'I think we all kind of noticed something right away,' says forensic team lead Sgt. Eric Page
The family of a woman killed in 2016 paid a visit Monday to the area in B.C.'s Shuswap region where her remains were found five years after she went missing.
The visit came after Derek Favell pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Ashley Simpson.
In 2016, 32-year-old Simpson disappeared from a rural property near Salmon Arm — a southern Interior community around 75 kilometres east of Kamloops, B.C. — where she was living with Favell, her boyfriend at the time.
John Simpson says his daughter planned to hitchhike home to St. Catharines, Ont., but never made it.
Simpson and other family members travelled to B.C. to search for Ashley, but to no avail.
In 2021, police announced a tip had led investigators to Ashley's remains, which were located in a rural area near Salmon Arm.
Investigators flew to Ontario to deliver the news to her family.
Simpson said he knew Ashley wasn't coming home alive when police gave him her rings.
"But we knew that they'd found her, so she [would] be coming home," he told CBC News.
"That's key for us, to get our daughter home and to have her with us."
Favell was later charged with second-degree murder.
On Monday, Sgt. Eric Page, who led the forensic team that found Ashley, took the Simpsons through a wooded area to the spot where her remains were found.
He said that his team began its search by walking the periphery of the road.
A dog handler followed as a police dog ran down to where the remains would soon be found, Page added.
"I don't know if the movement of the ground had kind of stirred up enough scent or what," Page said.
"It was kind of a simultaneous discovery. I think we all kind of noticed something right away."
Simpson said the area where she was found is much like an area they hiked in Ontario.
"This is what Ashley likes, this is what we hiked all the time," he said.
John and Cindy Simpson, Ashley's mother, praised investigators for their work.
"Without them, it would have never happened," said Cindy Simpson, who praised an investigator named Kim.
"She said, 'When we have nothing, I will be honest.' When she said, 'We're working on it,' I believed her."
She said she tells other families searching for missing loved ones to believe police when they say they're working on it.
Ashley was one of five women reported missing in the North Okanagan-Shuswap region between 2016 and 2017, a fact that, along with her family's dedication, kept Ashley's story in the media over the years despite little word of progress from RCMP investigators.
In 2021, RCMP said they believed Ashley's case was not connected to any of the other missing women in the region.
"We're not stopping," Simpson said. "We've got justice for Ashley. We'll see the sentencing and then we'll turn to the other people."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan
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