Friday, 13 January 2017

Ashley Simpson Day

Yesterday was Ashley Simpson Day in the media.

I want to direct you to an outstanding series that has been written by St. Catharines Standard reporter Grant LaFleche.

You can read parts one and two here.
And part three here.

The second media site is a podcast out of Idaho called True Crimes and Mysteries. It's run by Rebecca and Mike Duke who explore the underbelly of crime in the U.S. and now in Canada. They are raising some very interesting questions about Ashley's case. They'll also provide future updates, so if you know anything, anything at all, please contact them.

I hope you will take the time to read Grant's stories, and listen to the podcast, and share it. Taken together, they explain a lot.

And if you know something, speak up.

You never know who might be listening!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

St. Catharines Standard investigates Ashley Simpson case

A week back, I got a call from Grant LaFleche, a reporter with the St. Catharines Standard. He said he was looking into the case of my missing cousin, Ashley Simpson. We had an interesting chat about my blog which I have kept up since April when Ashley went missing.

I told him my story. I didn't know Ashley or even her father, John, who is an adopted cousin.

Well, I certainly know them now. And I know, too, about the cases of the other missing women from her neighborhood in Salmon Arm. Wish I had met anyone of them in different circumstances.

Would have bought them a drink.

But there you go.

All through this painful process, I've been hoping that one of my media colleagues would take on this case. Alas, there are few resources in the media these days, especially news organizations that would pay the freight and give a reporter the time to visit her home, mark her last steps, and ask the hard questions.

The Standard did. And the link below is Part One of Ashley's story.

I say thanks to Grant, to my former paper, and to Postmedia for telling her story -- the good and bad of it.

It's an unflinching account, so I caution my cousins and Ashley's friends.

Don't be mad. And troll or throw rocks.

She was no shrinking violet. She drank. She carried on. But she also loved, and hurt, and breathed the rare air of ships, and logging camps.

To quote an old cogger from Butch Cassidy, "She wasn't crazy; she was colorful."

Above all, Ashley mattered.

We all do.

So hug your children tight, and share with them this cautionary tale.

Here is Part One.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Hey 2016! Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out!

My husband Scott and I were born in 1956 which is the Year of the Monkey.
Like those of our ilk, we were looking forward to celebrating what was also our 60th birthdays.
We thought it would be our good luck charm.
Then Lainey Lui spoiled it all by announcing that being born in a "Year of" Year meant bad luck for 365 days. The only way to possibly buck the trend was to buy everyone dinner on your birthday.
I found this out after we had celebrated Scott's birthday, and son Stef had paid the bill.
Shit, I thought. I should have checked the social media on New Year's Day.
I paid for dinner on my birthday but it was too late. The damage had been done.
By July 1st, I had lost my editing job to a predatory publisher from India, got ear cancer and felt my bones literally melting within. I had moved from a professional job to a retail one, and began to be referred to as "the older lady with the limp".
Then I lost that job due to globalization.
It seems the executives at the Hudson Bay Company had been watching too many Heritage Minutes and went off exploring new lands looking for quality retail space, and needed start-up capital.
Thanks to Facebook, I found out about a million of my friends had died or had become sick during the year, and most of them were younger than me.
In addition, thanks to Facebook, I found out a lot of dogs died, and a few went missing making me sad all the friggin' time.
I spent most of the year trying to lose forty pounds so I could have boob surgery, and despite working in retail, only lost ten pounds, which I gained back over Christmas by looking at a sugar cookie.
I turned to CNN for company only to discover that we were on the edge of nuclear war.
When the hell did that happen?
Oh that's because our clear-eyed American friends elected a reality star with crayon-colored hair and tiny hands, a man whose only qualifications for the job of President of the United States was starting a feud with Rosie O'Donnell and boxing women in the vagina.
There are so many days over this past year I'd hoped he would meet misfortune at the bottom of a box of KFC.
Remember Mama Cass? It can happen.
I am not alone in my melancholy.
Everybody's year sucked the big one.
We can never get back those Olympics, or reanimate all those people run down by truck-wielding terrorists.
We will never find good jobs again. Truly, the only thing a first class education will get you now is a free Happy Meal after your shift.
We can never get back Bev, and Marcie and Jeff or put Ben Mulroney back in the Cracker Jack Box.
We can never unsee the myriad images of our Prime Minister shirtless, popping up like a Where's Waldo cardboard cutout, and fat shaming women in strapless wedding dresses.
And we can never again read a newspaper that is written by humans.

