Pickton’s Piggy Palace and the Green River Hogs

Growing up, my summers were spent in rural Georgia. Some of my earliest memories are those of my cousins and me being told to go out and, “slop the hogs.” Yes this chore was just as fun as it sounds. Slopping the hogs can be best defined as taking buckets of leftover food from the prior day’s meals and pouring them into the feeding trough out in the pig pen.

My grandparents made what can be called a “modest,” living at best, from farming. I could never imagine the term multi-millionaire being used to describe someone in this line of work. To my surprise I came across Robert Pickton. Robert Pickton was actually a multi-millionaire pig farmer in Port Coquitlam, a city in British Columbia, Canada. He and his brother David owned a family run operation in the area. The multi-millions came not so much from pig farming operations; they actually neglected that end of the business. It was the land itself that netted the Pickton’s millions. The farmland, purchased for $18,000 by Leonard Pickton and his wife, Helen Louise, in 1963, was worth $300,000 in 1993. By 1994 it was valued at $7.2 million. In the fall of 1994, they sold a part of their farm for $1.7 million to Eternal Holdings, a townhouse development company. That same year the city of Port Coquitlam also bought a chunk of their land, for $1.2 million, and turned it into a park. In 1995, Port Coquitlam’s school district bought a piece of the pig farm for $2.3 million, and built Blakeburn Elementary School on the site.

In 1995, soon after the Pickton’s financial windfall, area residents noticed that women began to come up missing. David Pickton took his earnings and moved up the road and begun a non-profit organization, the Piggy Palace Good Times Society. The organization would sponsor parties and social gatherings for other organizations throughout the area. The regular clientele were those that partook in the seedier side of life. Bikers, drug dealers and users and prostitutes comprised the palace’s day to day crowd. David Pickton’s organization became so popular that attendance would regularly top 2000 guests. At times the guests would stop by Richard’s converted slaughterhouse to visit, buy meat etc. Farm employee, Bill Hiscox began to notice that some guests of the farm, particularly women; had begun to come up missing. Hiscox reported his suspicions to the authorities and on February 6, 2002, police executed a search warrant for illegal firearms at the property. While in custody authorities issued a second search warrant as part of the ongoing investigation of the missing women. The following day Robert Pickton was charged with various charges included possessing and storing firearms without a license. He was later released and was kept under police surveillance.

Unbeknownst to Pickton, the police had discovered key clues concerning the disappearance of area women during the search of his property. Vancouver police had uncovered several personal items belonging to missing women such as identification cards, prescription medicine etc. On February 22, Pickton was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson. On April 2, three more charges were added for the murders of Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock and Heather Bottomley. A sixth charge for the murder of Andrea Joesbury was laid on April 9, followed shortly by a seventh for Brenda Wolfe. On September 20, four more charges were added for the slayings of Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark and Jennifer Furminger. Four more charges for the murders of Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall were laid on October 3, bringing the total to fifteen, making the investigation the largest of any serial killer in Canadian history. On May 26, 2005, 12 more charges were laid against him for the killings of Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Debra Lynne Jones, Marnie Frey, Tiffany Drew, Kerry Koski, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Wendy Crawford, Diana Melnick, and Jane Doe (unidentified woman) bringing the total number of first-degree murder charges to 27.

During a preliminary inquiry held in 2003, investigators found that long before the murders began, Robert Pickton was involved in an attempted murder of a sex worker in 1997. Prostitute, Wendy Lynn Eistetter testified at the inquiry that after he had driven her to the Port Coquitlam farm and had sex with her, Pickton slapped a handcuff on her left hand and stabbed her in the abdomen. During the melee that ensued, Eistetter stabbed Pickton in self-defense. Later, both she and Pickton were treated at the same hospital, where staff used a key they found in Pickton’s pocket to remove the handcuffs from the woman’s wrist. Ironically, the attempted murder charge was stayed by the Canadian courts citing the Wendy Lynn was a known drug addict. Prosecution deemed her testimony was too unstable to hinge their case upon.  Also during the inquiry it was discovered that the police had received several tips concerning the disappearance of women. Vancouver police detective constable Lori Shenher received a tip in 1998 stating that Pickton should be investigated in the case of the disappearances. Another call in 1999 informed Canadian police that Pickton had a freezer filled with human flesh on his farm. Investigators interviewed Pickton, even received permission to search his property; however police never actually made the search.

Pickton’s trial began on January 30, 2006 in New Westminster presided by Justice James Williams. Pickton pled not guilty to 27 charges of first-degree murder in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The voir dire phase of the trial took most of the year to determine what evidence might be admitted before the jury. On March 2, one of the 27 counts was rejected by Justice James Williams for lack of evidence.

On August 9, Justice Williams severed the charges, splitting them into one group of six counts and another group of twenty counts. The trial proceeded on the group of six counts. The remaining 20 counts could have been heard in a separate trial, but ultimately were stayed on August 4, 2010.Because of the publication ban, full details of the decision are not publicly available; but the judge has explained that trying all 26 charges at once would put an unreasonable burden on the jury, as the trial could last up to two years, and have an increased chance for a mistrial. The judge also added that the six counts he chose had “materially different” evidence from the other 20.

Though initially set to start January 8, 2007, Pickton faced first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Frey, Abotsway, Papin, Joesbury, Wolfe and Wilson on January 22. On that date, the media ban that was put in place at the beginning of the trial was lifted and for the first time Canadians as well as the rest of the world would hear the gruesome details of what was found during the search of the Pickton property.

