The stench of death

On Canada's Highway of Tears.

Highway 16 near Prince George, British Columbia. The 725km (450 mile) road is also known as the Highway of Tears on account of the many women and girls who have been killed or disappeared along it [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Highway 16 near Prince George, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

In this six-part series, Al Jazeera tells the stories of some of the Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered along an infamous stretch of highway in British Columbia, Canada.

Warning: The following article contains content that may be disturbing to some readers.

British Columbia, Canada - Mike Balczer pensively traces the rim of a white coffee cup on a frigid February morning. He takes a ponderous breath and looks up. His hair is covered by a black and white bandana and a cap. His trademark attire - black leather and black and white flannel - bear the markings that distinguish him as a nomad - a Crazy Indian Brotherhood nomad.

The Crazy Indian Brotherhood started in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2007 and now has chapters throughout Canada and to the south as far as California and Oklahoma. It resembles a motorcycle gang, but Mike says the tough image is just for appearances. “We protect women and children around here. We patrol the streets looking out for the vulnerable.” And the uniform helps to intimidate the town’s drug dealers, he adds.

Mike Balczer talks about the death of his 18-year-old daughter, Jessica Patrick. [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

But it is not only the local drug dealers who are on Mike’s mind. He is on the prowl - looking for a killer, or possibly killers, in Smithers.

The small town in northwestern British Columbia has a population of just over 5,300 people. It is home to the remnants of settler frontiers and Indigenous nations in a valley between towering snow-capped mountains, curtained by rows of lodgepole pine, spruce, sub-alpine balsam fir, aspen, birch and cottonwood trees.

Although a confessed wanderer, Mike has called Smithers home on and off for the past 20 years. He is a member of the Wit’Dat Nation (Lake Babine Nation) about a two-hour drive east and as a hereditary chief is part of a traditional governance system responsible for decision-making and cultural practices. When he became a leader his elders gave him the name “Person of Many”.


[Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
[Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Mike’s ancestors were self-sustaining and flourished through an economy based on inland fisheries until 1822 when missionaries arrived in the territory. By 1836 a fur-trading outpost run by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) had been established at Lake Babine - the longest natural lake in British Columbia and home to the Lake Babine Nation, today the third-largest Indigenous band in the province, with more than 2,500 registered members.

The HBC was at the helm of the British colonisation of North America and allowed early white settlers to get rich off the vast resources maintained by the Indigenous tribes during the fur trade. Indigenous trappers, hunters and guides worked alongside Hudson’s Bay employees to navigate the wilderness and harvest beaver and otter pelts to ship to Europe. In return, the company traded industrial goods, guns, European food and medicine with the First Nations. HBC also introduced alcohol to Indigenous traders, many of whom became addicted to it.

With the arrival of settlers came foreign diseases like smallpox and measles that wiped out thousands of Indigenous communities across the country. In the 19th century, the Indigenous population of British Columbia was estimated to be more than 125,000. But by 1929 there were just 22,000 Indigenous people left.

In 1876, the Canadian government introduced the Indian Act - a policy that dictates the social, political, economic, spiritual and physical lives of First Nations to this day. It created a reserve system that herded First Nations onto small tracts of land in their traditional territories.

Then came the Indian residential school system which forced Indigenous parents to send their children away to schools run by churches where physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and spiritual abuse was rampant.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) enforced the law and threatened parents who refused to send their children to the schools with jail time.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) estimates that more than 150,000 Inuit, First Nations and Metis (a person of mixed Indigenous and European or American ancestry) children attended these institutions between the 1870s and 1996, when the last school was closed.

Thousands of children died at the schools.

These were the conditions Mike’s ancestors survived - but the repercussions of colonialism did not end with them.

Loss of a daughter

Mike Balczer talks about the death of his 18-year-old daughter, Jessica Patrick [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Mike Balczer talks about the death of his daughter [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

There is heartache and anger in Mike’s demeanour. He has suffered a loss he believes he may never recover from. The pain he feels is what drives him to seek justice - justice for the death of his daughter, Jessica Patrick.