We can't go back, so we must move forward.
We need to kick 2016's ass right out the door, and bring in a new common spirit of love and affection.
Who are we kidding, right?
Ain't gonna happen.
We can no longer kid ourselves that things will be alright if only we could buy the world a Coke.
That shit gives you diabetes and if you drink enough of it, will ensure you will have your
feet amputated by the age of 40. On the plus side, it can get out the worst skid marks in your toilet bowl.
I digress.
The fake news sites are right.
We need to fill up the water bottles and buy a food de-hydrator.
We need to arm ourselves and build eco-friendly outhouses.
Cause in 2017, shit is getting real.
Our neighbors to the South have elected a quarter-witted narcissistic buffoon who not only can't remember his last sentence, but who's in love with a former KGB agent who poisoned his best friend.
He is surrounded by a King's Court filled with Botoxed Blondes, and generals whose favorite movie is Doctor Strangelove.
Unless he is impeached or chokes on a chicken bone, stat, we are all in peril.
Time to get to the Army/Navy for a gas mask and get inside.
It gives me no comfort to know the only person who can save the world is Michael Moore.
Hmm maybe all those dead celebrities knew something.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Ashley Simpson: The Perfect Storm

It's been eight horrendous months since Ashley Simpson disappeared just as spring began to kiss the left coast. There is no news, little evidence, no charges laid. Let's face it, it's hard to keep on believing that she will, one day, show up in her mother's kitchen.

Yet, we continue to hold on to hope...hope that she is somehow still alive...hope that there is some sort of closure for John, Cindy, and the extended and loving Simpson family and their friends.

When trying to make sense of this kind of tragedy, we always look for something positive. It's not easy, but as humans, we cannot go on thinking that the whole world is this way. We have to hold on to something.

I keep remembering the corny last scenes of movies. Like the ending of Titanic where Jack asks Rose to promise not to give up. Or the ending of the Perfect Storm with Mark Walberg drifting in the open sea transmitting this thoughts to Diane Lane.

"There are no goodbyes. Only love."

These pop culture sound bites ring hollow as the cold light of day reminds those who love Ashley that the world is not safe, people are not always good, and the RCMP doesn't always get its perp.

If there is one bright spot for this year, for me, it's that the entire Simpson family has gotten to know one another. I didn't know cousin John growing up. He was one of many children from the same family who were adopted by my generous band of aunts and uncles. We are a huge family -- my father had six brothers and sisters -- and they in turn raised many kids, including the adopted ones.

Here are a few of them

Because my dad died when I was a baby, I pretty much lost touch with the Simpsons, as my mother had nearly no connection to them. It is only through social media that I've gotten to know this wonderful bunch, and it is only because of Ashley that I've realized what a weird and wonderful family we have.

The spirit of my aunts and uncles continue to live on through these people. They might not have a pot to piss in, but they all hold onto the stellar family values that were passed on to them. Ashley continues to be a blithe spirit in my mind who was family-obsessed, so much so that everybody knew something was up within days of her disappearance -- because they hadn't heard from her over Facebook.

Giving Thanks

I want to thank this family for allowing me to share their thoughts, their fears, and their pain over these past few months. They have been more than generous, allowing me write about their journey; not every family has that kind of courage.

Thank you to John, Cindy, Amanda, Amy and Tara, and the little kids who continue to cook, and build bonfires, and play really, really bad games of cards together.

By the way, John, you look fabulous in those heels. Are they Manolos?

As a child who lost her father tragically, who was raised by a mother who never really recovered from the loss, I understand what it's like to grow up with a hole in the family. I didn't know my father, so you are lucky to have had 31 years of Ashley and can look at pictures and watch videos, and revisit her in her Facebook postings.

Regardless of her fate, Ashley continues to live on in the cyberspace with Debbie and Carrie, and Bowie and Bing. Cold comfort, I know. But it's something to hang your hat on.

As for me, I will continue to write about Ashley until she is found, and I will continue to advocate on her behalf.

Just today, I noticed Gerald Butts, the Prime Minister's Senior Political Adviser, on Twitter. He was recommending a CBC documentary on the cold case of Alberta Williams, an aboriginal woman who went missing 27 years ago. I tweeted him back with my blog about Ashley. Hopefully, he'll take the time to read it.

It's About Power

People need to be reminded that the problem of missing and murdered women goes far beyond the plight of indigenous women.

Violence against women knows no color, no race, no geography. It is happening everywhere, and people often turn a blind eye, or make assumptions. Just as the many who went missing on the Highway of Tears matter, Ashley matters, too.

What is needed is a big picture focus on violence against women, period.

It's not just about trying to build social policy models and risk assessments. And it's not about poverty or the social safety net. Let's put it in my own blue collar way. It's hard to prevent someone from bashing you over the head with a beer bottle when he's drunk, or dragging you into a car somewhere.

Violence against women is not just about the social determinants of health.

It is about power, pure and simple.

