Edmonton

Mother of murdered teen leans on support system as case remains unsolved

Kim Krupa has attended support meetings for victims of homicide for two years, but hasn’t yet been able to share the story of her murdered son Tanner.

Kim Krupa one of many helped by Victims of Homicide Edmonton Support Society

Kim Krupa keeps the memory of her son Tanner alive while waiting for a breakthrough in his murder investigation. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)

For two years, Kim Krupa has attended support meetings to help her cope with the loss of her 19-year-old son.

Listening to others share their pain about losing loved ones to homicide has helped the Edmonton mother navigate her own harrowing grief.

At the meetings, people pass around a special rock.

"When you have that rock, you're allowed to speak," said Krupa, whose son Tanner was killed in British Columbia in 2017.

"And when I get the rock, I just go to say Tanner's name and I can't. I just can't talk.

"And they all say 'It's OK, when it's your time, you'll talk.'

"I listen, and I think that's a great help. Inside me, I know my story. One day, I will."

The monthly meetings, hosted by the Victims of Homicide of Edmonton Support Society, help break her isolation, Krupa told CBC in a recent interview.

"You feel so alone and you feel like you're the only person going through this," she said.

"The first meeting I went to, I was shaking ... and this guy grabbed my hand and he goes, 'We're going to get through this together,' and I'll never forget that."

Tanner Krupa was murdered in Surrey, B.C. in August 2017. Police believe people in Edmonton have information about his death. (Kim Krupa)

Edmonton's Victims of Homicide group has 98 members, and is always adding more, said co-founder Jane Orydzuk. 

"It's a very safe place where you can talk about really bad things," Orydzuk said. "You're with people who know that pain."

Grieving for someone who was murdered is different from coping with other deaths, Orydzuk said, because a homicide is intentional.

Unsolved crimes can be even more difficult to deal with, she added.

"When you don't have those answers it just drives you crazy," she said. "Even if they're difficult answers when the police come to you, you still need those answers to be able to process it."

'You feel helpless'

Tanner Krupa had just turned 19 when he relocated to Surrey, B.C., to start a new job. He was found dead on Aug. 20, 2017, three days after arriving.

His murder is still unsolved, a reality that eats away at Krupa.

"You feel helpless. Us, as parents, are sitting here and this guy is out there. Why aren't we doing something? We're supposed to protect our child, and we can't do anything."  

Krupa has been asking questions since finding out that her only son had died. 

It's so unexplainable. Why would somebody consciously take his life? How can somebody do that?- Kim Krupa

"It's so unexplainable," Krupa said. "Why would somebody consciously take his life? How can somebody do that?"

The RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which is investigating Tanner's death, hasn't been able to provide the answers.

Earlier this year, police said they believe Tanner died as a result of an altercation with a group of men.

They haven't made an arrest in the case, but believe that people with knowledge of what happened to Tanner are now in Edmonton.

Support for survivors

Krupa was referred to the Victims of Homicide group by the Edmonton Police Service's Victim Services Unit, which offered support after being tasked with informing the Krupa family of Tanner's death. 

The unit makes referrals to community partners that can provide help. Volunteer advocates also support people through the police investigation and court process, said Sgt. Scott Abbott, who supervises the unit. 

"Victims can not go unnoticed, victims need a voice," Abbott said. "We give victims a voice during that process."

Listening to people without judgment is a critical part of her work, said Susan Adair-Wolf, a long-time volunteer with Victim Services.

Always available for a phone call or meeting, Adair-Wolf has developed a relationship with Krupa over the last two years.

"We'd meet for tea occasionally, and she'd talk about what was going on, and progress that had been made or hadn't been made, and struggles that they were having." 

Speaking with a volunteer can be beneficial, Adair-Wolf said, as many victims worry about overwhelming their loved ones.

"Their own social network is still grieving themselves, so they don't have that sort of safe place to talk about some of the ugly things," she said. "Victim advocates are that safe ear."

Honouring Tanner

In addition to her support group, Krupa finds solace in keeping her son's memory alive, surrounded by others who knew and loved him. 

She's grateful for the unwavering support received from her friends, as well as Tanner's, who continue to be part of her family's lives.

"I don't know where we'd be if it wasn't for them," she said. 

The tight-knit group hands out Tanner's Totes — bags filled with essential items for less fortunate people — to honour the young man's giving personality. 

Tanner Krupa's family and friends gathered outside The Mustard Seed in Edmonton on Aug. 14 to hand out totes in his honour. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Friends and family gathered on Aug. 14 — it would have been Tanner's 21st birthday — to distribute the totes at The Mustard Seed in Edmonton.

"It's just such a feel good thing when I do it, I just feel like he's there with us," Krupa  said.

The gatherings also give Krupa the opportunity to share memories of her son.

"I want to hear his name every day. I want to hear stories. I want to see his picture.

"I'll never, ever let his memory die."

About the Author

Josee St-Onge

Journalist

Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Reach her at josee.st-onge@cbc.ca