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Authors: Gary C. King


BOOK: Butcher
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As she walked toward the barn, following the light source, Ellingsen felt ill—either from the excessive drug use that night or the sickening odor that hung in the night air, which grew stronger as she reached the barn. She cautiously pushed open the barn door a bit when, suddenly and without warning, Willie Pickton, covered in blood, reached out and grabbed her, pulling her inside the barn. He pulled Ellingsen over to a table and forced her to look at the dead woman, naked and hanging from a hook. The woman, Georgina Papin, was just hanging there, covered in blood. Willie had placed her on a hook in the same manner that he always hung up the pigs that he was going to slaughter. The victim’s feet, whose toenails were painted red, were at Ellingsen’s eye level. On a “shiny table” next to the hanging body, Ellingsen saw long black hair lying there, Georgina Papin’s hair, and a lot of blood. She also saw two bloody knives. It looked to her like Willie had skinned Papin, and was preparing to butcher her like an animal.

Willie told Ellingsen that if she told anyone anything about what she had seen that night, the same thing would happen to her.

Also by Gary C. King:

An Almost Perfect Murder

Love, Lies, and Murder

Driven to Kill

Savage Vengeance

Web of Deceit

Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer

Blind Rage

An Early Grave

The Texas 7

Murder in Hollywood

Angels of Death

Stolen in the Night

C. K


Kensington Publishing Corp.

This book is dedicated to the memory of the victims…


I would like to thank the following people for their support and assistance during the writing of this book: First and foremost, my wife, Teresita, for her endurance and months of essentially living alone while I barricaded myself behind closed doors and confined myself to the computer, telephone, and, of course, my “big-boy” office chair, which I rarely left—three major, and necessary, tools of the trade! I couldn’t do it without her love, cooperation, and understanding. I am also very grateful to Kirsten and Sarah, as always, for helping out when needed during such a time-intensive and grueling project. Thanks to all of you for always being there.

I am also forever grateful to Michaela Hamilton, editor-in-chief at Kensington Publishing Corporation, for her keen insight, sharp red pencil, and the clear vision for having seen the importance and magnitude of doing a book about the Robert Pickton case, clearly one of the worst serial murder cases in history. I’m also grateful to Mike Shohl for his suggestions to improve the manuscript, and am equally grateful to everyone else at Kensington who work in the fore-front as well as behind the scenes to make these books happen.

Thanks also to my longtime agent, Peter Miller, of PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc., for his support and show of confidence throughout the years, and to his assistant, Adrienne Rosado, who keeps everything fine-tuned and in great working order, and for her patience during those times when I become a nuisance. A writer couldn’t ask for better representation when the best is already there!

I would also like to acknowledge the work of the numerous dedicated members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Police Department for their tedious work in gathering the tremendous amount of evidence that it took to bring Robert Pickton to justice after they realized they had a serial killer at work in their midst.

Thanks also to Jorge Jaramillo at Newscom and to Kimberly Waldman at Associated Press for their assistance in helping locate photographs appropriate for this book.

A very special “thank-you” to copyeditor Stephanie Finnegan whose efforts and professionalism in literally working over my manuscript have resulted in a more readable final product.

Author’s Note

The contents of the book that you now hold in your hands is that of an often complicated story of missing women, torture, mutilation, and dismemberment involving one of the most horrifying cases of serial murder in modern history. I have been following the case in varying degrees since it first broke with Robert Pickton’s arrest in February 2002, and the depiction of the events herein is based on hundreds of hours of research of more than yearlong trial accounts, telephone calls, and e-mails with those who were willing to discuss the tragic events following the trial, as well as a careful analysis of statements that Pickton made to an undercover police officer and others after his arrest. For purposes of clarity, every attempt has been made to present the story in the order that it unfolded, from the time that it was first noticed that women from Vancouver’s “Low Track” area began disappearing, through the investigation after the police were convinced that they had a serial murderer on their hands, and on through the trial. Even though backgrounds of the women who disappeared during “Uncle Willie’s” reign of terror will be presented, the primary focus of this book is on the victims whose deaths Pickton was actually charged with and those women of which he was convicted of murdering.

No attempt has been made to fictionalize any aspect of this sad story—every incident portrayed herein is based on the facts as they are known—and none of the characters portrayed are fictional or are composites of my imagination. Portions of the story were related to me by family members and friends of the victims, and portions were taken from the various public information sources that became available following Pickton’s trial. A gag order had been in effect prior to the outcome of the trial, and during the trial only selected information releases to an equally selected media were authorized by the Canadian government.