It's my soap box, and that's what I have to say.

My only wish for 2017, aside for the good health of my family and friends, and a case of duct tape for the mouth of Donald Trump, is that John and Cindy find closure and justice for Ashley, and that the world never forgets her in the midst of all its bustle.

I also wanted to share some of the comments I've received on this blog, to let the family know that the people of Salmon Arm, Niagara and all parts of this world are thinking about Ashley.

God bless, and Happy New Year!

Cousin Rose

From the Virtual Mailbag:

Such a beautiful face...kindest heart...and gentlest soul. Hopefully some answers surface soon. I don't know you (her family), but I've known Ashley for many years (16 to be exact). She was Auntie Ashley to my two oldest. I remember her smile often...laughing in the water at Rice Lake...chasing the kids around. Truly an amazing person. I pray for her safe return and I pray for you all. Sending love and hugs to all of you ...especially at this tough time of year. Until we see her gorgeous smile again she will live in our hearts. Xo ~Meg~

I hope you get your Christmas miracle. I hope closure comes soon for you to stop the questions in your hearts and pain of the unknown. I admire your strength and character for fighting on with your pain, to help others. You deserve peace this holiday season, and I hope you find it in family and friends. Dee Handley
I've been thinking alot about it in the last few days and you're right, absolutely no media coverage. Something has to be done. Mike Johnson
We are crossing our fingers, and holding her in our hearts. Pauline and Kelly

Thinking of Ashley and your family and praying everyday something surfaces as to her whereabouts, I know Ashley from school and she is a wonderful girl! So full of life and love! Thinking of you all and not losing hope! Anonymous

You wrote in your article - Since Ashley's disappearance, four women have gone missing -- four -- including a lady who lived across the street. I heard about the other older women in that area missing and the young lady from Enderby Area if your including her. Who are the four your writing about as this is scary I have never heard of a fourth - they do need to do more media. Thoughts and prayers go out to all the family's of the missing. Chrissy (There are now three; one has been found)

Oh dear. I have been absent from communications on FB, so this is the first I've read about this heart wrenching Mystery. I'm so sorry and I want you to know I will be doing Meditations for peace in the hearts of those effected by her disappearance, and for a speedy resolution. I will focus on a pink hard suitcase...I can picture it in my mind. Blessings. Sue Yost.
I live in Armstrong, near the area where these women went missing, and despite the lack of media coverage, neither Ashley nor the others have been forgotten by the local community. We still mention them at dinner, over coffee, and when we drive the back roads. We still hope for their safe return, or for justice, and peace for the families. FYI, the 4th young woman, Suzie Clark, was eventually located by RCMP. Anonymous

A lot of people go missing from smaller communities. It's heart breaking. Watch the Highway of Tears on Netflix. My community has recieved lots of heartache. Anonymous

I am from Salmon Arm and my mom lives in the community that Ashley disappeared from and I have known Deanna wertz (the missing lady) for over ten years. I am so sorry for your family and cannot truly imagine but we have not forgotten. I have daughters her age and are horrified that this can happen here.
Just a note about the four missing. They conflict Deanna's location in the information. She lived in Yankee flats...Close to where Ashley was but they keep talking about her in Enderby... Caitlin Potts is still missing from Enderby. So yes three missing. Very frightening indeed. Wendy

You've written a beautiful, compassionate article that really hit home for me. As you said, people don't simply 'disappear'. You and your family must be going through a living nightmare. I live in Ontario, and the Paul Bernardo (and Karla) case was a terrifying ordeal - it turned out that Bernardo lived a block from my daughter's best friend. We were very lucky she and her friend weren't one of their victims.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family - and we pray for good news.
Three people missing - what anguish this is causing. Meg Simpson

Thanks for reading. And screw 2016!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ashley Simpson: One of three women still missing

My cousin Ashley Simpson made a New Years list this week, sadly, as part of a story about women who have disappeared from the North Okanagan Shuswap in British Columbia. The popular Castanet website for Vernon gave the details. Here is an abridged version.

