I got an email from Ashley Simpson's dad yesterday who is lining up the ducks, getting ready for his quest to find his daughter who disappeared a year ago from her home in Salmon Arm.
John Simpson was originally going to drive across the country but now he's decided it would be cheaper and faster to fly out and rent a car. He's got about a month before he has to return to Huntsville to take up his summer duties as the cook at the Longhouse. He says he's hoping it won't take that long but he's prepared to keep looking as long as he can.
John wants, no needs, some sort of resolution. He's hoping for the best, and expecting the worst. That's what happens when your daughter disappears without a trace. The cops have no leads they are willing to share with the family. The answer is always the same: they're looking at the evidence.
This will be a lonely quest for this kind and loving man who has spent the winter in agony. He told me not long ago, he had to pull over while driving because he "lost it". Most days, he wakes up crying so having a quest gives his life purpose. John also finds comfort in supporting local charities who advocate for missing and murdered women and is hoping to set up a foundation in Ashley's name.
As the father of a missing girl, he needs to do something. He needs to ensure that her life continues to having meaning, and that what happened to her will never be forgotten.
Cold comfort still.
When John gets to town, he is hoping to mend a few fences. The last time he was out in Salmon Arm, he and his posse arrived shortly after Ashley disappeared. Words were exchanged with Ashley's boyfriend Derek and her landlord Brent Cox.
Somebody, not John, even uttered a death threat against the boyfriend. As a result, he left town and is not allowed to see his kids without supervision.
It's understandable. People were upset. Why didn't someone go after her? Why did they wait so long to report her missing? Why did it take seven days before the cops and rescue went looking for her?
Certainly, there is enough blame to go around.
But none of the vitriol has been helpful. Last time I heard, people are still innocent until they have been proven guilty.
Social media has been a blessing and a curse in this case.
Terrible things have been said in Facebook groups. Fingers have been pointed. Feelings have been hurt.
But out of the ashes, perhaps there is hope. The parties out in Salmon Arm have agreed to meet with John. While the meeting might not exactly be a kumbaya moment, at least maybe there will be some kind of closure.
And that's something.
I'm betting John will be surprised when he gets there, when he sees how much the people of this little burg are hurting. It's not just Ashley. Two other women are missing; one lived across the street.
There's a chill in the air. Is there a homegrown serial killer in the area, even though the cops say the three cases are unrelated? Will another woman go missing? Have these women met their fate on the infamous Highway of Tears?
Ashley Simpson's case has left scars not just on our family members but on the people who live in this small community.
I spoke with Elaine Cawson Bowman who is the ex-mother-in-law of Ashley's boyfriend Derek. She is mother to Alex, and grandmother to his children, and has known Derek since he was 14. She helped her daughter put up posters around town after Ashley's disappearance. Elaine and Tara have never stopped looking for Ashley, and have been quick to notify the RCMP of any leads, including one about a suitcase found up the mountain. (The cops say that evidence is unrelated.)
"We never stop thinking about Ashley," she said. "My daughter really liked her. She said maybe Derek found a good one this time."
Part of the blame, and all the misunderstanding, has to be laid at the feet of the local RCMP who instructed residents not to speak with the Simpson family. That created bad blood right from the get-go.
Elaine is hoping to talk to John when he returns to claim Ashley in whatever form he finds her. Brent Cox has also offered to talk to John. He says he wants to set the record straight and clear his name.
Hopefully, the cloud that hovers over Salmon Arm will eventually be lifted.
At the very least, whatever John finds, I hope he discovers some peace in the kindness of strangers.