People have told Stephanie Killman that the pain of losing a loved one can fade with time, but she and her sisters, Harmony and Alicia have felt it everyday since their mother’s murder last November.
“I was the one who found her —it was the worst day of my life.”
Her mother, Treena Marie Ball, 46 was found dead in her home on Nov. 18, 2016. The body of her partner, Don Wayne Ball, 68, was also found in the house. According to an RCMP report a single firearm was used and the incident was confirmed by RCMP as a “murder-suicide,” and there was no evidence to indicate third-party involvement.
“I knew the minute I got there that something wasn’t right. I walked into the house and I was calling and calling and no one was answering,” Killman recalled.
As the only family member with an extra set of keys to her mother’s Spruce Crescent home in Enderby, Killman, 27, said she went to the house that day because her stepfather’s kids asked her to “check on things” after learning he hadn’t shown up for work that morning.
“He murdered her, and then he killed himself,” she said.
“We never saw them fighting or had any inkling that something might be wrong. But you never know what goes on behind closed doors.”
Alicia Killman, 29, echoed her younger sister, adding that as far as she knew, life at home had been “normal” for her mother, and she was happy.
“My mom was known around Enderby — everyone loved her,” Alicia said, “She was caring and thoughtful. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and people loved that about her. I loved that about her. I think her [funeral] was one of the biggest celebrations of life I had ever seen around here.”
Over the past year, Killman says she and her family have struggled to cope with the loss of their mother as they learn more about the events that led to her death.
“We heard later that she went to our band for help, to try and get out….It’s hard enough to put yourself in the vulnerable position of asking for help in a situation like that…I can’t imagine how she must have felt.”
Killman says she doesn’t feel comfortable describing the “horrific” scene that greeted her when she entered her mother’s home that day, but feels it’s important to share what she can in the hope that others will “learn something,” from her mother’s story, and take action.
“I’m still not really comfortable talking to people outside our circle of family and friends about what happened, but I’m trying because it’s important to get the message out into the world, not just our small community, that this stuff happens. That it’s real, and it doesn’t just happen where people think. It happens close to home.”
For the Killmans, part of getting their message out means participating in events like The Red Dress Walk for Awareness, an annual event held to raise awareness for the untold numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada. During these events, members of the public are asked to wear a red dress or to display a red dress in a public place as a symbol of hope and an acknowledgement that missing and murdered women have not been forgotten.
In Enderby, the event took place Wednesday along the shore of the Shuswap River near the Enderby Bridge, and was attended by approximately 50 people. Deanna Cook, who has organized Enderby’s Red Dress Walk for the past two years, says in a small, close-knit community like hers, this particular subject hits close to home.
“In the last two years we have had five women taken from our community. Two were murdered and three are still missing in our community,” Cook said Wednesday morning, referring to Caitlin Potts, Ashley Simpson and Deanna Wertz.
“We have these events to remember those who are missing, and to remind people to keep looking for these women — people need to know that they will not be forgotten,” she said.
Caitlin Potts, 27, was last seen in February, 2016. The Cree mother from Alberta was reportedly in B.C., sorting out a troubled relationship with her ex-boyfriend when she went missing. B.C. RCMP released footage of the young woman entering Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna, from a surveillance video taken on Feb. 21, 2016. It’s the last time she was seen. Ashley Simpson, 27, was last seen on April 27 of last year. Deanna Wertz, 46,was last seen in the early morning of July 19, 2016 at her residence on Yankee Flats Road.
According to data published by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Indigenous women made up three per cent of the country’s female population in 2008, but suffered roughly 10 per cent of all female homicides that year. More than half of the cases occurred in the western provinces, with British Columbia and Alberta home to the highest numbers.
This year, Cook added, Red Dress walks took on additional meaning against the backdrop of the hearings that took place at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, held this summer.
While the Red Dress Project, on which the walk is based, was initially created seven years ago by Jaime Black, a Metis artist from Winnipeg, to draw attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women specifically, Cook says she has broadened the scope of Enderby’s walk to include “all women.”
“All women deserve to be safe in our communities,” she said. “We need to get the message that girls, all girls, need to stay safe. You can’t just walk down the road at night anymore. And we’re here trying to get the message out there that we should be able walk alone and not be afraid—that the way things are right now, is not OK.”
To see more photos of the Red Dress Walk for Awareness, and learn more about the event, click below.