It's been almost a year since anyone has seen Caitlyn Potts.
Potts was last seen on Feb. 22, and made contact with friends on social media Feb. 26, but has not been heard from since.
The 27-year-old First Nations woman was reported missing March 1.
Two months later, another North Okanagan woman went missing.
Ashley Simpson, 31, was last heard from on April 27 and then on July 22, Deanna Mildred Wertz, 46, was also reported missing.
Potts and Wertz were from the Enderby area, while Simpson was living in the Salmon Arm area.
Police said on the morning of July 19, Wertz went for a walk somewhere in the wooded area near her residence on Yankee Flats Road (the same area where Ashley disappeared) and has not been seen since. Wertz was an avid hiker and was known to go on lengthy hikes.
Initially, the disappearance of Potts and Simpson were not treated as suspicious by North Okanagan RCMP, but as time dragged on with no signs of the women, the Southeast District Major Crimes Unit took over both cases.
“Ashley’s typical communication with friends and family has ceased without explanation and investigators suspect that Ashley’s disappearance may very well be the result of foul play,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk in May when the SED took over the investigation.
Upon her disappearance, Simpson's family launched a social media campaign with pictures of her and a plea for any information.
Members of her family also travelled from Ontario to Salmon Arm where they handed out flyers.
Simpson is approximately 5-feet-5-inches tall, 119 pounds with brown eyes and hair.
Her aunt, Amanda Haveman, said Simpson also has the word 'Gypsy' tattooed on her left arm and a hummingbird and strawberries on her right arm.
In early June, members of the Splatsin First Nation held a day-long search for Potts.
“Somebody has seen something and somebody can help,” said Charlene Belleau, organizer and chief of the Esketemc First Nation.
On the day of the search, Potts' mother, Priscilla said she was “really grateful for the support.”
"Caitlyn's not even from this province but she's in our territory and (the community is) here to help," said Splatsin First Nation Chief Wayne Christian on the day of the search. "It's really important to show that we do care and something's got to be done."
Potts is described as approximately 5-feet-3-inches tall, 150 pounds with brown eyes and black hair.
Police said the case is still being actively investigated.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Ashley Simpson: Eight Months Gone

Meme by Maureen Task

It's been eight months to the day that Ashley Simpson disappeared. I wanted to share some words from the family as we remember her during this holiday season.

Coming up to eight months since you have left us, wondering where you have gone. We still hang on to that string of hope even though is frayed, and ready to tear. But we mend it with love and hope for you, my dear, that one day you will be back with us, one way or another.

We missed you much over the holidays and you were in everyone's thoughts.

You were there with us in our hearts and souls.

We haven't given up hope.


John Simpson, Father

On this day, the 27th of April, eight months ago, you left to come home.
Where did you go? Someone has to have seen you ? Why will no one speak out ? What are they afraid of ? 

These questions and more will forever go through our heads, until we have some answers to where you have gone,  our Ashley. We will never give up.

Will never stop looking , and most of all, never stop asking QUESTIONS and hoping for the answers. For now, we will think of you often and love you even more as our prayers go out in hopes someone will hear them, in hopes that maybe one day you will walk back into our lives.

 Julie Major, Aunt

I invite anyone who would like to share something about Ashley to leave your thoughts here. You can also email me at and I will share your sentiments in another blog.

It's important to keep Ashley's spirit in this realm. Maybe our collective voice will rise up and reach the ears of someone, anyone, who might have seen her.


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas: What a Wonderful Life!

I am most grateful on Christmas Eve when my brood lumbers into our house, clutching presents. food, kids and dogs. The configuration changes every year; sometimes they have spouses, sometimes they don't. It always makes for an interesting family picture, that's for sure.

For many years, Christmas Eve was full of friends. Now it's kids and spouses.

Having three kids, you can always count on a crowd.

Today, Stef arrived, with Belle, his year-old Bassett Hound, in tow. He'd dropped his presents walking over, and murmured that the hot sauce selection he'd bought for Jeff might have broken. Luckily, the Ghost Pepper Sauce was intact, and would revisit Jeff over, again and again.

Stef is single this year, and has recently moved back into the neighborhood with Belle. We are happy to see him after a three-year girlfriend experiment that went sideways. He is always the ember to the flame, and I will always be happy to see his bright and shiny face.

Next in the door was Nick with little Skylar, our nearly five-year-old granddaughter whom he has for the night. Nick is a single dad, and he has Skylar for a few hours, and then she departs for Santaville. We are happy to see her. I remember, not that long ago, holding her in my arms as a baby. I cannot remember five years of my own life, let alone hers, and I cannot believe how much she has grown, and matured. Gosh, how long has it been since Nick was her age, and playing with the exact same toys? Wonders never cease.

Finally in the door come Marissa, Jeff and the baby Kennedy, who is the absolutely light of my life. I have been honored to have been chosen to be her day-to-day caregiver. But I haven't
seen her for a week.

She's confused. It takes a few minutes before she recognizes me. I actually have to sing a few bars of her favorite ditty, before she recognizes her dear old Gran. I wonder: will I always have to treat every day like Ground Hog Day?

We ate, we drank, we spent a good amount of time making sure that Belle The Bassett Hound hadn't eaten the butter tarts. We watched Step Brothers, a movie the kids all know by heart.

And then they were gone.

And here I am alone with my thoughts.

I feel a Frank Sinatra song coming on.

Merry Christmas.