Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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UPDATE: Edmonton police announced in December 2016 that Dana Fash, 38, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Cardinal's death. He was released on bail on March 1, 2019. 

Theresa Cardinal looked forward to visits from her mother, Jeanette Cardinal.

She loved listening to her tales of adventure and tips on how to make her own cooking tasty.

The 24-year-old admits their relationship wasn’t easy; she regrets unnecessary arguments and all the words left unspoken.

“My grandparents raised me,” she said.

“I always gave [my mom] a hard time about trying to be there for me.”

Theresa mentions her four siblings have been under the care of Alberta’s child welfare system for a long time.

“So I think that was her most challenging thing, was how she wasn’t there for all the kids.”

As hard as the conversation is, Theresa isn’t holding back.

“Just give me a minute,” she said.

“I need to recollect myself.”

Her voice is shaking, she stops to take deep breaths, but through it all, the unconditional love for her mother is evident.

“What stood out about my mom the most would be how much she loved me and my brothers and sisters. How she would try,” she said.

“Like, given her lifestyle and everything she would try and make us the happiest kids like, with as little as she had.”

That’s when Theresa lets it all out: Jeanette spent years in residential school; it lead her to relationships with men who took advantage of her.

For as long as Theresa can remember, her mother battled drug addiction, but she says life was looking up when her mother left her latest boyfriend.

Jeanette was staying with Theresa temporarily, and looking for her own home.

In the meantime, Theresa started staying at her boyfriend’s place to encourage her mother, and remind her what it would be like to live on her own.

On February 7, 2011, Theresa went to school like she always did.

She phoned her mother. No answer. Tried again. Nothing.

Theresa started thinking about the conversation they had the night before: She had stopped by the apartment to grab a few things, and her mom was cheerful. They even made plans.

She couldn’t understand why her mom wasn’t picking up the phone. Theresa called a friend who lived nearby, and learned there were police inside her apartment.

“[At school] I was talking to my counsellor and telling him what the neighbours had told me,” she said.

“And then he had called the RCMP dispatch...Then they had notified him to keep me at the school.”

Theresa says that’s when she was arrested. She tried to ask police what it was about but couldn’t get an answer.

“Because it was my apartment, apparently I am the first person to be a suspect or something. So they took me,” she said.

“From the school they handcuffed me, put me in the car and took me downtown to questioning.”

It lasted more than six hours.

“That’s when I broke down and I told them I hadn’t heard from my mom at all and then I started freaking out ‘cause I knew it could’ve been her,” she said.

“She’d always phone me every day, asking me what my plans were and everything no matter where she was.”

The police told her she was free to go and they would keep in touch.

Two days later, Theresa’s worst fear had come true.

“When we went to the funeral home, they suggested that she wear a scarf,” she said.

“...There were several bruises on her body... and her hands were all bruised up and everything.”

Local media reports say the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) had a suspect in mind. Theresa says police told her the same thing.

The Cardinal family hasn’t heard from the EPS since 2012. The main police contact was Theresa’s grandmother, but she died one week before Christmas, 2014.

Theresa hasn’t notified police of her grandmother’s death, and she doesn’t think she will; she says she’s lost faith in the investigation.

“I really don’t wanna open up those wounds,” she said, explaining that in life, you have to let go to move beyond tragedy.

“It’s such a tragic loss that I have no closure to,” she said.

“And I don’t even know if I am ever going to get the closure I need.”

Do you have more information on any of these cases?

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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.