Nonetheless, every effort has been made to portray the victims of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as the living, breathing human beings that they were, and it is my hope that they are not further objectified. These women, whose lives on the streets were tragic enough before Robert Pickton came along, deserve the honor, respect, and commemoration that Pickton took away from them and their families.


The angels all were singing out of tune,

And hoarse with having little else to do,

Excepting to wind up the sun and moon,

Or curb a runaway young star or two.

—Lord Byron,
The Vision of Judgement

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

—John 8:44


September 1978

Summer was still barely hanging on when Lillian Jean O’Dare, thirty-four, disappeared without a trace from the rough-and-tumble streets of East Vancouver, British Columbia, on September 12, 1978. The temperature was still in the low-sixties during the day, but the nights were becoming somewhat chilly with the mercury hovering in the mid-to-upper forties, cold enough to bring out the onset of autumn colors and to necessitate the wearing of warm clothing in the evening. With a light breeze comprising variable minor gusts and occasional fog during the early-morning hours, and with scattered clouds throughout much of the rest of the day, Vancouver was free of precipitation as Lillian walked the streets of “Low Track,” a high-vice area that is home to prostitution and drug addicts, where overdosing had become a regular occurrence. Low Track is known for having one of the highest HIV-infection rates in North America, and would eventually become the focal point of a prolific serial killer bent on snatching unsuspecting prostitutes off its seedy streets with promises of drugs and money. Of course, when Lillian O’Dare vanished, no one had a clue, yet, of what was to come.

Although little was known about the average-built Caucasian woman, with short reddish blond hair, who stood five feet six inches tall, Lillian was reported missing on the same day that she seemingly vanished. Years later, in 2002, when the Joint Missing Women Task Force began compiling names and backgrounds of the women who had disappeared from Low Track, Lillian’s case would become the oldest of the sixty-five women that would eventually make the list.

The ensuing missing person investigation at first failed to turn up anything significant about Lillian. In fact, it would be nearly eleven years before any new clues turned up in what had quickly become a cold case. As it turned out, the resident of a rental house, located in the 900 block of Salsbury Drive in East Vancouver, provided the first clue to Lillian’s whereabouts when he found a human skull in a crawl space inside the dwelling, on April 22, 1989. After summoning the police, the rest of the skeleton was found in the house that had, at one time, been occupied by a motorcycle gang. According to Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) constable Annie Linteau, all the police knew at that time was that the skeletal remains were that of a female. Despite an intensive investigation in which detectives suspected foul play, it would take an additional thirteen years before positive identification would be made, due, in part, to the limitations of DNA testing at that time.

Nonetheless, the skeletal remains found at the Salsbury Drive house were positively identified as Lillian O’Dare’s in 2002, nearly twenty-five years after she disappeared from Vancouver’s unflinchingly mean Downtown Eastside. There had been no evidence to indicate that she was residing at that location when she disappeared. By 2002, the police realized that they had a huge problem on their hands, and they placed Lillian’s information on the Joint Missing Women Task Force list, as well as the official poster, after determining that her background was similar to other missing women on that list who had some degree of involvement in prostitution and/or drug use, according to Vancouver police sergeant Sheila Sullivan. Unfortunately, the task force had been unable to immediately locate any of her relatives, and it wouldn’t be until August 2007 that authorities were able to track down her next of kin and inform them of what they knew—little as it was—regarding what had happened to Lillian. Basically, all that they had been able to accomplish in nearly twenty-five years was to put a name to a skeleton, thanks, in part, to new DNA technology that had been refined over the years since Lillian had gone missing. The new technology was called miniSTR (mini-short tandem repeat), and it provided investigators with the much-needed ability to extract and refine much smaller DNA samples. It would be used extensively in the case that they didn’t know existed, yet.

At one point a photograph of Lillian and another woman, known only as Diana, surfaced as detectives continued in their efforts to solve her murder. Investigators circulated the old, faded photo in an attempt to generate new leads in the case, but, unfortunately, no one came forward with information. Lillian O’Dare, of course, was only one of many women that Vancouver police and, later, the RCMP investigators were faced with the overwhelming task of determining what had become of them. By the time the police had a suspect to focus on in what was beginning to look like a massive serial murder case, the list of missing women had topped out at sixty-five, after four women were found alive and removed from the list. With literally dozens of cases and volumes of leads to follow up, the task force had its work cut out for it—and then some.

