Just before Christmas last year, Traci Genereaux was a passenger of a car that flew off the road and rolled over several times. She broke her spine and had to undergo surgery that shrunk her by three inches.
The crash had a profound impact on her, said her father, Darcy Genereaux. The feisty, artistic 18-year-old was still recovering and getting her life back on track when she went missing in May, he said.
"She realized she had made some pretty bad decisions in life,'' he said. "She was still climbing out, but ... she realized the bad choices she made and stopped making them.''
Quick-witted and funny
The RCMP confirmed Wednesday night that human remains found on a British Columbia farm belonged to Genereaux. No charges have been laid in connection with her death, which is being treated as suspicious.
Her father could not be reached on Thursday, while her mother, Laurie Nixon, asked for time to absorb the news. But in an interview earlier this week, Darcy Genereaux, 40, said his daughter was loud, quick-witted and funny.
"She was awesome. She was always having fun, always making crazy, funny little sounds. She was like our own little Michael Winslow from 'Police Academy,''' he said, referring to an actor known for his vocal sound effects.
She grew up in Vernon, B.C., and fell in with a bad crowd in her teenage years, he said. She used drugs and worked in the sex trade for a period of time, but her father said she had quit both by the time she went missing.
She had begun volunteering at the SPCA and wanted to become a veterinarian, he said, adding she especially loved ducks.
"I don't know what it was about a duck,'' he said. "We'd take her down to the duck park here and it would just send her to the moon, even in the last couple years. She was like one of the little kids at the duck park.''
She had two older siblings, a sister and a brother, and all three loved to draw, a talent they inherited from their mother, he said.
Mounties began searching a rural property near Salmon Arm last month and announced the discovery of human remains on Oct. 21.
The investigation of the 10-hectare property located on Salmon River Road is ongoing, and police said they're working to establish a timeline of Genereaux's whereabouts on the days leading up to May 29, the last day she was seen.
'It kind of broke my heart'
Bob Zimmerman saw her getting into a white van near Vernon's bottle depot that day. Darcy Genereaux said Zimmerman called him a few days later to explain what he saw, and Zimmerman says he also went to police.
Zimmerman said he got to know Genereaux and her parents after he saw her sitting by the side of the road, apparently working in the sex trade, in spring 2016. He has three daughters of his own and decided to pull over and talk to her.
"She was so young for what she was trying to do,'' said Zimmerman, 51. "I told her, 'Go home. You've probably got mom and dad worried about you.' ... It kind of broke my heart.''
He would see her around and they became friends over time, he said. She wanted desperately to beat her heroin addiction and he tried to help, including once when he and her mother tried to get her into hospital for treatment, he said.
"I told her, 'Go home. You've probably got mom and dad worried about you.'"
- Bob Zimmerman
Genereaux hated "dope sickness,'' Zimmerman said, referring to the excruciating withdrawal symptoms that opioid users endure. He remembered seeing her walking down the street one day, looking distraught.
"She told me she was sick of her life, the way it was going, and she'd like to get off the drugs,'' he said. "She was crying and it brought tears to my eyes.''
RCMP have said five women have gone missing in the same area of the North Okanagan in the past 20 months.
John Simpson, whose 33-year-old daughter Ashley Simpson has been missing since April 2016, said his wife received a call from RCMP on Wednesday night to let them know their daughter's remains were not found on the property. Ashley Simpson's home is on a road near the farm.
"I'm happy that it wasn't her and that maybe there's still a chance that she's still around somewhere, but saddened by the fact that it wasn't her and that we can't get closure,'' he said.
"I see that they're still searching, so maybe there's more to come yet.''