SILVER CREEK - It was close to midnight on a rural, back country road last September when Jennifer’s driver realized where they were going — and he didn't want to go any farther.
He told her the escort he drove there a week earlier was so hysterical when she came back that he recorded what she told him. He played it there in the vehicle to help convince Jennifer, an escort in her early 40s, this date was a bad idea.
It was hard to make out everything the girl was saying, Jennifer says. But the words she understood stay with her to this day.
“She was saying (the client) brought up about girls that were missing in the area and he kind of chuckled when she said ‘oh, well, what do you know about that?’ and he said ‘I just know.’ That’s when she started freaking out, and then she noticed he had a gun beside him and that’s when she just got up and took off,” Jennifer told iNFOnews.ca on the condition her last name isn't used.
"I FELT BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE IT"
As they continued on to their destination on Salmon River Road, the man who hired Jennifer started to text more directions. She wasn’t to go to the address he previously provided, which led to a large, attractive house with a fence around it, Jennifer says. She was to leave the car and walk down a long, dirt road, past the house to a small bridge over a creek. Jennifer began to remember the location from a call the previous summer — the directions at that time had been so confusing that she and her driver actually left without getting out.
It wasn’t until several weeks later that she recognized the same location on the news. It was the area of a massive police search — by some accounts the largest in the Southern Interior — and the place where missing Vernon teen Traci Genereaux’s remains were found. No charges have been laid in connection with the 18-year-old's suspicious death, however 37-year-old Curtis Wayne Sagmoen, who lived at 2290 Salmon River Road, is in custody accused of threatening a sex trade worker with a gun in a separate case.
At the time, Jennifer didn’t know any of that. And she was still scared.
“Part of me was curious and wanting to know if this person was someone up to no good. I felt brave enough to be able to handle it,” Jennifer says. She’s been escorting for four years, and describes herself as street-wise.
The client — Jennifer can’t remember what name he gave her at the time — found her on the website backpage.ca and contacted her using the text messaging service Nextplus, an app that allows users to send messages without revealing their real phone number. He offered $600 for a few hours of “company.”
Jennifer almost turned around after hearing the recording. But she came all the way from Kamloops and figured if she kept her driver — a personal friend — with her the whole time, she’d be okay.
They walked about seven minutes down the long driveway, unable to see much of their surroundings in the dark. By the time they got to the bridge, Salmon River Road and any neighbouring houses were out of sight.
The driveway Jennifer was told to walk down is marked by the blue house. The red house indicates 2290 Salmon River Road, the property extensively searched by police. Click the icons to see photos of the locations.
A skinny man, about 5’7”, wearing a hat was waiting. He looked to be in his 40s, had sores on his face, and was in rough health. He appeared to be smoking meth, Jennifer says. She eventually recognized him in photos attached to news articles about the large police search on Salmon River Road, specifically describing a photo in which he appeared to be in a boat, smiling. He looked a lot healthier in the photo, she says, but believes it was the same man.
“We both got really weird vibes from the guy. He was noticeably very high and he was very concerned about me having my driver with me, and we just kind of made up that until there was an exchange of money or something, that he sticks with me,” Jennifer says.
He didn’t have the money on him. They had to go up to his house to get it, Jennifer says. He was acting strange, talking to himself and throwing things — Jennifer couldn’t see what — into the bushes by the creek.
They began to hike up a path that Jennifer describes as being too rough for a car, but passable by a truck. They walked for about 15 to 20 minutes. The man didn’t say much, although Jennifer nervously tried to make small talk.
Eventually, they turned down a walkway towards a ramshackle house. It looked “homemade” and there were rundown vehicles, campers and trailers around it. As they got closer, the man went off into the woods, acting like he had to go to the bathroom. They couldn’t see where he went.
“We walked up to the property where the house was, on our own. We were confused as to where he was and where we were,” Jennifer says. “We did try to start venturing in (the house) but then it got a little weird when another man came out from nowhere.”
The second man was in his 50s or 60s and Jennifer recalls that he had “crazy” hair. His shirt was wide open and his pants were falling down, she says.
On instinct, Jennifer took out the knife she was carrying.
“He kept coming at me… like walking towards me even though I had a knife in my hand and said ‘don’t come near me,’ and he still kept walking towards me and that’s when we decided to take off.”
She kept watch on one side of the path, and her driver kept watch on the other, as they retraced their steps and hurried back to the car.
“It was really, really freaky,” she says.
Once in the car, they locked the doors immediately and got out of there. They talked about what to do next. Should they call the police? They went home shaken, but didn’t report it, at least not for another month or so.
"IT MADE MY STOMACH TURN"
“I had told a friend ‘oh my god, this really weird call happened last night’ and said it felt like we were just… escaping from a serial killer. About three weeks later, my friend called me and said ‘Google this.’ And there was a picture of the same property that we were on…. It made my stomach turn.”
Police encased the 24-acre farm at 2290 Salmon River Road in police tape at the end of October and spent roughly three weeks poring over the property. A mobile command unit, tents, excavators and numerous officers worked the scene and found the remains of Traci Genereaux, a former sex trade worker.
Jennifer later told police what she experienced at the property, and hopes it helps in some way.
“I hope for the families, the loved ones, that something gets done,” she says.
The RCMP has not announced any arrests in relation to Genereaux’s death and has not drawn any links between the Sagmoen farm search and the ongoing investigations into four missing women cases in the North Okanagan and Shuswap.
On Oct. 14, shortly before police executed a search warrant at 2290 Salmon River Road, the RCMP issued a news release warning the public, and specifically sex trade workers, about an incident in that area. The investigation revealed that a meeting was arranged via a website used by escorts and sex trade workers, and when the woman arrived, the man allegedly produced a firearm and threatened her, police said at the time. She managed to flee unharmed. Sagmoen was arrested in connection with that incident and remains in custody.
Sagmoen’s charges include disguising face with intent to commit an offence, intentionally discharging a firearm while reckless, uttering threats, careless use or storage of a firearm and possessing weapon for a dangerous purpose dated Aug. 27. He’s also charged with possession of methamphetamine dated Sept. 5. No additional charges have been laid against him and the current allegations have not been proven in court. According to court documents, Sagmoen is scheduled to appear in Vernon court Feb. 19 for a bail hearing. He has elected to be tried in Supreme Court by a judge alone, pending a preliminary inquiry.
Silver Creek residents Steve Langenegger and Ted Eddes described the same driveway and bridge as Jennifer during an interview Oct. 27, 2017, in which they recounted unusual activity happening there, such as unfamiliar women and drivers coming and going at odd hours. They said one morning, a vehicle was found crashed on the bridge, the engine still running and a pink slipper cast on the ground. The other slipper was found further up the driveway. They found the car on the morning of Aug. 28, and both men remember noticing barefooted prints so deep and defined that you could see the imprint of toes digging into the earth, the steps wide apart, as if someone was running.
Jennifer often wonders what might have happened if she hadn’t followed her gut that night. In all her years as a working girl, she says she has never had such a bad feeling about a situation and believes she escaped with her life.
“If I didn’t take my driver with me or decided to be too gutsy, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here today,” she says.
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