understand it, the police investigation into Debbie’s murder was less than adequate. How could such a murder happen in a house with other people there? Didn’t anyone hear or see anything?

Yes, I’m sure they did, but the police didn’t probe deeply enough. After all, Debbie was just an Indigenous woman, so these sorts of things happen. Or perhaps the officers were in a hurry as they wanted to spend the day with their families.

As I understand it, the Pelletier family was not involved with the investigation. Nor were they informed of the findings in a timely manner. Unacceptable.

Eight months later, Alex died grieving for her murdered daughter. While the suspect may have been found innocent in May 1989 it doesn’t mean that he wasn’t guilty. It just clearly points to the incompetence of the police.

The dedication

In 2004 I was living in Sydney and my book Democracy Quotation for Progressive Thinkers was ready to go to the publisher. The dedication reads

This book is dedicated to Debbie Pelletier who was brutally murdered December 25th, 1988.  She had so little democracy in her life.