New Brunswick

'I missed you so much': The short, tragic life of Alysha Paul

'Don't ever go away again,' Laurie Paul begged her daughter. Hours later, Alysha was dead.

Mom of 3 who died in highway crash struggled, but her family remembers her 'beautiful' personality

Alysha Paul pictured with Tess, the second of her three children. Paul died on Sept. 7 after being hit by on Route 102 in Kingsclear First Nation. (Submitted)

The day before Alysha Paul was supposed to write her final exam at Fredericton High School, she went into labour with her first child. 

Laurie Paul urged her teenage daughter to accept a ride to the hospital.

"She wouldn't," said Paul.

Alysha was determined to graduate.

"She went and she did the exam before she had the baby."

Alysha Paul's mother, Laurie, says her daughter was an 'excellent' mother who tried her best to look after her children. (Submitted)

Paul, a mother of three from Kingsclear First Nation, stubbornly tried to build a solid life for her children, despite struggles with addiction, anxiety, and domestic abuse.

That life never materialized.

On Sept. 7, just hours after finishing a five-month stint in provincial jail, Paul was killed by a truck while crossing Route 102 — a dangerous stretch of the old Trans-Canada Highway that divides the tiny Wolastoqey community, about 15 kilometres west of Fredericton.

Laurie Paul reads a handwritten note from one of her daughter's friends, which was placed at the memorial on the side of Route 102. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Now Paul's family and three children — Tayden, 8, Tess, 6 and Jayce, 4 — are mourning a young mom who died before she could defeat her demons. 

"It's the most painful thing I have ever, ever, ever went through in my life," her mother said.

Mother of Alysha Paul calls for improved safety measures

5 years ago
Duration 1:25
Alysha Paul was struck by a pick up truck and killed hours after being reunited with her family. Her mother thinks her death could have been avoided and wants to see safety measures improved.

Wrong crowd

Paul, who had just turned 27, loved music, taking photos, giving her friends makeovers and looking after her older sister, who has health issues. 

But two years ago, she "started getting into the wrong crowd [and] doing drugs," her mother said.

She "had anxiety about everything about herself," her mother said — including her name, Alyssia, which she preferred to spell Alysha.

Despite the support of family and a wide circle of friends, Paul suffered from anxiety and depression that escalated into drug abuse. (Submitted)

In dark moments she often turned to her father, Dick Paul.

"She was always daddy's girl," Laurie said. "She would ask him for guidance on things if she was feeling down, and he would talk to her and help lift her back up again."

Her relationship with the father of her children, high school boyfriend, Mike Wilchuck, turned toxic. Their fights escalated to physical abuse.

In 2016, Wilchuck was charged with assaulting Paul and breaching a court order not to contact her. Later, he was sentenced to eight years in jail for an unrelated assault case. 

She was prescribed medication, but found it hard to commit to taking it regularly.

"She tried to function the best she could," her mother said. "She never saw the beauty that everybody else saw in her."

Despite the light she brought into the lives of people around her, Laurie Paul said, Alysha "never saw the beauty that everybody else saw in her." (Julia Wright / CBC)

'I tried everything'

As their mother struggled, Paul's three children came to live with their grandparents.

"I tried everything I could to get her out of her addiction, to help her," her mother said

"I really tried hard. Took her shopping, made sure she was eating." 

She did a stint in jail for theft, then went to rehab — which seemed to be working — until  "she got back into the hard stuff again." 

Alysha Paul's mother, Laurie, leafs through cards and notes from fellow inmates at the New Brunswick Women's Correctional Institute. "She was kind, compassionate. She wasn’t always that way. But during her struggles, something changed with her," Paul said. (Julia Wright / CBC)

She stole a car and was sentenced to five months in the New Brunswick Women's Correctional Centre.

In jail, Paul seemed to be on a better path — attending group sessions and sweat lodges, and learning about traditional Maliseet spirituality. 

I've read that she's just a dead Indian on the side of the road. That's not true. Yes, she's an Indian, and she was proud of who she was. She was so much more than that.- Laurie Paul, mother of Alysha Paul

She started a group called the Women's Society to encourage fellow inmates "who had struggles like she did," her mother said.

