VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – No body and no crime scene. All investigators have to try to solve an almost decades old Vancouver cold case is a letter from the apparent killer.
Now, 16 years after the disappearance and presumed murder of 24-year-old Danielle LaRue, Vancouver Police are asking the anonymous author of that letter to come forward once again, this time to reveal their identity.
“You know what happened to Danielle, where her body is buried and you seem to be remorseful,” said Sergeant Jason Robillard to NEWS 1130.
“It’s time to do the right thing and finally bring answers and closure for Danielle’s family. It’s been 16 years and it’s time to clear your conscience and come forward.”
Danielle went missing from the Downtown Eastside, where she lived, at the end of November 2002. A month later, the chilling letter landed on the desks of Vancouver police officers.
“This is about Vancouver prostitute who disappear at the end of November 2002 […] Caucasian, long black curly hair, jeans, black leather jacket, tattoos and jewelry. She is dead,” said part of the typed up letter.
“To her family, I am more sorry for this than you can imagine. I did not intend this but am still responsible. Wish I could take it back but can’t. She will not be unmourned. Have brought flowers to her grave once already, plan to do so every year as am able. Not ideal, but better than no visits at all. I know you can’t forgive me but please believe I tried my very hardest to bring her back.”
The anonymous letter expresses remorse for the death of a woman. It was sent to cops a month after LaRue went missing and while the author never mentions anyone by name, police believe they’re referring to LaRue. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/VjY4xE9fr0
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) December 10, 2018
Police have never publicly released the full letter and while the author never mentions his victim by name, investigators are convinced the person who wrote it is referring to Danielle.
Some in her family, however, are skeptical. Her older half-brother chooses instead to remain hopeful that his sister is still alive.
“If it hasn’t been signed and if it hasn’t been verified, well, to me it’s just hearsay and I don’t really wanna have much to think about the letter in the first place,” said Jules LaRue to NEWS 1130.
“I don’t know, maybe that might make me less hopeful about my sister, if I did see it.”
Danielle had a difficult childhood that included foster care, physical and sexual abuse, which led to drug use and eventually sex work. Her ancestors were part of the Shuswap First Nation and while she grew up in Northern B.C. she had been living in Vancouver for 5 years at the time she disappeared.
Like so many other women before and after Danielle to go missing from the notorious Downtown Eastside, her case wasn’t widely reported on until a year after she was last seen.
“From all the things that I’ve heard there’s two things that I believe: either she was taken away somewhere for human trafficking or she just ran away to start a better life for herself, a new life,” said Jules, who’s one of Danielle’s several siblings.
He remembers his sister as adventurous but reserved, quite, and polite around family, who still think about the missing woman almost every day.
Danielle LaRue before she went missing (Photo courtesy Vancouver Police Department)
Jules has been involved with the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, helping other families who’ve lost a sibling, mother, daughter, or grandmother, which brings some solace.
“Whenever I speak with my other siblings as well as my mom about Danielle we just, we miss her and we want her to be seen again if she’s still alive,” said Jules.
“Or we just wanna know what’s happened with her and where her remains are if she really is no longer physically with us.”
You can hear parts of my interview with Jules LaRue, Danielle’s half brother, and Sergeant Jason Robillard on Cold Case B.C., a new podcast I recently started. @NEWS1130 https://t.co/FI3kTZXNo0 pic.twitter.com/9eMdvI4yQ1
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) December 10, 2018
New hope the family will get some answers comes as a fresh set of eyes takes over the case. Her file was recently handed over to a new investigator. Robillard says new investigative tools are constantly being explored but with no physical evidence, other than the letter, it makes solving the case both challenging and unique.
“We definitely have theories about who wrote the letter. We have looked at the letter itself, we’ve looked at a lot of pieces surrounding the letter,” he said.
“In December of 2002 when the person wrote the letter and felt the need to send it in to the Vancouver Police, their conscience was obviously bothering them at that time, just from reading the letter and reading things that were written.”
Robillard says their best bet in solving the case is having someone with information come forward. Ideally the author of the letter, but police believe there may be others out there who know something.
For Jules, the best outcome would be his sister walking back into his life.
“It would be quite a shock, it’d be a pleasant shock needless to say, to have her all of a sudden pop her head back into everybody’s life and say ‘hey what the hell are you guys worried about, I’m a grown woman, I’m a LaRue, I’m strong, I’m tough, I know how to take care of myself, I just wanted to go take off and do something different for a while.’”