Dressed in ribbon skirts, and holding signs reading, “Justice for Billie,” and “No more MMIWG,” about 20 women held a rally outside of the Edmonton Law Courts Friday morning.
The group is demanding justice for Billie Johnson. The 30-year-old mother of two vanished Dec. 24, 2020. Her remains were discovered in April, north of Edmonton.
Kenneth Courtorielle, 35, has been charged with second degree murder in Johnson’s death. Court worker and family supporter Luci Johnson said the crown has indicated it’s considering downgrading the charge to manslaughter due to lack of evidence.
The group wants the accused to stand trial for murder and nothing less.
“We are not happy with the flow of the prosecution in how it has dealt with this manner, and there are things that need to be addressed,” Luci said.
Johnson started a petition outlining these concerns and plans to hand deliver it to Justice Minister Kaycee Madu.
“It’s important to give her a voice, she doesn’t have voice right now,” Luci said of Billie.
“We’re not going away. Whether or not you think we are being trouble makers, we are not. We are speaking up for our loved ones.”
Billie’s mom, Marless Johnson was at the rally. She was wearing a blue shirt with a picture of her daughter on it.
“My daughter had a great sense of humour. She was vibrant, she was spunky,” Marless said.
“She wasn’t something you just throw away.
“I’m overwhelmed, and I thank everyone for supporting me and coming out here. We need to make a change.”
Courtorielle has yet to enter a plea. In court Friday morning, no application to alter the charge was made. The case was adjourned until Nov. 12.
Searching for Billie
According to police, Courtorielle and Billie were known to each other, and family said the two were a couple that lived together in Edmonton.
Billie lived in Edmonton as an adult, but was from the Samson Cree First Nation — one of four reserves that make up the Maskwacis community in central Alberta, about an hour south of Edmonton.
Family said Billie was outspoken, free-spirited and always on the move, but was also glued to her social media and normally messaged family back right away. When her social media accounts fell silent over Christmas, her family members became concerned.
After what it called an “extensive investigation,” based on forensics, witness interviews and information about Billie herself, Edmonton police said investigators came to the conclusion she was dead in February.
Through February, March and April, friends, family and community members started to search for Billie’s remains almost every weekend. They dug through snow and searched in deep bush and grass, no matter how cold it was.
The initial search was focused on the outskirts of the city and on the Enoch Cree First Nation, which directly borders the western edge of Edmonton.
The family’s search was slowly expanding north of Edmonton, but they had not yet reached the area where police found Billie.
Police have never released where Billie’s remains were found, saying only it was “somewhere in Alberta.”