Mother of Okanagan murder victim shares daughter’s story after alleged sexual assault

Mother of murder victim shares daughter’s story after alleged sexual assault
An Okanagan mother says her daughter reported a sexual assault as a teen, but after it was dismissed by police, she turned to the wrong place for help. Jules Knox reports.

The mother of a murdered Okanagan woman says RCMP officers failed to take her daughter’s sexual assault allegations seriously, and she believes that it eventually led to her murder.

Around 2001, Carol Neville learned that her teen daughter Theresa Neville had allegedly been raped when she was just eight years old.

But when the family took Theresa to the police, Carol said RCMP interrogated her then-teenaged daughter alone for at least four hours.

READ MORE: ‘It’s appalling’: Women’s advocates outraged Kelowna RCMP dismissed nearly 40% of sex assault complaints last year

“At the end of it, they made my daughter write a confession paper saying that, ‘No, this rape did not happen’,” Carol said.

However, Carol is convinced the sexual assault did take place. She said she was shocked that police not only dismissed the case as unfounded but also made Theresa write her own confession.

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“She was such a mess when we left the RCMP office,” Carol said. “She slammed the door, she looked at my husband and I, and she said, ‘They made me do it. He did it. They made me do this’.”

“The trauma that they put her through is totally unacceptable.”

READ MORE: Kelowna RCMP officer suspended for allegedly sexting assault victim

That’s when Theresa started to close up, turning to a different man for support, Carol said.

“I felt that she had nowhere to turn, so she even turned more strongly to this Jay,” she said.

While it’s not clear how Theresa met Jay Thomson, her mother said he was like a counselor to her.

According to court documents, at the time Theresa and Thomson met, he was a 45-year-old man working in close quarters with the vulnerable teen.

Thomson got Theresa pregnant twice while she was still a teenager.

Theresa’s family didn’t approve of the relationship.

“No words could describe it, and life just got worse,” Carol said. “And now I have no daughter.”

In June 2013, Theresa was stabbed at least 35 times in the living room of her home by Thomson. Their children were downstairs.

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More than five years after the killing, Thomson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 10 years.

READ MORE: Kelowna man pleads guilty to 2013 murder of Theresa Neville

However, Carol believes he should have also been charged with the sexual exploitation of a minor.

“I’m still waiting for those charges. He’s got murder, yes. But when he gets out on the street again, he needs to be on the (sex) offender list. He needs to be a marked man,” she said.

“If they don’t start bringing charges forward like they should, there will be others.”

The executive director for the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society said when sexual assault victims aren’t believed, especially young ones, shame and self-blame can take hold.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Michelle Novakowski, executive director for the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society. “I have no words. There’s nothing you can say to her mom, to her family about how horrible this is and the grief around losing her daughter. It makes us angry when the system lets us down.”

RCMP declined comment for the story.

READ MORE: Renewed call for clues in murder of Kelowna mother cold case

As for Carol, she’s now raising Theresa’s daughters.

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“They’re precious, and they’re doing well, but it has not been an easy street,” Carol said. “I mean they get up at night still: ‘I need my mom. I need my mom.”

She said Christmas can be tough, and triggers can be hidden.

“We have a Christmas decoration that I thought was just an innocent thing,” she said, pointing to a snowman with red and blue flashing lights. “They went into a huge tizzy because that reminds them of the night their mother was murdered.”