Nova Scotia

Murder victim was threatened, friend says

A friend of murder victim Tanya Brooks said she was receiving threatening phone calls several days before her body was discovered in a schoolyard in Halifax on Monday.

A friend of murder victim Tanya Brooks said she was receiving threatening phone calls several days before her body was discovered in a schoolyard in Halifax on Monday.

Karen Dooks said she saw Brooks crying as she walked along a street three days before she was found dead in a window well at St. Patrick's – Alexandra School on Maitland Street in Halifax on May 11.

"She was getting threatening phone calls and she told me she was scared," Dooks told CBC News on Friday. She said Brooks, 36, refused to tell her who was making the threatening calls to her.

"I told her to phone the police and she said, 'No, I can't go down that route again,'" Dooks said.

Halifax Regional Police said they’re investigating the threats Brooks received before she was murdered. Police said they have been talking to Brooks's family and friends throughout their investigation. So far, no one has been taken in for questioning.

Brooks, a mother of five children, was originally from the Millbrook First Nation near Truro, N.S. but was living in Halifax at the time of her death. She had struggled with drug addiction and poverty throughout her life and had worked as a sex trade worker in Halifax.

Another friend, Tammy Selig, said Brooks was troubled over not having custody of her children.

"That really, really bothered her," Selig said on Friday. "That's one of the reasons why she was so messed up," she said.

"She fought for every underdog"

Family and friends gathered at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on the Millbrook First Nation for Brooks's funeral on Saturday.

A group a drummers performed the Mi’kmaq honour song as approximately 300 mourners slowly marched behind the hearse carrying Brooks's casket as it made its way to the church.

Margaret Brooks remembered her sister as a strong woman who would have successfully turned her life around had it not been cut short. She also recalled Brooks as someone who always helped others around her.

"She fought for every underdog that ever walked this earth and she will stand by them when she is up … with the creator, Mother Nature," Brooks said of her sister following the service. "She is not suffering any longer," she said.

Brooks said she was frustrated that most of the attention surrounding her sister’s murder has been focused on her history of drug addiction and prostitution. She said her sister was also a loving mother who was a joy to be around.

Living in fear after brutal attack

In March of 2008, Brooks was badly beaten by a drug dealer after she had gone to him to buy drugs for several other people. She was acting as an intermediary in the drug transaction when the attack happened.

Patrick Neil Segerts, 19, hit Brooks with a metal pipe more than 100 times for a previous dispute over borrowing his car. Segerts was initially charged with attempted murder but he later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault and robbery. 

In February, Segerts was sentenced to five years and four months in prison for the brutal attack on Brooks.

In a victim impact statement, Brooks wrote that the assault by Segerts left her with both physical and emotional scars. She described how she lived in fear for her and her boyfriend’s safety "due to his friends and just from this assault."

"I'm afraid to work due to getting hurt at work or someone finding me," Brooks wrote in her statement.

Dooks, also a former sex trade worker, became friends with Brooks while they both were trying to break their drug addictions. Brooks's murder has made other sex trade workers in the city afraid to go out on the streets at night, she said.

"They're terrified," Dooks said. "A lot of them I see are going out in the daytime, you know. So, I don’t know whether that's better," she said.

Friends of Brooks have told CBC News that she was trying to turn her life around. She had begun to upgrade her education at St. Patrick's–Alexandra School — the same school where her body was discovered.

Brooks's decision to return to school inspired Dooks to do the same.

"I don’t want the public to forget Tanya," Dooks said. "I think everybody's a better person for knowing Tanya. I know I am," she said.