The jury and court would hear testimony from investigators that found skulls cut in half with hands and feet stuffed inside. The remains of another victim were stuffed in a garbage bag in the bottom of a trash can and her blood-stained clothing was found in the trailer in which Pickton lived. Part of one victim’s jawbone and teeth were found in the ground beside the slaughterhouse, and a .22 caliber revolver with an attached dildo containing both his and a victim’s DNA was in his laundry room. In a videotaped recording played for the jury, Pickton claimed to have attached the dildo to his weapon as a makeshift silencer. A loaded .22 revolver with a big, spiky black, Hindu made dildo over the barrel and one round fired, boxes of .357 Magnum handgun ammunition, night-vision goggles, two pairs of faux fur-lined handcuffs, a syringe with three milliliters of blue liquid inside, and “Spanish fly” aphrodisiac.

More incriminating videotapes were found, a tape of Pickton’s friend Scott Chubb saying Pickton had told him a good way to kill a female heroin addict was to inject her with windshield-washer fluid. A second tape was played for Pickton, in which an associate named Andrew Bellwood said Pickton mentioned killing prostitutes by handcuffing and strangling them, then bleeding and gutting them before feeding them to pigs. Yes feeding them to the pigs!

The horror of what was found on the farms; the dismembered corpses, the feet, teeth, bones, the wood chipper, and the freezers paled in comparison to the thoughts of the area residents. I will explain. Robert Pickton supplied meat to a great many in the immediate and not so immediate area. Piggy’s Palace sported a reputation of serving a very raunchy crowd. Biker’s, prostitutes and drug addicts comprised the primary customer base. However, most of the residents of the area had patronized Piggy’s Palace at one point or another.  Two mayors, several city council members, local business and civic leaders, ice hockey moms, high school and elementary school students–they all came for functions, dances, concerts and other recreations at Piggy’s Palace. To be brief, he bought the pigs, fattened them, and sold the meat to friends, or roasted them for the bikers, prostitutes, mayors, and Little Leaguers who partied at Piggy’s Palace. The entire city of Port Coquitlam (pop. 53,000), it seemed, was feeding on pigs that had been fed by the suspected serial killer Robert Pickton. Thousands of people had been to the palace and had enjoyed some roasted pork, pork from Robert Pickton’s farm. Let me help you here; Pickton kills victims, Pickton feeds victims to pigs, people eat pigs; therefore people eat victims.

The unusable remains of the pigs Robert slaughtered and served to his friends and neighbors–pig entrails, brains, bones, nerve tissue, and gore–were taken by truck to a rendering plant. Many are certain that the partial remains of the murdered sex workers were also hauled in those trucks. The plant turns animal bones, guts, fish, blood, pig entrails, used restaurant grease, and, now many believe, the remains of sex workers into a number of consumer products, like lipstick base, soaps, shampoos, and perfumes. These commodities that improve human appearance are shipped all over the world. The fact is that we may all have bathed in the remains of victims.

Women began disappearing from Vancouver in the 1980’s. At approximately the same time women began disappearing from the streets of Seattle and Sea Tac, WA. In both cases the women were known to be sex workers, drug addicted and or homeless; the type of people described in my book, The Darker Side of Evil, as throw away people. One difference in the two cases is that the women that were vanishing from the streets of Seattle and surrounding areas were being found; at least the remains of the victims were turning up. The remains of many of the missing Seattle women resurfaced in the wild areas around the airport, beside the freeways, and, most infamously, along the banks of the Green River. In Vancouver the victims just seemed to disappear. It is assumed that this is the reason that Vancouver authorities appeared to approach their missing persons’ issues in a seemingly lackadaisical manner. Without any evidence of a crime being committed there was simply no reason to assume that these women had been victims of any type of crime. In stark contrast, it was obvious that the women of Seattle and Sea Tac had been murdered and frightened communities demanded action. It was that call to action that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the monster known as The Green River Killer.

As stated earlier Justice James Williams decided to split the counts against Pickton citing undue stress being placed upon jurors. On December 9, 2007 the jury returned with a verdict that Pickton is not guilty on 6 counts of first-degree murder, but is guilty on 6 counts of second-degree murder. On December 11, 2007 Justice Williams read 18 impact statements from victim’s families; he then sentenced Robert Pickton to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years; the maximum punishment for second-degree murder and equal to the sentence which would have been imposed for a first-degree murder conviction. Also noted earlier was the fact that the decision to try Pickton for the other 20 murders was set aside. Prosecution had taken into account the fact that any additional convictions could not result in any increase to the sentence that Mr. Pickton has already received. Despite numerous appeals, Robert Pickton’s sentence was upheld.

Robert Pickton was accused of the murder of 27 women, however in a conversation between him and an undercover police officer posing as his cellmate Pickton confessed to the murder of 49 women. He went on to tell the officer that he had planned to kill 50 women then stop and that the only reason he was caught was due to getting, “sloppy.” The scary part about this is that it may be true. Initial attempts to have Robert Pickton investigated were all but ignored by authorities. Had a proper investigation been performed when he was accused of the attempted murder of Wendy Lynn Eistetter was committed a great many lives may have been saved. Not only was that not the case, the charges against Pickton was dropped thereby giving him an even greater air of invincibility.

How many Robert Picktons are in the world today? Every major city on this continent has its area known as, “skid row”; urine scented blocks littered with bloodstains, crack vials and dirty condoms.  Within these areas sexual predators stalk their prey. Each day, prostitutes are beaten, raped, robbed, tied up, held down, doused, burned and not to mention….murdered. Most of these incidents never make the local news unless the media, our gateway to the world; choses to notify the public of such occurrences. Unfortunately, by then, it is usually too late for a great many victims and their families. How do we solve these problems? I have never been a fan of the Jerry Springer program but I think he sums it up at the end of each show. As he closes out each taping he looks at the camera as says these simple words, “Let’s take care of ourselves and each other.”  Let’s try that for starters.