A matter of trust

Shannon Raymond died in 2008 after taking ecstasy, four years later her family is still coming to terms with her death

  • Mar. 16, 2012 9:00 a.m.
Julie and Danielle Raymond hold up a picture of Shannon at their home

Julie and Danielle Raymond hold up a picture of Shannon at their home

In the cul-de-sac where Shannon Raymond lived, you’ll see soccer balls placed in the windows of almost every home.

Nearly four years after her death, the little kids she played with and baby sat aren’t ready to forget her.

A year after she was gone, they scrawled in purple chalk “we miss you Shannon” on the road.

Several people have questioned why Shannon’s mother Julie and her big sister Danielle still live in the house and street with so many memories.

To them, though, the shadow box that holds her Westview high school soccer jersey, the bright pink scrap “Book of Me” near the fire place, her floppy teddy bear, her ashes mingled with those of her dad Chris and the countless photographs are deliberate mementos to keep her spirit alive.

It’s Julie and Danielle saying, emphatically, “I will retell your story,” “I think about you constantly.”

Just 16, Shannon died on July 26, 2008 after taking two ecstasy pills during a birthday party for her friend Nicole Gieb.

She made a trip to the mall with her mom in the morning to buy a pair of zebra-stripped sunglasses to match a red and black dress she’d picked to wear in the evening.

Julie knew Shannon was heading out to a party on a bus that night  – a travelling discotheque of sorts, popular with suburban teens, complete with plush seats, strobe lighting, mirrored ball and blaring dance music.

She gave Shannon permission to spend the night at her friend Ashley Dunn’s house – the one whose dad was a police officer.

“I trusted her and the people she was with,” says Julie.

Shannon had known most of her group of friends since Grade 8, she had been on a party bus before and, Julie thought, she had no money, after spending her last $6 on the sunglasses.

Shannon left her house early to get ready with friends at the Gieb residence before they boarded the bus.

Julie has learned the teens began drinking before boarding the bus. Shannon also popped a pill of ecstasy for the first time, a drug most of her friends had tried before.

By the time the party bus drove into Vancouver and back to Maple Ridge, Shannon would take a second pill.

Her clenched jaw, flailing and unsteady gait didn’t alarm anyone.

When the bus pulled outside the Gieb house after midnight, Shannon was throwing up.

Plied with water, almost five litres in the span of an hour, according to a coroner’s report, Shannon would be dead from hyponatremia – literally “low salt” or “water intoxication” – within six hours.

She was basically “over-hydrated.” The bottles of water she was made to guzzle has diluted the salts in her body to a dangerous level.

The symptoms she suffered in the six hours before an ambulance arrived included stupor, vomiting, muscle tremors, confusion, frequent urination and, as the electrolytes left her body, her brain began to swell.

Julie still blames herself for not hounding Shannon on her cell phone, like she usually did, that night. A widow, Julie describes herself as an “in-your-face” mom, the kind who’d track down her daughters if they were 10 minutes late.

She’s plagued by the what-ifs.

“What if I had called her?”

“What if I had called the Giebs?”

If she had known Shannon’s friends were going to drink on the bus, she would have never allowed her to go.

It was the sirens that woke Julie up that morning. A loud knock on the door got her out of bed. RCMP informed her that her youngest daughter “was deceased.”

Danielle remembers the doctor at Ridge Meadows Hospital crying as he told them that Shannon arrived at the hospital too late for him to save her.

It would take almost four months for the Raymonds to piece together what happened to Shannon that night. Each detail, every rumour, the medical reports, the list of toxins in her body – which included antihistamine, codeine and amphetamine – only made her death more difficult to accept.

Julie learned in court that Shannon never spent the night with her friend Ashley, but instead ended up at the house of Victoria Turley, whose son Spencer was one of the teens who gave her ecstasy.

Shannon screamed as she slowly died. Her bizarre behaviour included incontinence and trying to tear off her dress, the court heard.

At least five adults, who were at Turley’s house, checked on Shannon throughout the night.

It would take a year, but Turley eventually faced one count of failure to provide the necessities of life in connection with the death of Shannon – a charge laid under a rarely used section of the Canadian Criminal Code.

Almost four years after Shannon’s death, the Raymonds would face, in court, the teens and adults who were there the night she died.

Some of the teens painted Shannon as a girl who was partying hard that summer – a characterization, Julie says, doesn’t jive with an athletic girl who was up early every weekend to play soccer.

In court, they heard repeatedly how most of the adults thought she was drunk, that the vomiting, seizures, screams and incontinence never set off red flags for anyone.

Two weeks ago, Justice Sunny Stromberg-Stein ruled that Turley’s actions weren’t criminal.

“[They were] not a marked departure from what a prudent person would do,” said Stromberg-Stein.

To Julie and Danielle, the ruling brings no closure.

Julie has accepted her role in Shannon’s death, but would still like to hear from the teens and the adults who were present that night, the people she still bumps into around Maple Ridge.

Why was it so hard to pick up the phone to call 911?

“I know I would,” says Julie. “I know Shannon would have for her friends.”

Seven years older than Shannon, Danielle, the more studious of the pair, can rattle off medical terms like a seasoned physician.

“Robbed” is how she sums up her feelings. Shannon was the little sister she had wished for every birthday and Christmas until she was born.

She got to name her. She got to be the big sis for 16 “short” years. She was the one full of helpful advice.

Danielle is determined not to let Shannon’s death be in vain. The Raymonds intend to pursue legislation around party buses and educate teens about the dangers of ecstasy, constantly urging them to err on the side of caution by seeking medical help when someone shows even the slightest signs of distress.

Danielle wanted to grow old with Shannon, to cheer at her graduation, have her as a bridesmaids, be an aunt to her children and babysit them, one day.

“Now, all I get to do is miss her.”