The mother of a murdered Indigenous woman spoke out against the man found guilty of killing her daughter, saying while justice has been served, there will be no closure.
For the first time in Manitoba's history, on Jan. 24, 2020, the Court of Queen's Bench went to the remote First Nation community of God's Lake Narrows to deliver the second degree murder verdict in the homicide death of Crystal Andrews.
Crystal was found dead in an isolated area on the First Nation on Nov. 8, 2015. She had disappeared earlier that morning after attending a Halloween party. She was a 23-year-old mother of two when she died.
"When the judge read the verdict and the accused was found guilty of second degree murder, my heart was hurting so much,” said Beverley Andrews, Crystal's mother. “Wishing I could hold my daughter in my arms and the feeling of missing her was overwhelming."
Andrews described her daughter as a kind, gentle and humble mother. She had ambition and dreamed of going into medicine or social work, Andrews said.
"I keep asking myself why did this happen to my daughter? She did not deserve to die. Why did he kill her, why did he hurt my daughter?" Andrews said through the sobbing and tears of a mother whose heart has broken.
"You can never have closure when there is a sudden void in your heart that lasts forever."
VICTIM'S FAMILIES NEED TO BE A PART OF THE JUSTICE PROCESS: MKO
Andrews spoke to media Friday with the support of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) who said the decision to deliver the guilty verdict in the community is significant.
"No verdict will ever make up for the tragic loss of Crystal Andrews, "said Grand Chief Garrison Settee. "But the opportunity for the family and the community to participate in the criminal justice system together may help bring healing for this family."
MKO said in the past many families of homicide victims have been unable to participate in the justice process due to a lack of supports that allow travel to major cities where the trials take place.
Victim Services pays for three family members to travel to hearings, said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, the liaison unit manager for MMIWG. That's why bringing the justice system to the communities is such a big step, she said.
"Families should never have to walk this journey alone," Anderson-Pyrz said. "There is a lot of trauma when a family has lost a loved one as a result of a homicide, and it's very important for families to be supported."
Anderson-Pyrz called for immediate action to stop the violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people. She said everyone has to do their part to stop the violence.
"It's really important that we remember Crystal Andrews, and that we say her name and that we say her name often," she said.
The court found Michael Okemow guilty of second degree murder in Crystal's death.