Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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UPDATE: Alberta murderer gets 2 life sentences in connection with deaths of Onion Lake women

Gordon Alfred Rogers, 61, of Red Deer Alberta was sentenced to two life sentences with no eligibility of parole for 17 years in January 2018 after pleading guilty in 2017 to second-degree murder in connection with the killing of Jeannette Jean Chief and Voilet Heathen, 49.

A Red Deer, Alta., man is facing two counts of first-degree murder in homicides of Violet Heathen and Jeannette Chief

In their tradition, when a loved one dies, family and friends go to the site where the person was last alive and ceremoniously offer items for their spirit.

But years have passed and still the family of Violet Heathen does not know the exact location where she died.

“We haven’t gone to the site; we weren’t allowed,” said her sister, Ruby Whitstone, saying investigators didn't provide much information.

Violet was known to be a caring, loving and helpful person; someone who loved to ride horses when she was younger.

But Violet went missing in mid-­May 2009 from Lloydminster, Alta. She was last seen outside a bar getting into a truck.

The family undertook their own search for Violet from June to October of that year, only stopping because the weather grew colder.

“We stopped our search in October and we said we would continue in the spring,” said Whitstone.

“Then her remains were found in November. Nov. 14 was when the investigator called me to tell me that a skull was found.”

A hunter also found some bones in a field, said Whitstone. By December, it was confirmed that the remains were indeed Violet’s.

She was 49 years old, shortly turning 50.

“I think there should have been more help when we did our ground search,” Whitstone said.

“I know when other people go missing, the media is right there, the helicopter is right there, the police officer is right there, it’s reported on the national news across Canada.”

But for Violet, the family did not see such a response.

When Whitstone shared the family’s story on a radio station in northern Saskatchewan, she said the investigator wasn’t happy about that.

In January 2017, 61-year-old Gordon Alfred Rogers of Red Deer, Alta., was sentenced to two life sentences with no eligibility of parole for 17 years in connection with the deaths of Violet and another First Nations woman, Jeanette Cardinal.

Whitstone said Violet did not have an easy life.

“She lost her oldest at two­ and ­half years old. He was killed by a vehicle,” she said.

According to Whitstone, Violet's struggle with alcohol intensified after that dark period in her life.

“‘Her drinking got heavier and heavier and we thought it was because of the loss of her first child.”

Violet would try to move on with her life, whether through a new relationship or a marriage, but her difficulties continued.

Whitstone cries when asked to describe her sister.

“She didn’t deserve to die.”

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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.