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Victims' families hold vigil as Robert Pickton becomes eligible to apply for day parole

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There were haunting scenes in Port Coquitlam Wednesday evening, as family and friends of women victimized by serial killer Robert Pickton held a vigil in their memory, at the site of the former pig farm.

The vigil was held a day before Pickton became eligible to apply for day parole.

Some came to remember their sisters, cousins, aunts, or daughters – the families united by a shared trauma.

“I’ve been living in hell,” said Michele Pineault, whose daughter Stephanie Lane’s DNA was found on the Pickton farm. “It’s been horrible. I always say that I am living in a Stephen King novel. It’s been hell.”

Others came to honour relatives they never got the chance to fully know.

The pain passed down a generation.

“It’s really hurt my dad a lot,” said 17-year-old Lily Louis-Irving, whose aunt’s DNA was found at the farm. “Sherry (Irving) is his sister. And for me, I don’t really know her, but I really, really wanted to know her growing up. It’s really affected me on how I miss hearing the stories from my dad and my uncle.”

They came to the farm to remember – but also to make a point – on the eve of the day Pickton can apply for parole.

“Pickton should not walk on this earth,” Pineault told reporters before the vigil began. “He doesn’t deserve to take one step out of where he is. He needs to stay where he is until he dies.”

But even with that ability to apply for day parole as of Feb. 22, those in the legal field stress the bar will be high given Pickton’s crimes.

“I don’t think they’re going to make a decision very lightly, and certainly not without considering the very deep impact that this crime or these crimes have had on the community and victims’ families,” said Sarah Leamon, a criminal lawyer in Vancouver.

The Parole Board of Canada confirmed with CTV News Vancouver Thursday morning that no hearing was scheduled so far for Pickton, reiterating "offenders need to apply to obtain a day parole review."

The families at the vigil also called for a pause on the RCMP’s plan to destroy evidence related to the case. 

“We know that this is incredibly sensitive issue for the families,” said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth when asked about the issue. “We want to make sure that everything is done properly and that their concerns need to be taken on any decision that’s made on this.”

Pickton was convicted in six of the murders, receiving the maximum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

He was charged in 20 other murders – and DNA evidence linked additional missing women to the Pickton farm – but authorities said Pickton would not face another trial, citing the lack of provisions under Canadian law for consecutive life sentences.

While the BC RCMP said it has preserved all evidence and cannot keep it indefinitely, for families who never experienced a conviction linked directly to their loved ones’ deaths, the feeling of injustice lingers.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel 

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