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Carol Ruby Davis: A heartbreaking death, 30 years ago now

July 6th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Thirty years ago, I was a rookie reporter at the Vancouver Sun. I got sent out to cover the funeral of a sex-trade worker — something we actually did back in those days when we covered so much more in the city. It was a searing experience for me. I’ve never forgotten it or the way Carol’s family allowed me to enter their lives briefly. In Carol’s honour, here it is again.

Carol Ruby Davis will go home today to Masset, the town in the Queen Charlotte Islands where she lived as a little girl, so her people can bury her with traditional Haida ceremony.

The 29-year-old, whose stabbed body was found last weekend dumped in bushes in Burnaby, will have old friends of the family sit beside her white-and-pink coffin all through Saturday night, and more than 1,000 band members will come to pay their last respects.

Carol’s great-uncle, band chief Ernest Yeltatzie, will make a speech in her memory, as will many other people from the band who knew her.

To Vancouver police, Carol Davis was a “known prostitute and drug user.”

To her large family and many friends, Carol was a mother who loved to spoil her children, someone who could laugh so hard she’d just about cry, and a daughter and sister who defended and gave to her family generously.

She made Indian button blankets that have been displayed at the Indian Centre, knocked the glasses off a man who hit her sister in a bar and bought her son B.J. hundreds of dollars worth of presents for his 12th birthday this April.

“She was always proud of being a Haida, too. She knew she came from an important heritage,” said her sister Laurie, standing in front of the portraits of her grandfather, Chief Joe Weir, that hang on her living-room wall.

Everyone in the family knew Carol had been doing drugs since she was 15 – “heroin, coke, anything, if she was desperate” – and that she had worked the streets for years.

“We all accepted her the way she was. Whoever did this to her robbed us of her. I just hope they get the person who did it,” said Laurie, who arranged for Carol’s Vancouver memorial service Thursday.

Carol’s killer has not been found. She is the fourth Vancouver prostitute killed in the past two years, and a number of others have been attacked.

Carol’s street friends said they hadn’t seen her for about two weeks before her body was found. They came to her memorial service, bringing red and yellow roses that they placed in front of her portrait, stopping before it to give the smiling face one last caress or gentle kiss.

Carol’s mother, Ginger Donovan, said Carol often used to drop by to see her where she lived at a downtown hotel.

“She used to have clothes in my room and would come up and change,” said her mother, as she and her three other daughters sat on the steps of Laurie’s house Thursday evening after the service, watching the nieces and nephews play in the front yard while they remembered Carol’s life.

Donovan moved down to Vancouver from Masset when Carol was 8, with part of her family of three sons and four daughters. Carol went to Nightingale elementary, but wasn’t too interested in school.

At 15, she was living with a man and later had her first baby, B.J.

Carol’s mother took care of B.J., born with cerebral palsy, and then Carol gave her sister, Laurie, custody “because she knew she wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Eight years later, after reuniting with B.J.’s father, Carol had a baby girl, Crystal, who now lives with her father in Prince Rupert.

After that, she broke up with her common-law husband and turned to the streets.

“She really wanted to settle down, but then she got into the street life, just too deep, too far to get out,” said her sister, Nettie. “She was a little jealous of me because I went straight and settled down with a boyfriend.”

She didn’t settle down. The last time Laurie saw her was April 25, on B.J.’s birthday, when Carol had him for four days and took him all over town, buying him a $240 leather jacket and a Walkman.

B.J. came back saying, as he always did after outings with his mother, that he had “the best mum ever.”

In the Thursday twilight, as other relatives ate and drank in the living room, B.J. tossed a ball into the air while his aunts and grandmother talked.

“Watch out, B.J.,” one said. “If you throw it too high, God will catch it and you’ll never see it again.”


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