Deborah Poitras vividly remembers the day that her family learned her cousin Pauline Brazeau had been killed.
Brazeau, a 16-year-old Metis mother from Saskatchewan, had relocated to Calgary with her infant daughter in the fall of 1975.
A few months later, on an early morning in January, 1976, she was seen leaving a Calgary restaurant. Her body was found hours later west of the city.
Brazeau’s death was determined to be a homicide and was one of many in the Calgary area during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
On Tuesday, Poitras was in a Calgary courtroom hoping to get a look at the man charged with the killing.
Ronald James Edwards of Sundre, Alta., was charged last week with non-capital murder, which was an offence in the Criminal Code at the time of Brazeau’s death. The 74-year-old did not appear in court and his case was put over to Nov. 21 in Cochrane, Alta.
Poitras said it was disappointing not to see the man. She was 14 when her cousin was killed.
“Her father was crying when I came in from school. He was often visiting my mother because they’re first cousins,” Poitras said outside court.
“I didn’t know what happened and I asked my mother, ‘Why is he crying? Why is he upset?’ And my mother would just tell me, ‘We’ll talk about it another time.”’
Police said the charge against Edwards came as a result of a partnership between the RCMP historical homicide unit and the Calgary Police Service cold case homicide unit.
Brazeau’s case was reopened in 2021 in an effort to reanalyze historical homicide investigations from the Calgary area dating back to the 1970s.
Alberta RCMP used genetic genealogy to help identify leads. In 2022, investigators sought the assistance of Othram Inc., a private lab in the United States. They then worked with two genealogists from Convergence Investigative Genetic Genealogy, which led to the arrest.
“I was just kind of shocked because it happened so long ago,” Poitras said of the arrest.
“Forty-seven years ago is a long time to not know anything. I just put it in my shoulder that they’ll never find the person and to know that this person’s still alive is even shocking.”
Poitras lives in Calgary and said she plans to attend all future court appearances “for Pauline’s sake, and the family as well.”
“Whatever she went through that night should not have happened to her. And at the same time being a Metis girl myself and knowing sometimes we’re very vulnerable, I just kind of wanted to pray for her and just be there for her.”