A makeshift memorial with flowers and letters grows next to a Beltline office building in remembrance of a young Calgary woman who was killed by a stranger.
First responders found Vanessa Ladouceur, 31, unconscious and suffering from stab wounds on 10th Avenue SE around 6:40 am on March 18. She died from her injuries a short time later.
Ladouceur was half a block from her work when she was attacked, her family wrote in a statement to Postmedia.
“She fought for her life. Despite first responder efforts, she passed away at the scene as a security guard held her hand,” the statement reads.
“We are still in shock and can’t believe that she’s gone. She has left a huge void behind. Everybody who knew her expresses what a spark and a light she was in their life. She would always be there when someone had sorrow or sadness and would hold space for them. She never hesitated to support another person.”
Her family described Ladouceur as an “incredibly intelligent, ridiculously funny, joyful, loving” person. She was spiritual, loved nature and was training for her first half-Ironman this summer.
Ladouceur cared deeply for people experiencing homelessness in the city and knew some of them by name, her family wrote.
Last Thanksgiving, she spent the last of her money to buy one person a meal, socks and gloves. When the weather was cold, she would buy mitts to hang from branches along 17th Avenue for people who needed them.
Now, the family asks that Calgarians donate to a shelter or make a simple gesture by buying a coffee or a snack for someone in her memory.
“Vanessa was so genuinely kind and it would mean so much for her to see more such acts of kindness happening in the world.”
Michael John Adenyi, 26, is charged with first-degree murder. He appeared in court by telephone on Monday. His case resumes March 30.
Doug King, professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University, said most murder victims know their killer, making a stranger-motivated homicide “extraordinarily rare.”
“Most homicides are the result of crimes of passion, meaning that it typically involves things like anger, resentment, spur-of-the-moment hostility. With this kind of situation, we just don’t know,” King said.
According to Calgary police, the killing of Paul March, who was attacked in June 2021 after trying to intervene in a fight downtown, was categorized as random.
The death of Tlamquan Yang and the fatal stabbing of chef Christophe Herblin in 2020 were also considered random killings.
Police said there were no random homicides reported in 2019.
Ladouceur’s death will have a larger effect on the community, not only because of the tragic loss but the unpredictability and disconcerting nature of her death, he said.
“Her death has a bigger impact than the tragic loss of the young woman’s life. It has ripple effects throughout the community,” King said.
Police need to continue their investigation, but he said he believes officers should be doing more to reach out to people in the area of Ladouceur’s death. “The fear of crime, particularly among young women who are in and around the same vicinity, must be profound.”
Jagriti Dhingra said she thinks of Ladouceur every time she walks past the memorial. Dhingra lives meters from where Ladouceur was attacked, which is along the route she takes to get to the gym in the morning.
“Whenever we pass that particular spot, all the memories come back. It’s just so sad, I can’t even imagine what the family is going through,” Dhingra said. “She was only 31.”
That morning, Dhingra said she remembers looking down from her apartment balcony to see several police vehicles blocking off the street. When she went downstairs, she saw a shaker cup near where Ladouceur’s body had been found hours before.
“After this, we don’t want to walk anymore, especially to the gym. We usually take the car and try to park as close as possible.”
When asked what outreach work Calgary police have taken so far, CPS spokeswoman Lindsay Nykoluk did not give specific actions but said community resource officers are actively engaged with the Beltline community.
Anyone who has concerns is encouraged to reach out to the CROs by calling the District 1 office at 403-428-6100, Nykoluk said.
— With files from Bill Kaufmann