Murder still unsolved | Mayerthorpe Freelancer


Almost nine years after her murder, the family of Jolene Cote say the traumatic event still overshadows their lives.

What makes it even harder, is that her killer has never been caught.

“The fact her killer is out there just living his life and meanwhile her family is serving a life sentence, is very hard,” said her mother Dorothy Commandeur in an interview with the Whitecourt Star last week.

Jolene’s body was found on Oct. 13, 2011 outside her rural property near Spruce Grove. Her husband reported he found his wife’s body at 6:05 a.m. The last time Jolene was seen alive was the night before at a soccer game she played in at the Edmonton West Soccer Centre.

The mother of two stopped at a Walmart on her way home at 10:40 p.m. The last image of her alive is from the store’s security camera.

Commandeur received the devastating call that her daughter had died but it wasn’t until the next day – which was Commandeur’s 60th birthday – that RCMP officers informed the family that 36-year-old Jolene had been murdered.

RCMP have never revealed Jolene’s cause of death but have said the crime was not a random act of violence and not a crime interrupted. It was a targeted crime. RCMP were unable to provide a statement before the Star’s press deadline. Read next week’s issue for an update from the RCMP.

For Commandeur, she doesn’t put much of her focus on the killer.

“Of course we desperately need justice but it isn’t something I dwell on,” she said. “To me, this whole thing is more about tragically losing Jolene and her children losing their mother. Her children and their well-being have been my focus since the day this happened.

“I know that’s how Jolene would want it.”

Jolene’s two young children were four and six-years-old at the time of her death. Now at the age of 13 and 15, Commandeur says she does whatever she can to help the children preserve their mother’s memory.

This October will mark the ninth year since Jolene’s passing. Commandeur said she hopes the murder will be solved before the tenth anniversary.

“It really, really complicates everything in your life because it’s like never ending,” said Commandeur.

“It’s really hard because sometimes it feels I feel like I need to get out there and do something but I have to be realistic. There isn’t anything I can do to find out who murdered my daughter,” she said. “I have to let the police do their job and have faith that one day the person who murdered Jolene will be held accountable.

“There isn’t a day that Jolene and the circumstances around her death aren’t on my mind. Life will never be the same for any of us. Jolene’s killer robbed her children of the deep love of their mother. They were her world.”

Jolene’s murder case is still an active investigation. The family is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case. The family is considering increasing the reward amount.

Jolene’s younger sister, Trina Pfannmuller, said it has been hard to wait all these years for the case to be solved. In the meantime, whenever possible she sheds light on the situation, hoping somewhere, someone will come forward with information.

“The timeline isn’t as important as making sure it happens,” said Pfannmuller, who is two years younger than Jolene. “I want justice.”

Even with an arrest and jail sentence, Pfannmuller said it will never take away the pain.

That dark day in October when she heard a knock on her door, Pfannmuller thought it was Jolene coming to drop off her daughter before work. But then Pfannmuller looked at the clock and realized it was too early.

She opened the door to two RCMP officers standing there. Her first thought was that there was an incident with her 16-year-old son. The look on their faces, however, said different. When they told her Jolene was dead, she collapsed to the floor.

“I couldn’t comprehend it,” she said. The RCMP had Jolene’s children in the car to leave them with her while the investigation at their home continued.

Even though that day is hard to recall, Pfannmuller wants to tell the story so that her sister’s memory stays alive and her killer is caught.

“It’s a really helpless feeling so it feels like if I keep it on people’s minds I’m doing something.”

If Pfannmuller has had even the smallest interaction with people and they send her a Facebook request, she accepts it. Pfannmuller shares many posts about her sister on her social media accounts. Many people have connected with her that way and have sent her leads. None of them have panned out but one day it could.

“What if that was something? What if that was the one thing?” she said.

Social media is also a great way to hear stories about her sister. When people talk or share stories about Jolene, Pfannmuller said it makes her “really, really happy.”

“It means the world to me,” she said.

Commandeur agrees.

“There’s nothing better than hearing people talk about your child,” said Commandeur, who lives in Edmonton. “It warms my heart when they share their memories of Jolene.”

Talking is what helped Commandeur get through her darkest times. Talking with friends, talking with family and talking at the support group she is a part of for victims of homicide.

“Murder is just a horrible, horrible way for your child to die, at the hands of another person who ended her life,” said Commandeur, who also leans on her faith to heal.

Talking about it and keeping the story in people’s minds might just be the reason Jolene’s murder is solved one day.

“I hope that bringing it out in the public eye, somebody might think of something,” said Commandeur.  “We miss her terribly.”

Pfannmuller said she never want’s her sister’s memory to go away and while there is little she or her family can do to solve the case, talking about it is better than nothing.

“I feel like somebody has to know something,” said Pfannmuller. “Until we get justice, it’s not done.”

If anyone has information about Jolene’s murder call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or a local RCMP detachment. Tips can also be submitted online at crimestoppers.ab.ca.

 

WHO WAS JOLENE COTE?

Jolene was Whitecourt’s New Year’s baby in 1975.

“She had a sweet personality from the start,” said her mother. “She never cried as long as you fed her and changed her.”

Jolene was Commandeur’s second oldest of four daughters. When Jolene was around three years old, the family moved to the Mayerthorpe area. Jolene attended school in Mayerthorpe until Grade 9 and it was as she went into Grade 10 that her mother and sisters moved to Edmonton, where she graduated high school.

“She knew she was going to be a teacher her whole life,” said Commandeur.

And that’s exactly what Jolene became. While in university, Jolene spent her summers in Quebec to learn French. She loved languages and wanted to submerse herself in the French language. She lived in Quebec for a year after graduating university with her teaching certificate.

After that year, Jolene moved back to Alberta and landed a teaching job in Westlock. She was just 21 years old.

“When she was substitute teaching, there were times when she was told to leave the staff room because students weren’t allowed in there,” laughed Commandeur.

After a year in Westlock, Jolene landed a job in Mayerthorpe where she taught for the next 10 years. She also met her husband and had two children. The couple bought an acreage near Spruce Grove and as they were building their dream home, they stayed in Commandeur’s basement suite. The couple had only moved into their new home a few months before Jolene’s murder.

At the time of her death, Jolene was a teacher at Greystone Centennial Middle School in Spruce Grove.

“I absolutely loved watching her interact with her students. I never once heard her complain about her job,” said Commandeur.

Cote was very athletic. She went to Korea to play handball, loved soccer and coached various sports while a teacher. She even started a girls golf club in Mayerthorpe, which garnered her provincial and federal wards.

Jolene was the one who planned everything, said Commandeur. The day before her death, Jolene was planning birthday celebrations for her mother.

Pfannmuller said she and Jolene were very close. As a young single mother, Pfannmuller could rely on Jolene to babysit and help out with her son. On Mother’s Day, Jolene always made sure Pfannmuller had gifts from her son.

“She was really, really thoughtful. To everybody honestly,” said Pfannmuller.

If there could be anything positive to come out of her sister’s death, Pfannmuller said it has given her a new perspective on life, to be grateful for what she has and to value every moment.

“She lived to the fullest. She made every moment of her life count,” said Pfannmuller.

While family gatherings can be happy times again, they are inevitably chased with the reality that Jolene wasn’t there and won’t be coming back. Pfannmuller said she tries to not let the missing void that was her sister ruin her life. If she did, Jolene would be devasted, she said.

“She wasn’t able to finish her life and I am so I better take every opportunity I have and live it to the fullest,” she said.

Pfannmuller, who has social anxiety, even found the strength to coach her children’s sports teams, which was a move completely inspired by her sister.



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