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After Her Sister’s Brutal Murder, She Became A Voice For Missing Indigenous Women
Delilah Saunders' sister, Loretta, was strangled and discarded in a sack by Blake Leggette and Victoria Henneberry over about $500; she turned her horror into strength, however.
After her pregnant sister, Loretta, was brutally murdered by her subtenants in February 2014, Delilah Saunders, a 27-year-old Inuk woman from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador, Canada, has become a fierce advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
At the time of her death, Loretta Saunders, 26, was in her final year at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and three months pregnant, as told on “Killer Couples” on Oxygen. She was working on an honors thesis about the disproportionate murder rates among Indigenous Canadian women and girls when her subtenants, Blake Leggette and Victoria Henneberry, viciously attacked her — strangling her and dumping her body in the woods, according to the CBC, a Canadian news outlet.
Loretta, being fair-skinned, was initially identified as white by investigators. According to her mother, Miriam, this made a difference in the way they treated her family.
“When they said she was a white woman, I would call to the investigators and they would answer to me and I would talk personally to the investigators,” Miriam told the CBC. “And after, when they started calling her Inuk, I had to start swearing and everything to get answers. After that, I started talking to this go-between.”
The Halifax Police Department released a statement saying it is standard practice for families to speak through a liaison officer — or “go-between” — in homicide cases, according to the CBC.
These investigations hit Delilah particularly hard.
“Loretta was my best friend, she was my other half,” Delilah told the CBC. “We didn’t hide anything from each other.”
Although Delilah struggled with alcohol abuse in the wake of the tragedy, over the coming months, that first wave of despair quickly turned to inspiration, according to the CBC.
In September 2014, just seven months after the loss of her sister, Delilah started a blog, A Homicide Survivor’s Journey Through Grief. In her first post, she stated that she had given up alcohol, and began to tell the story of her sister’s death. Delilah’s blog went on to explore a variety of issues surrounding the murder and abduction of Indigenous women and girls.
“To take a proactive approach to my own healing, I have since taken on the titles of author, advocate, and activist to carry my sister’s legacy forward and raise awareness,” the site mission statement reads.
Delilah has thrown herself into the world of social activism. In April 2015, she got in touch with the production crew of the documentary “Highway of Tears,” which investigated the murders and disappearances of 18 women — most of them Indigenous — along a single stretch of highway in British Columbia, according to the CBC. Delilah helped promote screenings of the film around her Halifax community, and the proceeds went to the Loretta Saunders Community Scholarship Fund in honor of her sister.
“Highway of Tears” began screening in Halifax the same day Loretta’s killers, Leggette and Henneberry, went on trial for murder, according to the CBC.
They both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life in prison, according to the Canadian Press. Henneberry will be eligible for parole 10 years into her sentencing, while Leggette will be eligible 25 years into his.
Delilah and her family were the first to testify at the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Women and Girls, in October 2017, according to the CBC. Shortly after that, Delilah began sharing her experiences at talks in secondary schools around Ontario, according to the CBC.
Recently, Delilah has also helped lead protests against a hydroelectric project that endangers Indigenous livelihoods, according to Canadian TV outlet APTN News. She received Amnesty International’s most prestigious global honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, in 2017, according to Amnesty International.
For more information on the murder of Loretta Saunders, watch the latest episode of “Killer Couples” on Oxygen.com. Watch new episodes Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.