The last time friends and family heard from Alberta resident, 40-year-old Ericka Saunders, was back in March 2022.
Last week, while looking for a missing person in the area of Simpson Avenue and Baseline Road in Bowmanville, officers came across human remains. An autopsy was performed, and the victim was identified as Saunders.
Now, friends, family and loved ones of Saunders are desperate for answers.
“The last time anyone heard anything from her was March this year,” said Kane Blacque, a close friend of Saunders.
“Our biggest thing right now at this point in the investigation is to find out what led her to the Bowmanville area and the wooded area in Bowmanville,” said Sgt. Joanne Bortoluss with Durham Regional Police.
Durham Regional Police said at this point in the investigation, they are calling the incident non-suspicious. “There’s nothing that shows a criminal element to her death,” said Sgt. Bortoluss. “Which puts us in the category as deeming it as not suspicious, however that can change as the investigation moves forward.”
While police have deemed her death as not suspicious, family and friends of Saunders back home in Alberta believe there is more to the story.
“We don’t know any information,” said her sister-in-law Jennifer Saunders, as her and Saunder’s dad, Elwood Saunders, spoke with Global News over a virtual call from their home in Fort McMurray, where Saunders was born.
“Did she have a wallet? Did she have a cellphone? Because for it to be stated that there was no suspicious activity, it just seemed strange to me that someone that has a fear of spiders and bugs and everything would just go wander off into the wilderness by themselves. That makes zero sense to me,” said Eastwood.
Her family said having these unanswered questions has been difficult. “I was expecting something, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t expecting this,” said Saunder’s father, Elwood. “Because that’s not the nature of Ericka, of what happened. As simple as that.”
Described as outgoing, bubbly, a good person and a good friend, her father said she would always reach out and check in no matter where she was. The worry kicked in when she didn’t. “But when she went to Toronto, it seemed like all contact was gone,” he said.
Family and friends said Saunders had a history of struggling with addiction, but always surrounded herself with people. “Anybody who knew Ericka as well as I did or her parents did knew that Ericka was always in a relationship,” said Blacque. “Always. Whether she was clean or not clean. She would have been in a relationship.”
Blacque is hoping someone from Ontario is able to recognize her and help answer questions. “If she was in Ontario, she would have had someone looking out for her and with her. Ericka is also not a woodsy type of person,” said Blacque, on why he remains puzzled as to why she was found alone in the woods.
Ericka leaves behind a 10-year-old daughter who currently lives with her father in Alberta. However, Ericka was known to travel the areas of Kelowna, Penticton, Edmonton, and Toronto.
The investigation is ongoing, and Durham Regional Police are urging the public to come forward if they have any new information, recognize Ericka, or saw anything in the days, weeks, or months leading up to her discovery.
“I need to know what happened to her,” said Blacque. “I’m sure her parents desperately want to know what happened. We miss her, we love her, we just want her to come back.”