A Quesnel man has been charged in the murder of missing 33-year-old Carmelita Abraham, say police.
Joseph Simpson, 51, of Quesnel, has been charged with one count each of murder and indignity to human remains.
Family had reported to police they last spoke with Carmelita around Dec. 27 or Dec. 28 and she usually called her mother every day.
According to court documents, the crime occurred in Quesnel on Dec. 28, 2021.
Police remained at a crime scene over the weekend at the Willow Inn, located at 856 Front Street in Quesnel. Police tape surrounded the property, which rents rooms by the day, week or month.
Takla First Nation Chief John French confirmed members of Carmelita’s family will travel to Quesnel this week to perform a ceremony at the property where Carmelita’s body was discovered.
“Family will meet at the Willow Inn Quesnel where the body was located, on Thursday, Jan. 20, for grief and letting the spirit go smudge ceremony,” French said.
The search for Carmelita began for police Jan. 4 when the Williams Lake RCMP first received a missing persons report. Her family, however, had been putting out requests for any leads into her disappearance in the days prior on social media, as Carmelita kept in close contact with family.
Though police did not indicate any breaks in the case publicly, on Jan. 10 investigators from the BC RCMP-North District Major Crime Unit quietly arrived in Quesnel and took control of the investigation with assistance from the Quesnel and Williams Lake RCMP, Cariboo Crime Reduction Unit, the North District General Investigation Section and Forensic Identification Sections.
RCMP issued a statement Saturday, Jan 15, confirming they had located Carmelita and charged Simpson.
“Based on the totality of the information, the investigation turned from a missing persons investigation into a suspected homicide. The investigation continued to develop and on January 13, 51-year-old Quesnel resident, Joseph Simpson, was arrested.”
Simpson has been held in custody pending a future court date of Feb 15. Police said Simpson and Carmelita knew one another, but did not elaborate on their relationship.
Chief French and Regional Chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Terry Teegee thanked everyone who shared missing posters and helped. “Prayers with all the family, friends and the community of Takla as we go through this sad time,” French wrote.
Carmelita had been living at the Slumber Lodge motel in Williams Lake in recent months and was last heard from getting a ride to Quesnel.
“Why would anybody do that to her?” asked Slumber Lodge resident Karen Vareschi, through tears.
The horror of what happened to her neighbour was clearly still impacting Vareschi, days after hearing the news that Carmelita had been found and a Quesnel man arrested.
Carmelita lived a few doors down from Vareschi, where she had moved a few months previously with her husband, who then subsequently passed away. Vareschi said Carmelita had so missed her husband she would carry his ashes with her.
Carmelita would stop by often to chat once they got to know each other, and was protective of Vareschi, telling others to respect Vareschi as an elder.
“I miss her … she really cared about me.”
Carmelita had admired Vareschi’s collection of dolls and some of her stamps when she would sit and visit, which Vareschi said the young woman would do regularly, but it had taken a bit for Vareschi to recognize Carmelita in her different outfits. Carmelita was known to like to dress up and change her appearance using wigs and makeup, so that at first Vareschi thought her neighbour was different people coming and going.
“She was a chameleon,” said Vareschi admiringly, of the way the younger woman would transform herself regularly.
“I liked her, she was unique.”
“She was a person and she was sincere,” said Vareschi, struggling to find the words to express her distress for Carmelita, who was both a mother and a daughter who still talked to her own mother every day.
In the days before her disappearance, Carmelita brought Vareschi food and warned her to stay in, her last words to Vareschi were a warning, ‘Don’t open the door.’
A raffle of a one-of-a-kind ribbon skirt goes until Thursday, Jan. 20 to raise funds to honour Carmelita and assist with her final arrangements and support her young daughter now left behind.
It is the second time Gladys Michell and Shelly Samuels have collaborated to create something to support a missing and murdered Indigenous woman.
“Shelly does the designs and Gladys has the contact that prints out the designs. Their first collaboration was purses and with a raffle they raised over $8,000 for Shaylana Brown-Lewis’s family in Haida Gwaii. She has been missing since March 21, 2020,” said Tara William, who is organizing the raffle.
William said Michell was making the ribbon skirt and heard about Carmelita’s disappearance and reached out to Samuels to see if she could use her design.
“She was going to send it to Shelly to potentially raffle it and then they decided together to do it in honour of Carmelita and help the family financially with everything that is happening.”
William did not know Carmelita but said she is familiar with her community of Takla First Nation.
“Shelly and Gladys said they know it is a sensitive issue and topic and they wanted to make sure that it was known their hearts are with the family and friends and communities that are feeling the loss of Carmelita,” William said.
“And continued prayers for the families that still don’t have answers of the whereabouts of their missing loved ones.”
Within 24 hours of launching the raffle on Facebook Monday it had raised more than $1,500.
To purchase a ticket which are $20 each, interested people can email email@example.com.