Mike began patrolling the streets of Smithers in 2020, a couple of years after 18-year-old Jessica was found dead off an embankment on the Hudson Bay Mountain in 2018.

“They (the authorities) put her in a steel box. It had to be a closed casket because of the way they found her ...” He pauses to hold back his tears, before stammering out the words, “she … was deteriorated.”

By the time she was found, nature had been feeding on Jessica’s body for about two weeks.

Mike last saw his petite, brown-eyed daughter a couple of days before she went missing. It was August 2018 and he had driven from his home in Houston, an hour’s drive east of Smithers, to meet Jessica, her 18-month-old daughter, Alayah, and other family members at the town’s annual county fall fair.

The father and daughter had not always been together; there had been tough times when Jessica was young. Mike and Jessica’s mother, Maureen Patrick, had raised Jessica and her older brother until they split up when Jessica was seven years old.

“Alcohol got in the way … ,” he explains, adding that both he and Maureen struggled with addiction back then.

The children were taken away by child and family services and placed into foster care.

It was a wake-up call, he says. He quit drinking, found a stable place to live, furnished it and filled the fridge with food. But it was not enough to get his children back.

“I sat down with the social worker and told her ‘I’m taking my kids’. Then she told me they’d call the RCMP.”

'The monster'

[Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
[Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Indigenous children in Canada have been overrepresented in the child welfare system for decades. Although making up just 7.7 percent of the child population, 52.2 percent of children in foster care in Canada are Indigenous.

The monster that was created in the residential schools moved into a new house [...] and that monster now lives in the child welfare system.

Since the 1950s Indigenous children have been apprehended by child welfare authorities and mostly placed in non-Indigenous families for adoption or foster care. A 2019 report by the First Nations Caring Society, an organisation that works to ensure the safety and wellbeing of First Nations youth and their families through education initiatives, public policy campaigns and by providing resources to support Indigenous communities, wrote that imposing Western models of childcare on Indigenous communities is a key aspect of colonialism.

In 2018, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on residential schools, Senator Murray Sinclair, said, “The monster that was created in the residential schools moved into a new house [...] and that monster now lives in the child welfare system.”

Mike remembers his children often phoning him from their foster homes, begging him to take them back home. He had done all he could, but the law was against him, he says. So he would grit his teeth and tell them to “stay strong”.


Mike holds a photograph of Jessica [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Mike holds a photograph of Jessica [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

For several years they were passed between foster homes and members of the extended family. When Jessica was 14, she moved back in with her dad. He says she was happy, vivacious and spiritual.

Jessica's mother, Maureen Patrick [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

“She was an outgoing person. She loved going to prayer meetings, she believed in Jesus and prayed the rosary … but Jessica always cried for her mom.”

By this point, Maureen - who is originally from Takla Lake, a First Nations community 400km (249 miles) north of Prince George, British Columbia - was living homeless in downtown Smithers.

“Maureen was lost,” Mike pauses and looks down at his feet. “Jessica worried for her. She would do anything for her mom.”

That day at the carnival was warm and sunny and Mike took pride in watching Jessica with her daughter. “She was glowing. In her glory! She was happy her daughter was with her to go on the rides.”

Mike pauses, then breaks down. Tears streak his face as he recounts Jessica’s last words to him. He had asked her to move in with him again, he wanted to take care of her and Alayah. Jessica agreed.

“She said, ‘Ok Dad, I’ll come live with you, I’ll see you in three days’.”

He stops to catch his breath.

“I never saw her in three days,” he says.

Searching for Jessica

Mike Balczer looks for people in need during a cold snap in Smithers, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Mike Balczer patrols in Smithers [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Mike does not know too much about what happened that night - August 31, 2018 - other than that Jessica took Alayah to her aunt’s house and said she was going to a party at the Mountain View Motel in town.

When she did not show up the next day to pick up Alayah her family started to worry. The following day, her aunt called the police to file a missing persons report. But according to family members, the police did not take them seriously and assumed Jessica was out having a good time somewhere.