During outside time, she'd scour the ground for four-leaf clovers — which, her mother said, she hoped would "turn her luck around."

'Please don't ever go away again'

Better luck seemed to have arrived the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 7.

Alysha was coming home to to Kingsclear. 

Her sister picked her up at the correctional centre in Miramichi. Before the Jeep stopped in front of their parents' house, Alysha "jumped out, she was crying, she wanted to see her babies so bad," her mother said.

Artwork by Paul's three children covers the hallway in her parents' house. (Julia Wright / CBC)

She ran up the stairs of the house into her father's arms.

"They were both just crying. He was hugging her and she was hugging him, and she was so happy to see him," her mother said.

"I said, 'Please don't ever go away again, I missed you so much,'" said Laurie.

"She said, 'I won't.'"

Hours later, Alysha was dead. 

'Is that someone I know?'

Laurie went to check on Alysha, who was was spending the night at her sister's place, at 9:30 p.m. 

Nearing the store on Route 102, she saw unusual activity.

"A lot of cars and lights," said Paul. "Something was going on but I didn't know what."

In the pitch black in front of the store, she could see a body lying on the highway, wearing a purple jacket and white pants she recognized as belonging to her daughter, Jess.

Wulastukw Convenience on Route 102, the scene of the fatal collision. (Julia Wright / CBC)

She stopped a woman she knew. "I said, 'Is that Jessica?' She said 'No … it's the other one."

Jessica arrived moments later.  She "went over to her [sister] and laid down with her," Laurie said. "She wanted her to wake up."

RCMP later informed Laurie that Alysha Paul had been struck by a pickup truck while crossing the highway.

She died instantly.

A well-used shortcut leads from homes on Kingsclear First Nation across Route 102. (Julia Wright / CBC)

'I'm so proud of her'

A memorial of flowers, cards and balloons marks the place where Paul died.

On a white cross hangs a wreath of red, black, white and yellow roses and lilies, the colours of Kingsclear First Nation. The women from NBWCC have sent handwritten notes on four-leaf clover paper — a nod to the good luck Alysha was looking for.

A hand-painted sign bearing the hashtag #LyshasLaw on Route 102 urges motorists to slow down. A grassroots campaign to get the speed limit reduced on the highway has grown since Paul's death on Sept. 7. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Her death has prompted calls for better safety measures, lighting and a lower speed limit on the highway, which cuts directly through two residential neighbourhoods.

As an inmate in NBWCC, Paul looked for four-leaf clovers in the hope they'd turn her luck around. When she died, her fellow inmates sent notes by the dozen on four-leaf clover shaped notepaper. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Paul isn't the first young person from Kingsclear First Nation to be hit on Route 102.

In Aug. 2015, 28-year-old Robbie Polchies suffered broken ribs and a cracked skull after a hit-and-run on the same stretch of highway.

No charges have been laid in either case. RCMP have said that alcohol and speed are not believed to have been factors in Paul's death. 

Paul wants to see better safety measures on the road. But as she and her husband prepare to raise Alysha's three children, Laurie Paul wants people to remember her daughter as she will. 

A memory poster friends created to remember Paul. Her memorial service was held at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Kingsclear First Nation on Sept. 12. (Julia Wright / CBC)

"She was kind, compassionate. She wasn't always that way. But during her struggles, something changed with her," Paul said.

"She was sad, and she didn't want other people to feel that way. And I'm so proud of her."

Paul wants to address online comments claiming her daughter was suicidal and stood in the middle of the road so the truck could hit her.

"I've read that she's 'just a dead Indian on the side of the road,'" said Paul. 

"That's not true.Yes, she's an Indian, and she was proud of who she was. She was so much more than that."

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Julia Wright

Host, Information Morning Saint John

Julia Wright is the host of Information Morning Saint John on CBC Radio 1. She previously worked as a digital reporter focused on stories from southwestern New Brunswick. She has a master's degree in English from McGill University, and has been with the CBC since 2016. You can reach her at