A 35-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the disappearance of a 30-year-old woman who police say is presumed dead.
Billie Johnson was reporting missing on Dec. 28, 2020. Edmonton police say she was last seen the evening of Dec. 24 in the area of 113 Street and 107 Avenue. At the time, police said Johnson’s disappearance was out of character and considered suspicious.
In early January, police put out a plea for information about a pickup truck and its driver, whom they described as a person of interest in connection with the investigation.
On Wednesday afternoon, the EPS said Kenneth Courtorielle was arrested in St. Albert on Tuesday. Police confirmed the man arrested and charged is the person of interest they were searching for in relation to Johnson’s disappearance.
“As the investigation continued, he became a suspect, leading to his arrest,” a spokesperson with the EPS said Wednesday.
Courtorielle is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Johnson. Police said Courtorielle and Johnson were known to each other.
“Courtorielle has been a person of interest since the beginning of this investigation,” Staff Sgt. Colin Leathem with the EPS Homicide Section said in a news release.
“Following an extensive investigation, Homicide Section has compiled overwhelming evidence based on forensics, witness interviews and information about Billie herself — including how engaged and connected to others she was, and how very out of character her disappearance was — to conclude that she is, unfortunately, deceased.”
Johnson’s body has not been found. Police are asking rural landowners in the Edmonton area to check their properties and contact police immediately at 780-423-4567 if they notice anything suspicious.
Johnson’s cousin told Global News that Johnson was a mother to an 11-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.
“Her daughter will never know how beautiful her mother was. Her daughter will never know how amazing her mother was. Her son is just devastated… it’s just heartbreaking… (I’ll) try my hardest to not cry right now,” Verlynn Larocque said.
Larocque said that the accused was her cousin’s boyfriend and that Johnson lived with him in Edmonton.
“I don’t even have words to describe what we’ve all been going through,” she said. “It still is a roller-coaster because she is still not found.”
Larocque said family, friends and the general community had banded together ever since Johnson disappeared in an effort to get to the bottom of what happened to her. She said their efforts included forming search parties with the assistance of the Bear Clan in which they scoured parts of Edmonton and the Enoch Cree Nation.
She said there may be another search effort in the near future to try to find her cousin’s body.
“We want her back,” Larocque said. “We just want to lay her to rest. She deserves to be with family… I have no words.”
Larocque described her cousin as an outspoken and free-spirited person who she referred to as a “tumbleweed” because she was always on the move. Despite that, Larocque said Johnson was glued to her social media and always messaged family back right away, which is why family members became concerned over Christmas when her social media accounts fell silent.
“We all had hope,” Larocque said. “We all didn’t know what to think.”
She described Johnson as “vibrant, outgoing, fun.”
“She lived her own life. She was her own person,” Larocque said. “She was loved deeply.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody… (for) everybody’s help, the way everybody came together.”
Anonymous information can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.