So, her aunt organised a ground search.

Mike was working at a lumber camp near Houston when he got the call telling him Jessica was missing. He and a friend joined the search.

They drove hundreds of miles between Smithers and the surrounding towns and reserves to look for Jessica over several days. The local newspaper printed off “missing” posters with her photo and Mike says he pasted them in every nook and cranny of every town and village in the area.

Searches like this are not uncommon around here because Smithers sits along the Highway of Tears: an infamous stretch of road spanning more than 725 kilometres (450 miles) from the north Pacific coast of Prince Rupert to the inland city of Prince George and beyond. Its official name is Highway 16 and it is a section of the Trans-Canada Highway that runs across Western Canada.

But to locals who have lost loved ones on this highway, it is a murderous place where dozens of mostly Indigenous women and girls have vanished or been murdered since the 1950s. Police say the number of unsolved cases is 18, but unofficial counts by family members and advocates put it at more than 50. They are known as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, or MMIWG.

A graphic showing the photos, names, and ages of the 18 women and girls who are on the official RCMP list.
[Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera]

Forestry, agriculture, fishing and mining have been the dominant industries along the Highway of Tears over the last century. However, the highway acts as an industrial corridor - it is the only main road carrying supplies to and from the port city of Prince Rupert across the north and east into the Canadian prairies. Smithers is known as a hub for the exploration industry, with clusters of drilling, expediting and related support industries.

A Coastal GasLink Pipeline labour camp near Burns Lake, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
A labour camp in British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Today, the energy industry in northern British Columbia is booming. One of the largest recent projects is the $6.6bn Coastal GasLink (CGL) fracked natural gas pipeline that is being constructed over 670km (416 miles) across northern British Columbia to Kitimat on the west coast. The pipeline is slated to be completed in 2023, but the project has faced challenges with opposition from traditional Wet'suwet'en leaders and community members who do not want their territories compromised.

The pipeline winds through 20 Indigenous territories. Labour camps - commonly referred to as “man camps” - are being constructed in 14 different locations along the route to house those working on the project. Each camp can house up to 1,000 workers.

Some Indigenous communities have voiced concern over the effects of the “man camps” and potential violence against women and children in their vicinity.

A 2017 report released by Firelight Group (an Indigenous-owned consulting group that provides research, planning, mapping and advisory services), Lake Babine Nation and Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation suggested a correlation between the presence of such camps and increased rates of sexual assault and violence against Indigenous women, along with higher rates of addiction, sexually transmitted infections and family violence.

TC Energy, the company behind the CGL pipeline project, declined a request to be interviewed for this series but did email a statement saying it recognises “and takes seriously the concerns about gender and sexualized violence against Indigenous women - a broad social issue that transcends industry”.

Suzanne Wilton, communications manager at TC Energy, wrote: “Having been engaged with Indigenous and local communities for the past number of years as this project was developed, we are aware of the Highway of Tears and the tragic stories associated with it - and which pre-date the establishment of Coastal GasLink’s workforce accommodation sites.”

Wilton added that CGL employs Indigenous advisers who live and work at the accommodation sites to promote an inclusive workplace. “We promote a workplace that cultivates a safe, secure, respectful, diverse and inclusive culture. Our workforce lodges are like small communities. And like every community, we are focused on prevention, safety and security of our community and that of our neighbours. At Coastal GasLink, we have zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. That extends to behavior in local communities. Discrimination and harassment does not align with TC Energy’s values and policies.”

'Bringing people together'

A red dress marks the spot where Jessica's body was found on Hudson Bay Mountain in Smithers, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
A red dress marks the spot where Jessica's body was found [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

On September 15, 2018, Mike got the call: Jessica’s body had been found. He rushed straight to the spot - beneath an old spruce tree near a popular lookout on Hudson Bay Mountain.

He flicks his coffee cup and winces with pain. Swallowing hard, he whimpers, “They told me where they found Jessica … I didn’t want to look when I got there. I couldn’t. I wanted to remember my daughter the way I left her at the fall fair.”

