In and out of foster homes and school in Terrace, CJ Fowler was a "sweet kid" who relatives and teachers hoped would grow out of teenage troubles.
Instead, those who cared for the 16-year-old First Nations girl are dealing with grief and bitter knowledge she will never come back.
RCMP said Monday that CJ, whose body was found near Guerin Creek last week, had come to Kamloops on Dec. 1 to visit friends.
Staff Sgt. Grant Learned said she travelled here with a male friend and planned to return home last Wednesday.
"She had a bus ticket to return back to Terrace on the day that her body was found," he said.
Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, which could take several weeks, to determine what, if any, substances were in her system.
"She was a very sweet girl," said Gloria Hill, who was CJ's great aunt. "Every time she saw me she'd say "hello" in our language."
Hill lives in Kitwanga, distant from Terrace, but would see her great niece on visits and keep up through relatives. She said the young girl was in and out of care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. She lived with her mother at times.
She recalls the time CJ insisted on giving her a twoonie. When she kindly said no, the insistent teen walked over to a store and bought her a Coke.
She said, "'I spent it well, on you,'" Hill recalled.
But Hill also said CJ hung out with other people she and others knew were trouble.
"She was hanging out with the wrong crowd. No matter how strict you are, your own children will find someone to hang out with."
Learned said: "CJ was someone who could be characterized as a troubled youth who struggled with substance addiction."
One of her teachers at an alternative school in Terrace echoed Hill's sentiments, also calling her a "sweet kid."
Andy Ruygrok said CJ worked hard but was frustrated with her struggles in school, likely caused by fetal alcohol syndrome. Those struggles and her open and soft-spoken personality caused her teachers to worry about her vulnerability.
"That was always a fear. We wanted her to stay in school," Ruygrok said. "Unfortunately she got in with the wrong crowd."
The Kamloops RCMP's major crimes section has eight full-time investigators on the case, along with help from detachments in Prince George and Terrace. They are following up on 200 tasks based on tips from the public and their own investigation.
They have narrowed down the time of murder to between midnight and 8 a.m. on Dec. 5., and are asking anyone who saw anything in the Guerin Creek area during that time to come forward.
Police are also asking homeowners on Grandview Terrace and Dalgleish Drive with outdoor security surveillance video to get in touch.
© Kamloops Daily News