It’s been nearly 18 years since the Sept. 26, 2001, disappearance of 17-year-old Jesokah Adkens.
She was reported to have shared dinner with three friends that night and at about 9:30 p.m., left to walk alone to a nearby bus stop beside Saseenos elementary school, along the main road in Sooke.
She was never seen again.
It took three days before anyone reported Jesokah’s disappearance. That’s when her mother made the call to the RCMP.
The bus stop where Jesokah was last seen is gone now, moved to a different location, but an overgrown memorial to her disappearance still marks the spot.
That memorial sits untended, these days, but at least one of Jesokah’s friends remembers the petite blue-eyed teen and is convinced there are people in Sooke who know exactly what happened to her.
“They know … they know. That’s what makes me so mad. There are people in Sooke who know what happened and have never said anything,” said Tommi Johnston, who was close to Jesokah and often had her stay at her home.
That sentiment was echoed by a prominent Sooke resident who asked to remain anonymous.
“People have a pretty good idea of what happened and who knows all about it, but I’m afraid to give you any names or information. I can’t prove any of it, and, honestly, I’d be afraid that they would come after me,” they said. “Let’s just say there were some prominent people involved.”
At the time of the disappearance, the police issued statements and undertook what they described as an intensive ground, air and water search of the area. Sooke RCMP soon announced foul play could not be ruled out. The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit took over the investigation.
“As a parent and an investigator, I absolutely want to help the Adkens family get some answers as to what happened,” said Det. Kathleen Murphy of the major crime unit.
Murphy was handed the case two years ago and said that the investigation remains active.
“Jesokah Adkens was a normal 17 year old. She had lots of friends, a steady boyfriend, and attended high school. Jesokah moved in with one of her girlfriends in August 2001, but she had a good relationship with her parents and kept daily contact with them after she moved out,” wrote Murphy in a 2017 press release.
Johnston and her daughter Clara said statements like this fail to give the whole story on Jesokah, and while it may be designed to be sensitive to her family, it isn’t accurate. That failure, they say, may be hampering the investigation.
(The parents declined to be interviewed for this story).
“Don’t get me wrong, her parents loved her to death … they weren’t bad to her. But Jesokah left home when she was 14 or 15 because she wanted to be out with her friends and she liked to party,” said Clara Johnston who said she was Jesokah’s friend and at the time a part of a group of other young teens who liked to party.
Tommi Johnston’s assessment is more to the point.
“She (Jesokah) hung around with some of the worst people, all the bums. She’d sit under the trees and talk with them for hours,” Tommi said.
“There was a whole crew of them. They called themselves the Skids and they drank, did drugs, and were taken advantage of by older men who supplied them with alcohol and drugs.”
One of those individuals, who went by the nickname of No Nose, was a known drug dealer. Jesokah told Tommi Johnston that, even though she was no longer taking drugs, she still owed the man $80 for cocaine and that she was going to pay him off.
“He was a pretty terrible person,” Tommi said. No Nose died years ago in Alberta.
Asked about this and other uncorroborated information, RCMP Cpl. Christopher Manseau responded in a written statement.
“When investigating a missing person, victimology plays a large part in the investigation. We’ve worked to know Jesokah’s movements and history. As this remains an active ongoing investigation, we must remain mindful that any new releases and information are open to court scrutiny should this matter come to that resolution.”
But there are other curious aspects of the case.
“The police only looked for Jesokah for about five days before giving up, but me and a whole group of her friends kept up the search. People came from all over to help, and we kept it up for more than two years,” she explained.
She recalled one strange incident during that time involving a woman named Polly, who was unknown to Tommi but who involved herself in every search.
“I found out that it was Polly and her boyfriend and another man who had been with Jesokah the night she disappeared. She’d never told any of us that she even knew Jesokah and when I confronted her, she left the group and we never heard from her again.”
That account was corroborated by Tommi’s daughter, Clara, who recalled the situation as “really weird.”
A few other points to note.
• By all accounts, Jesokah had begun to turn her life around by the time of her disappearance. She was attending school and spoke often about entering a nursing program upon graduation.
• Jesokah received an online deposit of income assistance benefits on the day she disappeared. None of the cash was ever used.