About a week later Mike and a few other family members travelled to Prince George, three hours east, to retrieve Jessica’s body from the medical examiner's office.

I could smell the death. But it was beautiful too because my daughter brought a lot of people together in her death.

They were left in the dark as to what had happened, he says, but they wanted to take her home and give her a traditional burial. It was surreal to be driving along the Highway of Tears with Jessica’s body. The stench of death in the hearse was overbearing.

“When I was bringing her (body) back to Smithers ... .” He pauses to cry. “I could smell the death. But it was beautiful too because my daughter brought a lot of people together in her death.”

Thousands of people from towns, villages and First Nation communities along the route stood on the shoulders of the highway to pay their respects that day. It was a procession the likes of which Mike had never seen before.

The spirits of the murdered and missing

A red dress, signifying MMIWG, near Houston, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
A red dress, signifying MMIWG [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

The threats against Indigenous women and girls in northern British Columbia may be mounting due to the influx of workers on projects like the CGL pipeline, but Indigenous groups have been raising the alarm along the Highway of Tears for years.

In 2006 a group of Wet’suwet’en women founded the first-ever Highway of Tears Awareness Walk. Among them was Florence Naziel, 71, who first coined the term “Highway of Tears” in 1998.

An eccentric character with bleached blonde hair and a fondness for leopard print, the widowed mother and grandmother is fiercely proud of her culture and passionate about raising awareness for MMIWG.

She walked 143km (89 miles) from Prince Rupert to the city of Terrace, with other walkers taking over for the roughly 500km (311 miles) from Terrace to Prince George. There were dozens of walkers - but most were women and most were Indigenous.

There were so many crosses on the road we passed of women gone.

Florence was walking in memory of her cousin, Tamara Chipman, who was 22 when she went missing near Prince Rupert in 2005. Gracie Holland, Florence’s niece, took a week off work to join her aunt in the walk.

“There wasn’t much happening at that time for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG),” says Gracie, from the log home built by her late father on the Wit’set reservation, which sits parallel to the Highway of Tears.

On the first day of the walk, it began to snow, she remembers. Large, white flakes fell silently from the sky. Gracie says she could see only a few feet in front of her but that the walkers felt the spirits of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“I couldn’t stop crying that night,” says Gracie. “There were so many crosses on the road we passed of women gone.”

Gracie Holland's skirt honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Gracie Holland's skirt honouring MMIWG [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

By the end of the first day, blisters covered their feet. But they continued the next day as others joined them and the momentum grew.

There were times when the women ran out of money and food, but they kept walking.

We are the voice for those that have no voice.

It took more than two weeks but eventually, the group ended up in Prince George just in time for the start of a symposium organised by the provincial government and Indigenous organisations on MMIWG. It was the first of its kind.

“Walking in (to the symposium) was powerful. There were thousands of people, politicians. That was the first time families were being heard,” says Gracie.

Florence is recovering from COVID-19 in her daughters’ home on the other side of the reserve, so she tunes in to the conversation via FaceTime. She says that more needs to be done. “Yes, we empowered the families to speak, but we still have to make the noise. We are the voice for those that have no voice. This is ongoing, it’s so sad,” she says.

Dolly Alfred, a Wet’suwet’en language teacher who is friends with Gracie and Florence and joined us at Gracie’s house, believes the spirits of MMIWG are restless.

Seven years ago, she was driving home to Wit’set with her mother and father after a night of playing bingo in the village of Hazelton, about a 40-minute drive west. It was sometime after midnight when they approached an overpass.

“We were getting close to home when suddenly a lady wearing all black; she had a hood, came up on the road,” recounts Dolly as her brown eyes grow big and her Native accent quietens.

“She crossed over and disappeared. It scared us.”

Dolly’s mother, who is a respected elder and hereditary chief, told her it was a Diniznik (ghost).

