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Matilda Wilson spent many midnights with her youngest daughter.
“She used to jump in my bed because she had a nightmare or something, and then we’d talk into the night,” she said, remembering her popular phrase:
“‘Oh, Ramona, you have to go to sleep now, because it’s school tomorrow.’”
The Gitxsan teenager had five older siblings and Matilda called her ‘sweetheart baby,’ even though she was born a day after Valentine’s Day.
Matilda loved lending an ear to her daughter’s vast collection of poetry, and Ramona would confide in her mom and ask for advice during troubling times at school.
As Ramona worked her way through those rough patches, she left her bad dreams behind her.
But somehow, she always ended up back on her mom’s mattress.
“I said ‘you just like my bed.’”
“Even though she was 15... and then 15, 16. I said ‘you better not tell your boyfriends that you’re still sleeping with your mother!’”
Ramona never had to.
On June 11, 1994, the young girl told her mother she was going to meet up with a friend, with plans to attend various local graduation parties that night.
When the family hadn’t heard from Ramona the following day, Matilda called the Smithers RCMP. A search began on June 13 and carried on into the following months.
On April 9, 1995, Ramona’s body was discovered in a wooded area by the Smithers airport.
Despite the questions Matilda still has about her daughter’s 21-year-old murder case, she speaks highly of the sergeant in charge of the investigation.
Sergeant Wayne Clary took the lead of the task force in 2011.
“He has a lot of respect for our family, I think. Especially the case,” said Matilda.
“He’s trying to be understanding in ways that he knows how. It gives me a feeling he’s trying the best that he can.”
Matilda says the last time she spoke with Sgt. Clary was in December 2014 when Project E-PANA made an arrest in relation to Monica Jack’s case, another victim from The Highway of Tears.
Matilda says a call like that from him is not out of the ordinary.
“At times when there’s a mention... that they had solved a case or they’re going to mention something on TV, he would phone me,” she said.
“You know... I really appreciate that.”
Matilda says she is in favour of a federal inquiry, as is her eldest daughter, Brenda Wilson.
“The one thing that still stands out as a sore thumb is an inquiry into the missing and murdered women. I don’t know what’s in the way... and why the [Prime Minister] is... so against it,” Brenda said.
“Is it because it will bring out so many inconsistencies? Will it make them look bad?... I just find it so frustrating that you can’t make this a priority... which in other words says we’re not a priority, nor are the missing and murdered women along Highway 16 or even across Canada.”
Brenda is the lead organizer of a memorial walk the Wilsons have for Ramona every June, and as the family acknowledges cases across Canada, they continue to wait for their own closure in Smithers.
According to Matilda, Sgt. Clary hopes that someday he’ll be calling the Wilsons to tell them Ramona has been brought to justice.
“I’ve never really given up hope, as far as that goes,” Matilda said.
“I just pray everyday, even if it's not solved, someday I will find out, when my time comes, when I leave this world. I have a lot of spiritual outlook in my life.”
It’s a faith that has grounded Matilda, just like it did for her daughter.
As she begins to read one of Ramona’s poems over the phone, her daughter’s spirit dances off the page:
“As I look out to the bright blue sky this chilly autumn day,
There’s no way I can thank the Creator, no way to repay,
for the lovely sights to heart’s content that He has let me see,
for joys and laughter that I’ve lived and the love that He gave me....”
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.