Although the families of the sixty-five missing women were naturally frustrated and angry at the police for what they perceived as having their pleas for help in finding their missing loved ones ignored, it should be pointed out that the police truly had no idea what they were dealing with here. Although they could not possibly feel the hurt, pain, and anguish that the family members of the missing women were feeling, the truth of the matter is that the police were bewildered, puzzled, and taken aback at the overwhelming prospect of finding out what had happened to the women. Many family members of the missing women felt that the police looked at their loved ones as criminals first, and humans who had been victimized second.

“In the case of these missing women, we don’t have a suspect,” Vancouver police constable Anne Drennan said in April 1999. “In fact, we don’t have a crime.”

Nor did they have any crime scenes with which to work, Constable Sarah Bloor said two years later as the police continued their search for clues that could help them determine what had become of so many women. “We don’t have any leads like crime scenes or anything like that to help us uncover more facts.”

“These women frequented the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, they had dependency problems, either with drugs or alcohol or both,” said Constable Catherine Galliford, spokesperson for what would become the joint RCMP-Vancouver City Police Task Force.

Unfortunately, the cases of many of the missing women would never be officially solved, and their families would be left forever wondering what had become of their loved ones. Some degree of closure had been attained for the families of six of the missing women with the conviction of a man who was found guilty of their murders and who remains charged with the murders of twenty others in a case that might not ever make it to trial, and only an aura of bewilderment about what had become of the remaining women on Vancouver’s list of missing women lives on.

March 1995

While looking for a place to set up shop for the day near Highway 7, also known as the Lougheed Highway, at a location approximately seven kilometers, or roughly 4.3 miles, from Port Coquitlam, near the community of Mission, British Columbia, a roadside merchant ambled about near a boggy area in close proximity to a creek that empties into the Stave River when he made a rather unexpected, and macabre, discovery by nearly walking upon what looked like a portion of a human skull. Somewhat unnerved, he called the local police to inform them of his finding.

A number of police officers were dispatched to the site, along with search dogs and a crime scene investigation (CSI) expert, who collectively made a thorough search of the area. When it became apparent that little else of significance could be found on the marshy land, divers were brought in to search the Stave River. Although nothing else was found at the site, forensic experts were able to determine that the skull belonged to the right side of a woman’s head, which, they believed, had been neatly bisected, literally sawed in half vertically, front to back. Although a number of theories as to how the skull came to be at that location were considered, including that it may have come from an indigenous burial site that had been disturbed or perhaps had been carried there by the nearby river during a high tide or flood, the investigators never came up with a satisfactory explanation for its presence, nor were they able to ever identify it. Nonetheless, it was a discovery that CSI expert Tim Sleigh would never forget. After all, it wasn’t just any skull—it was a skull that had been neatly cut in half, proving, in his mind, that such a precise cut could be far from accidental. His gut told him that not only did the grisly discovery mean that someone had died, but that the person likely had been murdered. With nothing else to go on, however, it would be years before Sleigh would understand the magnitude of what he had been called out to investigate that day in March 1995.

March 23, 1997

It was a cloudy, chilly evening when sex-trade worker and drug addict Wendy Lynn Eistetter hit the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia’s Downtown Eastside, sometimes referred to as “DES,” to try and earn a few bucks to support her habit. Sometime before midnight a light breeze blew in off the Pacific Ocean, at perhaps six miles per hour, and made the late-night temperature seem even colder than the present forty-three degrees. Nonetheless, Wendy flitted up and down the boulevard in the vicinity of Main Street and East Hastings, hopeful that another trick would come along soon. As it turned out, she didn’t have to wait very long.

Robert “Willie” Pickton, forty-seven, a smelly little man who always wore gum boots, turned the corner and pulled to the curb, where he stopped and beckoned Wendy over to the car. He told her that he had crack cocaine and marijuana, and would pay her whatever her going rate was if she would accompany him back to his trailer, located just outside of town in nearby Port Coquitlam.

Wendy, glad to get out of the cold night air, didn’t hesitate or quibble about his offer as she climbed into the passenger seat of Pickton’s vehicle. Pickton’s unkempt, dirty appearance and hygiene hadn’t deterred her, either. As she viewed the man with the scraggly beard and long hair, which had been pulled back into a short ponytail, Wendy knew that she had been with worse—she just couldn’t remember when.