“What needs to be done is to get a priest to the spots where a woman has gone missing. To pray, and smudge, sing. To bring their spirits back. All along the Highway of Tears should be blessed …,” says Dolly.

Naked and bleeding

Amy Brandstetter's lingerie store in Smithers [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Amy Brandstetter's lingerie store in Smithers [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Back in Smithers, local businesswoman Amy Brandstetter is fed up with how the authorities respond to violence. She owns a lingerie shop downtown, selling lacy thongs, silk robes and bedazzled bras.

On a cold day in February 2020, Amy witnessed a horrifying scene. It was late morning when she heard blood-curdling screams. Moments later, a woman opened the door to the shop and shoved a younger woman inside - she was naked and bleeding.

In shock, Amy immediately closed her store, cleaned the young woman, clothed her and called the emergency services.

“She was crying, asking for her mother. I held her,” Amy recalls, crying angry tears.

“She was intoxicated. I think she was drugged.”

Amy Brandstetter recalls the day a naked woman ran into her store and explained she had been held captive and raped [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Amy - a tall, bleached blonde with tattoos that peek out from her off-the-shoulder sweater - grew up near Wit’set and calls herself a lifelong Smithers girl. She is herself a survivor of violence, having been beaten, choked and held against her will in past abusive relationships. Now, she is not afraid to stand up when she sees wrongdoing.

She says the young woman told her she had been held against her will by older men in an apartment in Smithers and gang raped. She said she knew who the men were.

Amy was horrified when the police turned up at her store. “First off, they sent five male RCMP officers,” she says. “The RCMP asked her how much alcohol she had! I was upset; I protected her.”

She recalls people pointing and laughing along Main Street that day. “They saw a naked woman and just reacted with judgement,” she says.

“Violence, it’s growing rapidly. The normalisation and propaganda we see daily through social media against women. And nobody does anything,” Amy reflects.

500 years of 'abuse and neglect'

Mike Balczer in Smithers [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Mike Balczer in Smithers [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Mike agrees. He has been investigating his daughter's death because he says the RCMP is not doing enough.

“The RCMP is known throughout Canada to abuse and neglect, not to serve and protect,” he states in an authoritative tone. “I haven’t started my healing. I haven’t dealt with my daughter's death. I have people working with me, people who give me intel on what happened.”

The RCMP station in Smithers [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

He has heard rumours about what may have happened to Jessica, and at one point even tried to pin down a potential suspect in Smithers himself.

It backfired when he went after someone he believed to be involved in Jessica’s death just a few months after she was killed. The man was driving a truck when Mike crossed a street in Smithers to confront him. He accelerated and ran Mike over.

Mike woke up in hospital with head and back injuries, broken bones and fractures.

He says the RCMP have left him in the dark about his daughter’s death. “The major crimes unit hasn’t told me anything to this day. I want to know how she was found. Was she raped? How was her hair? What position was she in? They told me it would interfere with their investigation if they told me. I’m so hurt and tired of them not telling me anything,” he says.

Corporal Madonna Saunderson, the RCMP’s media relations representative for British Columbia’s North District, told Al Jazeera via email: “The investigation is on-going, and we continue to investigate whether there is any evidence of foul play involved in Jessica's death including speaking to the people who were last with her. We continue to communicate with Jessica's family on the status of the investigation including the cause of death. We are unable to comment on the cause of death. There is no further information available at this time.”

Mike believes the RCMP is racist. “The RCMP are white. They’re racist and they don’t give a bleep for Aboriginal people. This has been going on against our people for 500 years. I will get justice for Jessica,” he adds unwaveringly.

Sgt. Ron Palta, left, and Wayne Clary, of Project E-Pana in Prince George, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

RCMP Reserve Constable Wayne Clary, who has worked on cases of missing and murdered women and girls along the Highway of Tears, believes racism has played a role in creating the circumstances around those crimes.

