Marless Johnson walked north of Edmonton along Highway 28 on Thursday, holding tightly on to a picture of her daughter Billie Johnson. The destination is Highway 803 near Morinville, Alta., where Billie’s remains were discovered one year ago.
“I never thought I would lose my child like this,” Marless said.
“It was almost four months to the day she went missing and then she was found.”
Billie Johnson disappeared December 24, 2020. Community members began to search for her early 2021, digging through snow and walking through bush in the bitter cold.
The man accused in her death, Kenneth Courtorielle, is awaiting trial.
A marker is now at the site where Billie’s body was found.
Marless gave a speech and wiped away tears as she spoke about her daughter on Thursday.
“She was beautiful. She was sunshine. She could make you laugh at the drop of a hat,” Marless said.
“She was crazy — she was like me, almost.”
The walk is about more than grief. Marless wants to honour other families going through similar situations.
She invited Leanne Firingstoney to join the walk. Firingstoney’s daughter Chantelle was found dead November 2020. Ryan Jake Applegarth is awaiting trial in relation to Chantelle’s death.
“It’s difficult trying to cope with it, because they are never coming back,” Firingstoney said.
“I was honoured to be asked to be here and I had a lot of mixed emotions, as a mother losing a child.”
Marless hopes to help others by starting a foundation in Billie’s name, by using her Cree name which translates to “Southern Wind.”
“While we were walking today, the southern wind was blowing at us, while we were going north.”
“The foundation is to help with issues I am facing and take initiative to help them to take initiative of their murder or missing loved ones.”