LOWER WOLFVILLE, N.S. - Flowers, love and a smile that could light up a room — these are what come to mind for sisters Leah and Lacey Conrad when they think of their mother, Leslie Conrad.
They see bits of her in themselves — Leslie’s nurturing in Leah, and her sensitivity in Lacey —and remember her fondly. The memories of moments are all they have left of their mother, who was killed in 2006.
Leslie Conrad was murdered, and her body found by chance six weeks after she went missing. Her case remains unsolved after 12 years, and her daughters are still looking for answers.
“We know there is someone out there with answers, and we need everyone to know that this is still very much an open investigation, and remains unsolved,” says Leah.
‘She’s not coming back’
Leslie Conrad was 45 when she was reported missing Oct. 5, 2006. Lacey and Leah last saw their mother Oct. 4, 2006 – just before Thanksgiving. Leslie’s body was found Nov. 22, 2006 in a shallow grave on a woodlot owned by the sisters’ grandparents near Melanson Road in Lower Wolfville.
The grave was found by a hunter, who Leah and Lacey say they are still “so grateful” for, as he brought them the only real sense of closure they’ve felt since the murder. But both agree no real closure will be felt so long as their mother’s murder remains unsolved.
Both describe how they’ve moved forward with their lives, and that while the feeling of missing Leslie never goes away, it’s a hurt that has numbed somewhat over the past decade.
“She’s not coming back — we fully understand that — but at this point, it’s how do we get to that next step,” says Leah
They say it’s not about finding peace for them and siblings Nadea and Kenny, but rather justice for their mother, and for the loss they’ve felt since she was taken from them.
“There was a woman whose life was taken from her. Her life was taken from every single person she touched — all of her family and friends. She’s gone, and somebody did that to her,”
‘She had the biggest heart’
Tears well up in Lacey’s eyes but she manages a laugh as she recalls gardening with her mother as a child.
“I remember gardening with her — she always had the most beautiful flowers — and spending hours out there weeding, and planting. That was always really fun to do,” she says.
Leah remembers a mother who loved fiercely and who was so good at sheltering her children that they never noticed anything bad was happening.
“I think she did a really good job of keeping us safe and protected from things that we didn’t know were going on. Looking back now, there are so many times that it clicks now, that it happened,” she says.
Both agree they’ve yet to meet someone more kind, or more loving, than their mother.
“She was the sweetest woman. If she smiled, like, the room would light up — she just had the biggest heart. If you needed a hug, she would be there. Every phone call we would end with ‘I love you,’” says Lacey.
They also recall Leslie’s fierce independence and know she’s instilled it in them as well. It’s what has kept them going since her passing, and why they push forward with resilience and grit to find happiness in their lives.
“She wouldn’t have wanted us to be sad. It’s just the person that she was — she would have wanted us to live to the fullest,” says Lacey.
‘She gets to continue living’
The two women say it is still hard to talk about their mother, but that they do it anyway because it’s the best way to honour her memory.
“By saying Leslie’s name, and talking about her, she gets to continue living. At times it is hard for us to do, but I don’t want people to forget her,” says Leah.
Some of their fondest memories since losing their mother have been the moments shared with them from those who knew Leslie — moments they’d have otherwise never heard of.
“There’s little people in our lives, and things that they do, and it would be great if she was there to see those things, and see where we are now,” says Lacey.
“It’s not fair that we’ve had to live without her all of this time.”
Leah hopes that talking about Leslie not only keeps her memory alive, but encourages people who knew her to keep searching for any small piece of information that could lead to a break in her case.
“We can’t hold on to 12 years ago. ...It’s now just about seeing this through, that final step,” she says.
‘Not too late to do the right thing’
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke confirmed the investigation into Leslie Conrad’s murder remains ongoing, and that it is still “on the mind of police.”
Results from the RCMP investigation determined that Leslie died as a result of foul play. Despite the investigation’s extensive nature, no criminal charges have ever been laid in connection with her death.
The police force says officers from the RCMP Southwest Nova Scotia Major Crimes Unit continue working toward solving the case.
“The last time we appealed to the public for information about Leslie's murder, some individuals did come forward with information," says Const. Dayle Burris in a release.
"We're hoping that there is still someone out there who can help us, and Leslie's family, to bring some closure to this incident."
As the investigation remains open, Leah and Lacey say they’ll continue advocating on their mother’s behalf in the hopes that one day her case will be solved, and someone will be held accountable for her murder and put to rest their “ongoing nightmare.”
Both encourage anyone with any bit of information, no matter how small, to come forward.
“I think it’s important to remind people that it’s never too late — it’s still not too late to do the right thing in this situation,” says Leah.
The case has also been added to the Rewards for Major Unsolved Crimes list, which offers rewards of up to $150,000 for information on unsolved cases that leads to a conviction.
“It’s not about peace, or closure — I see it more as justice for the life that she lived, and the life we had with her,” says Lacey.
Anyone with information on the murder of Leslie Conrad should contact the RCMP Kings County District (902-679-5555), or RCMP Southwest Nova Major Crimes. People with information can also contact Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers (1-800-222-8477), or the Nova Scotia Rewards for Major Unsolved Crimes Program at 1-888-710-9090.