“Racism? Absolutely. Along Highway 16, we have vulnerable women because of what the Canadian government did to Indigenous peoples and their history. How they [the government] tore out a generation, how they weakened a family structure [through residential schools] - that doesn’t get fixed overnight. Because of that there are economic issues, substance abuse issues, family cohesion issues, isolation, all that can all wrap into one. I think this has a lot to do with it. I think racism has played a part in our Canadian history and it’s still here.”

'Call it a genocide'

Regional Chief Terry Teegee in Lheidli T'enneh, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Regional Chief Terry Teegee [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Just outside of Prince George on the Lheidli T’enneh reserve, the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee says he is frustrated with the federal government's delay on a national action plan for MMIWG.

The 2019 final report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG brought forth 231 Calls for Justice aimed at federal, provincial and Indigenous governments as well as industries, institutions, services such as media, healthcare providers, educators, police, correctional services and those who work in child welfare.

Our women are looked at as 'another drunk Indian'.

A national action plan to propel the Calls for Justice was due in June 2020 but was postponed indefinitely, with the government citing COVID-19 as a barrier.

“Let’s call it what it is. Let’s call it a genocide,” says Terry from his small mobile trailer office. Jessica’s mom is his cousin. He is also related to other women who have been murdered or gone missing along the Highway of Tears. Everyone is connected, everyone is affected, he says.

Respect for women decreased when patriarchal governance systems were forced onto Indigenous communities, Terry explains.

“This goes along with 152 years of colonisation. Our women are looked at as ‘another drunk Indian’.”

Traditionally, Indigenous women from Terry’s nation of the Takla Carrier People in northern British Columbia played an important role.

“In my culture, we had a matriarchal society,” he says. “The women were caretakers of our families and communities. Our men - we were protectors before contact [with settlers]. We have to take our role back as protectors. That was stripped of us by colonialism.

“We’re still dealing with social issues, mental health, abuse, and housing issues. Pile all this together and it’s no wonder our women are left vulnerable.”

Terry Teegee in his office in Lheidli T'enneh [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

He believes one solution to ending violence against Indigenous women and girls is for governments, institutions and industries to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

UNDRIP recognises the rights of Indigenous peoples and was ratified by the United Nations in 2007. Canada initially voted against the declaration but endorsed it in 2010. In 2016 Canada officially adopted UNDRIP and promised to fully implement it, which it has not yet done. Then in 2019, the British Columbia government passed legislation to implement UNDRIP provincially. However, it is still in the process of ensuring all British Columbia laws line up with the 46 articles of the declaration.

Indigenous rights - including the right to provide free, prior and informed consent to industrial projects such as pipelines - also need to be implemented for violence against Indigenous women and girls to stop, says Terry.

“Canada is based on extractive resources, it’s the commodity. But to have healthy people we need to have healthy lands too. With that we need to have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to industry. Industry needs to acknowledge not only do they work in Indigenous territories; these are Indigenous lands. Our women need to have safe spaces. There needs to be preventative intervention/programmes and understanding of Indigenous peoples for the workers coming in.”

'A warrior'

Mike Balczer, right, and Ken Strong, another member of the Crazy Indian Brotherhood, in Smithers, British Columbia [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]
Mike Balczer, right, and Ken Strong of the Crazy Indian Brotherhood [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Mike checks on Jessica’s mom every day.

She is still struggling with an addiction to alcohol and is living in a shack near downtown Smithers.

Last summer town officials bulldozed a homeless camp there, including Maureen’s tent where she kept a large framed photo of Jessica.

Mike demanded the town replace the photo frame and present it to Maureen. It did just that at an informal presentation in February where Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill gave a newly framed photo to Maureen in the lobby of the town office. Maureen quietly said “thank you” as she clutched it.

Meanwhile, Mike says he wants to keep Jessica’s memory alive - her love of Marilyn Monroe, makeup and her now three-year-old daughter Alayah.

“I’m going to have great stories about Jessica to tell her (Alayah). She’s the spitting image of her mother,” he says, biting his lip and choking back more tears.

“I’m a warrior and I’ll work to keep these streets safe for Jessica, and my granddaughter.”

Source: Al Jazeera