It became darker as they drove out of the city, past New Westminster and onto Lougheed Highway. During the drive Pickton told her how he operated a pig farm, and they smoked crack cocaine along the way and made small talk, which didn’t seem to matter to either of them. The cloud cover made it seem eerie as they turned off the highway and drove down Dominion Avenue, eventually approaching Pickton’s pig farm, but Wendy paid little mind, at that time, to her surroundings. After driving through the metal gate at the entrance to the farm, which resembled a desolated industrial area during the day, Pickton parked just outside his trailer, which was situated adjacent to the slaughterhouse. The two of them stumbled up the three short steps onto the porch and went inside, crack and crack pipe in hand.

The interior of the trailer was filthy. It appeared nearly uninhabitable, with clothing, much of it women’s, scattered about, and occasional women’s accessories lying here and there amid the trash that looked like it had been there for a long time. The trailer also stank badly with an odor that Wendy could not discern, and she soon found herself wishing that she hadn’t gone there with Pickton. But it was too late now, and she realized that she would just have to make the best of it, get it over with, and then have Pickton drive her back to town.

They turned left in the hallway near the trailer’s entrance, and passed by a room that Pickton used as an office. It was also filthy and in disarray. The desk was cluttered, and a stuffed horse’s head hung on the wall behind a watercooler off to one side. They passed a stereo located near the trailer’s entrance, and Pickton paused for a moment to turn it on, with the volume loud, as they made their way toward the bedroom. There were large, dark stains embedded into the badly soiled carpet at various locations, but Pickton didn’t seem at all concerned about showing his guest how filthily he lived. Once they reached the bedroom, they removed their clothing and began various forms of sex play; at one point Pickton bound Wendy with a pair of fur-lined handcuffs. Afterward, satisfied that he had the young woman under his control, the sex play began to turn somewhat rough. But that’s what Wendy was there for, and at first she didn’t mind too much.

A little later, however, after releasing Wendy from her much-used bindings, Pickton became even rougher, and his demeanor turned maniacal. Out of seemingly nowhere he pulled out “a brown-handled knife,” and Wendy suddenly became horrified at the sight of the knife’s blade. She began screaming. Out in the middle of a several-acre farm, and inside a trailer where the music was blasting, no one could hear her—and she knew it. Pickton seemed to revel at her obvious fear, and he began stabbing her repeatedly with the knife. Pickton’s voice became elevated and eerily shrill, which served to terrify Wendy even more. At one point, after sustaining several serious stab wounds, some of which were to her abdomen, Wendy managed a show of strength and broke free from Pickton’s grip, mustering enough energy to turn the tables on her attacker. After a violent struggle she wrested the knife away from Pickton and stabbed him with it. Satisfied that she had bought some time for herself, Wendy, half-naked, staggered out of Pickton’s trailer and made her way toward Dominion Avenue.

It was about 1:45
. when Wendy reached the street, blood gushing out of her stomach wounds. According to a police report taken later, Wendy was picked up by a couple driving along the dark road. After loading her into the backseat, minutes later they flagged down a police officer who arranged to have the injured woman taken to the Royal Columbian Hospital in nearby New Westminster, a Vancouver suburb, where she was treated for deep stab wounds to her torso. Similarly, Pickton drove to another hospital, where he was treated for the stab wound inflicted by his victim.

Fortunately, Wendy Eistetter survived her violent encounter with Robert Pickton. She had been one of the lucky ones—many others were not. Pickton also survived, both medically and legally. Although Pickton had been charged with attempted murder by the Crown after the attack on Wendy, he hired big-time Vancouver lawyer Peter Ritchie to represent him. The charges were later dropped when Wendy did not show up to testify against him—despite the fact that the police knew that he had been the person who had provoked the attack by stabbing Wendy first. It seemed just as well from the Crown’s viewpoint—Pickton had hired a private detective for $10,000, according to Pickton, to investigate Wendy’s background, leaving prosecutors believing that they would have had a tough time convincing a jury that a millionaire pig farmer had tried to kill a hooker who was also a junkie. The incident should have been one of the first clues that something very wrong may have been going on at the Pickton farm, but it seemed to just fly right over the heads of the local police, who chalked it up as an isolated incident.

BOOK: Butcher
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