Shari Greer is a woman who is too familiar with grief. For helping others cope with the death of their loved ones, she was honoured by the group Canadian Parents of Murdered Children and Survivors of Homicide on Thursday.
Greer is the mother of Kathryn-Mary Herbert, an 11-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered while walking to her home on Ross Road in Abbotsford in 1975. The case was never solved. It has been high-profile over the years, and highlighted in many cold case media reports and documentaries.
Less well-known is that Greer lost two other children – her son Donnie drowned in a gravel pit near the Abbotsford airport a year before Kathryn-Mary was taken. Her son William, or Butch, died by suicide. He had feelings of guilt for not driving his sister home the night she was abducted, and felt he failed her by not solving her murder.
Christopher Ducharme, founder of the B.C. Victims of Homicide, presented Greer with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award, on behalf of the Canadian Parents group.
She was nominated for the award by a retired police officer who worked on Kathryn-Mary’s case. He became familiar with her cause – justice for her daughter, and creating a safe and supportive environment for anyone who is bereaved by the loss of a loved one.
His nomination says she displayed limitless courage in challenging the police to pursue the 1975 murder investigation and hold them accountable.
Greer has tried to keep the investigation ongoing.
It is considered a cold case, with police needing new evidence to move it forward. Early this year, Greer was at a press conference to announce a $10,000 reward for new evidence leading to a suspect. For the bereaved mother, the case is still in the forefront of her thoughts, and she is frustrated with investigators.
“One inspector said, ‘This case will never be solved.’ If that’s their attitude, are they working on it?”
She has also hosted grief support retreats for the last decade at her home in Chilliwack.
Ducharme said these retreats show Greer’s understanding of the unique suffering of people who lose a loved one to homicide.
“When people speak out about their story, sharing and talking, that is the most healing process.”
Greer helps people share their suffering.
“I am available to anyone,” she said. “I try. I don’t have all the answers.”
Greer explained that her summer grief retreats see people camp on her property beside the Chilliwack River, or stay in a hotel. Last year she had 15 visitors, but in the past there have been over 100.
“Everyone knows they can come and talk about their loss and longing and aching, and not worry about someone turning away or trying to shut them down.”
She said many people will tell bereaved friends and family members to put their loss in their past, and get on with life.
She said the family of homicide victims can find that impossible.
“There’s no such thing as closure – closure does not exist. But over the years, you develop coping skills,” she said. “You never let go of it.”
There are also good times over the weekend retreats, Greer noted.
Ducharme said the award was to “commend her for her support for other families that are bereaved.”
He found Greer very emotional in receiving the Queen’s award.
“She was very appreciative and humbled.”
Cold Case Timeline
- On Sept. 24, 1975, Kathryn-Mary went to the home of her friend, Corrie Premack, at 2089 Peardonville Rd., and stayed for a spaghetti dinner.
- Corrie and her sister Connie walked Kathryn-Mary home, accompanied by Bradley McCullough. At the junction of Townline and Peardonville, the sisters turned back. Bradley doubled Kathryn-Mary on his bike to the corner of Townline and Marshall, and then left her to walk approximately 300 metres to her house at 31215 King Rd.
- A couple driving past saw the pair talking, and as they continued they saw a parked older-model white vehicle with a lone male occupant. They took notice of the car, because there had been gas thefts in the neighbourhood. It was parked on the route between Kathryn-Mary’s last known location and her home.
- Kathryn-Mary never made it home, and at 10:52 p.m. her mother reported her missing to police.
- Two months later her body was discovered under a pile of old plywood and boards on Matsqui First Nations land.
- An autopsy revealed she had been killed by a skull fracture, and she also had a broken jaw.
- The case was linked to similar cases – the 1976 murder of 15-year-old Theresa Hildebrandt of Abbotsford, and the 1978 death of Monica Jack in Merritt.
- Police had a person of interest in the case – a convicted sex offender who did jail time both before and after the murder of Kathryn-Mary. He dated a girl who had been living with the Herberts, had visited the house, and knew Kathryn-Mary. He was circumstantially linked to the murders of Hildebrant and Jack.
- In August 1996, at the urging of Kathryn-Mary’s mother, the body was exhumed for a more detailed autopsy, using more modern forensic methods.
- In the early 1990s, files for the case went missing, including two letters that were sent to Kathryn-Mary in the early 1980s, after her death, and which had been submitted for handwriting analysis.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-877-543-4822 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.