Working as a crime reporter at the Edmonton Sun, Pamela Roth’s desk was often littered with old articles containing the highlighted names of homicide victims and their families.
At the time, Roth was researching more than a dozen lesser known unsolved murder cases in Edmonton, as part of a cold case series for the newspaper.
In both 2005 and 2011, the city was dubbed the murder capital of Canada, recording 39 and 48 homicides, respectively. This spurred a seven-part cold case series, which involved Roth tracking down former and current homicide detectives, as well as victims’ family members and asking them to relive the most tragic event in their lives.
Their stories were often sad, emotional and powerful, and would become the inspiration for Roth’s first book, Deadmonton.
“Some of them (the victim’s families) are still struggling to move on even after 10 or 20 years. I could feel their pain, I cried with them sometimes too,” said Roth, who left her job at the Sun in 2015 to become the editor of the Victoria News.
“You always think time heals and they’ll get over it, but they don’t . . . I just want people to get a different perspective on what it’s like for the victims’ families and what they have to go through once the stories disappear from the headlines.”
Deadmonton profiles more than two dozen unsolved murder cases in Edmonton, told from the perspective of victims’ families and looks at the detectives working to bring justice to the victims.
One chapter of the book details the case of 17-year-old Lisa Kopf, who moved to Edmonton from Victoria with her mother and sister after their father was killed by a drunk driver.
In August of 1998, Kopf went to a party with her sister in Edmonton, but only one of them came home.
Her body was found the next morning face-down in a slough on the outskirts of the city. She had been suffocated to death in the mud. Her killer is still at large.
According to Roth, it’s the cases of regular people who were killed by strangers that are the most chilling.
“There’s a lot of gangsters that were killed or sex trade workers. They were living a high-risk lifestyle to begin with,” she said.
“Most of these people I focus on were just minding their own business, going to work, or going out with their friends and suddenly they run into the wrong person at the wrong time and they are killed. That’s the kind of stuff that’s really scary.”
Roth hopes her book, which also includes chapters about some of the city’s most notorious solved murders, missing people, and a profile on a police officer battling post-traumatic stress disorder, will thrust some of Edmonton’s more than 30 unsolved murder cases back into the spotlight to jog people’s memory that could potentially lead to a break in the cases.
“One key thing I found was that they (the families) don’t want their stories to be forgotten. They want them to stay in the news because a lot of the cases are stalled and one single tip to police could push the case forward again,” said Roth, adding her police sources have said many of the cases are close to being solved.
Deadmonton can be found at Munro’s in Victoria and online.