Written by Pamela Roth
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Amber Sopow will never forget the day she received the phone call that opened a wound so deep it has still yet to heal.
On Dec. 13, 1997, the 23-year-old was at a friend’s house in Vancouver when she received an unusual message from her mother on the answering machine.
Amber knew something was wrong by the tone in her mother’s voice. When she returned the call she learned her 52-year-old father, Peter Sopow, and his 47-year-old girlfriend, Lorraine McNab, had been found shot dead inside a horse trailer on her quarter section of land just south of Pincher Creek.
The news was crippling, and even though it’s been 11 years, Amber still has problems coming to grips with the senseless murder of her father.
“I was completely shocked. I just went into a trance. I remember flying home the next morning and the people on the plane having a newspaper and it was on the front page,” said the 34-year-old, who now calls New York City home and still thinks about her father every day. “It’s like we are walking around in a daze. We are living and doing what we think we need to do in life, but it’s hard to celebrate things and have good times without thinking he should be here with us.”
According to Amber, her father, an RCMP sergeant in Fort Macleod, was supposed to be in Edmonton that fateful day to meet with the head of the RCMP. He never made it, nor would he follow through on his plans to return to B.C. for the Christmas holidays.
Peter failed to show up for work at 9 a.m. on Dec. 15. A missing person investigation was launched and less than three hours later the bodies were found by an RCMP officer at the McNab residence.
Police believe the couple, who had been dating for a few months, were murdered on Dec. 13, although their bodies weren’t found until two days later. The murder weapon, believed to be a .22-calibre rifle, has never been found and neither has the killer. Even though it’s believed the double homicide was not a random attack, the incident sent a wave of fear throughout Pincher Creek.
Less than a week after the murder, police arrested a Pincher Creek man as a suspect, but later released him without laying any charges.
Police exhausted thousands of man hours in the field, utilized several different police labs from Oregon to Winnipeg, and the expertise of several specialists including an ex-FBI officer. They have re-visited evidence countless times and police dives were also made in bodies of water around the Pincher Creek and Lundbreck areas, all without any success.
By 1998, frustration had mounted and the family was prepared to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. In 2001, it looked as though investigators had finally received their big break in the form of two anonymous letters sent to them in regards to the murder. Despite pleas for the writer to come forward with more information, police never heard from the tipster again. The contents of those letters has never been revealed to the public.
The fact Peter and Lorraine’s killer has gone unpunished troubles the families, but so does the fact they haven’t heard anything from police in years. The silence has led them to believe the case has gone cold and justice will never be served.
“I don’t expect there will ever be a conviction or a charge laid. I don’t remember the last time I heard from police. It makes me feel like it’s all a lost cause, it’s in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet and this thing will never get solved,” said Grant McNab, Lorriane’s brother. “Every year the anniversary comes up we get a little more testy. A member of our family was taken away from us and we have to deal with that for the rest of our lives. All we can do is hope and pray that maybe some day some body out there will pay the price. It would turn the page in the book and on with another chapter.”
Even though it’s been more than a decade, investigators say the case had hardly gone cold.
Staff. Sgt Sandy White, of the Calgary Major Crimes Unit, has taken over the file and said an officer just recently finished some new interviews regarding the case and tips are still being added to the thousands already received.Police believe the suspect is still living in the area, but there has never been enough evidence to lay a charge.
There are other persons of interest as well, said White, with one interview scheduled to be conducted in Great Britain. Technology may prove the ultimate tool in bringing the killer to justice.
“We are hoping science will ultimately lead to the detection of the person responsible and, unfortunately, we have to wait on science and advancements in DNA technology before we can move forward,” said White, who is hopeful the case will be solved. “It’s one of the most thoroughly investigated homicides that I am aware of. It’s expended a lot of time and effort and resources. We are still moving forward with the investigation. Certainly there should be somebody out there with information that they are fearful, for whatever reason, to come forward.”
As the days turn into weeks, months, and then years without any updates, it’s apparent Amber’s patience with investigators is wearing thin. Now that she has a daughter of her own, she can’t help but think how her father would have loved her child and how it would have warmed his heart to see the woman she has become.
“I refuse to believe that a regular person can go out and do what they did and not leave a trace. It’s been 11 years and nothing has been solved. I think it’s utterly ridiculous,” said Amber. “It’s just a puzzle. Me and my family sit here on a daily basis thinking this doesn’t make sense. It’s very frustrating. We can’t understand why we are being kept in the dark and why this isn’t solved yet. It’s almost like they want us to forget about this.”
Although the lives of Peter and Lorraine were taken much too soon, their memories have certainly not faded.
A memorial plaque sits in the middle of a small garden in front of Canyon Elementary School, where Lorraine was a beloved kindergarten teacher.
Her brother, Grant, thinks about Lorraine nearly every day in one way or another and sometimes hears members of the community talking about the murders, wondering who has the missing piece of information and if the case will ever be solved as well.
“We always think about different things we happen to be doing and Lorraine will pop into my mind,” said Grant. “I love to talk about her. She was a good person and she’s not here anymore.”
Even though they may be miles apart, every year on Dec. 13 members of the two families stop what they are doing to hold a small candlelight memorial at 6 p.m.
It’s a tradition that brings a few moments of peace to a family that is still trying to come to grips with a horrific tragedy from more than a decade ago.
Still, the only possible outcome that would allow the family to finally heal is to receive a phone call from police, informing them they have found the killer.
It’s an outcome Amber and many other members of the family don’t believe will ever occur. It’s an outcome, at this time, that seems too good to be true.
“I don’t know how to explain the feeling. The more time goes by the more frustrated we get,” she said. “It’s been so long now. The times we shared, the times we spent together, the memory of him, it’s like a dream.”