Three generations of females were wiped out in a single Prince Rupert fire, 21 years ago. Police believed the fire to be an arson and on this anniversary, they are calling for anyone who knows anything to finally come forward and close this case of family tragedy.
Four died altogether, including a mother (Helga Rochon, 45), her two daughters (Sherri Rochon, 26 and Pauline Rochon, 19) and a granddaughter (Kimberly Dumais, seven months old). They were all inside the Brooks Bank Building in Prince Rupert the night it burned - Feb. 5, 1990 - and none survived.
"Helga Rochon lived in the third floor apartment suite located at 153 3rd Avenue West in Prince Rupert, British Columbia," said RCMP Sgt. Rob Vermeulen. "The single mother worked as a waitress at the local caf in the Crest Hotel. She was known as a happy and very friendly woman, who was personable and well liked by her regular customers. She was also known as a supportive woman, especially to her kids and new grandchild."
The building where she lived contained businesses on the main floor and apartments on the second and third floors. On the night of February 5, 1990, Helga was hosting her two daughters and one granddaughter for an overnight visit.
What the investigation has revealed:
- About three months earlier on October 31, 1989, at approximately 2:45 a.m. the Prince Rupert Fire Department attended an apartment fire in the same Brooks Bank Building. That incident was determined to be arson.
- At approximately 5:15 a.m. on February 5th, 1990, the Prince Rupert Fire Department was called again to a fire in the Brooks Bank Building. When crews arrived the building was fully involved and firefighting efforts focused on putting out the blaze while minimizing the spread of the flames. It took crews hours to put out the blaze and when investigators examined the damage, the bodies of the four victims were discovered.
Staff Sgt. Garry Kerr, the original lead investigator at the time of the incident, remembers very clearly, to this day, the moment they discovered the victims.
"I still think about the moment, "said Kerr. "The scene was horrific. I can still see them huddled together in the living room area, the small child still in her mother's arms. I can't imagine the horror they went through."
Kerr says that the investigation was launched and it was soon determined that the fire had been deliberately set.
Do you know something?
Despite neighbourhood canvasses, numerous interviews and following up on a number of leads the investigation did not lead to charges.
The investigation was reviewed by the North District Major Crime Unit and taken on by the Provincial Historical Homicide unit in 2009.
"Police have not ruled out that the victims were targeted," said Vermeulen. "While investigators accept that some time has passed since these women and child were killed in 1990, they still believe that there are individuals out there that have information that will allow us to move forward on these cases. These are complex files, and while the cases are progressing thanks to old fashioned police work and the latest advances in technology, there is still information out there from people who may have seen or heard something suspicious. Did someone act suspicious around the time of the fatal fire? Was something said about Helga or her children? Was anyone seen leaving the scene of the fire? These are all questions investigators want to answer."
The father of seven-month-old Kimberly Dumais, Tim, never got to see his beautiful daughter grow up. He and other surviving family members and friends want the individual responsible to be brought to justice before another anniversary comes and goes.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit at 1-877-543-4822 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS / www.pgcrimestopper.pg.ca.