Calgary

Lacey Jones McKnight's mother on the financial toll of her daughter's death

Shelly Jones survived the grief but nearly died from financial burden of daughter's murder

After her daughter's murder, Shelley Jones found herself unable to work, and then without a home

Shelly Jones speaks out about the financial hardships faced by families of murder victims (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Shelly Jones has lost her daughter, her home and nearly her life.

Last week, Jones was released from a week-long stay in hospital following a suicide attempt. She swallowed a bottle of pills at her daughter's grave. Her brother and his wife found her there and rushed her to hospital.

"I finally felt defeated," said Jones.

After surviving her grief in the wake of her daughter's murder, the straw that broke Jones was a financial one.

Lacey Jones McKnight, 20, was strangled by her former fiancé, Kristopher Guenther in Oct. 2012.

Lacey Jones McKnight, 20, was killed by her former fiancé in October 2012. (Facebook)

Last month, Guenther was found guilty of first-degree murder after a four-week trial. Attending every day of that trial was something Jones says she needed to do. 

With support from her doctor, Jones left her job at Canada Post with plans to return right after the trial. She filled out the paperwork needed to go on EI for that time, but a glitch in the paperwork meant she never got a cheque.

With several trial days still left, Jones came home from court one day to find an eviction notice on her door. Unclear as to what had happened with her EI and unable to deal with anything but the trial, Jones began packing.

'All the burden I could carry'

"I waited until the trial was over because that was my priority, I had to stay focused solely on that," said Jones. "That was all the burden I could carry at that time."

After a night of sleeping in her car, Jones felt she'd lost all three of her kids — one was dead, one moved to the east coast to escape the stress of his sister's murder, the other suffered from extreme anxiety and often couldn't leave his house — and now, Jones didn't have a home.

Jones says her dire financial situation is because of Lacey's murder. 

"I've always been a single parent raising three kids and we were not wealthy, but we were doing okay," she said of her life before Lacey's death.

The only times Jones hadn't worked were right after her daughter's death and during the trial. 

A common story

Unfortunately Jones' story isn't unique, according to the Calgary Police Service victims' assistance unit Sgt. Brent Hutt. 

"There's a huge financial cost to going through this journey of a family who's going through a homicide," said Hutt. "My heart just breaks for families that are going though this. They're going through so much, now they have to worry about how they're going to make their mortgage payment, how are they going to buy groceries."

Like Jones, many family members of victims are unable to work immediately after a loved one's death. Then, there are the court dates.

"There's very few people who could go to work. I know I couldn't, it would just be too difficult," said Hutt.

Three weeks after she was evicted, after couch-surfing, crashing at a local shelter and sleeping in her car, Shelly Jones finally caught a break.

A local landlord who was familiar with Lacey's story allowed Jones to live in one of his units. Praven Patel gave her the leg-up she needed to get her life back on track again. 

Jones moved into the humble apartment this weekend. 

Still, she tells her story in hopes others who find themselves in her situation will take comfort in knowing they're not alone. 

"I've lost every bit of self dignity, my life is out there in every aspect, I've got nothing left, nothing left to hide."

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