The parents of three murder victims have been a beacon of light for a man dealing with a devastating loss in his own life.
Ben Doyle, who was born and raised in New Westminster, became acquainted with Ray King, Rosalie Turcotte and Chris Simmonds after his childhood friend Angie Richards was murdered in June 1992.
“It really was important for me to find people that I could be inspired by. After Angie’s death, I was in a very troubled place,” Doyle says. “When I looked at them, I thought, ‘Wow, they are all still so nice. It’s incredible just how genuine and sweet and kind people they all are.' I found that remarkable given what they were going through.”
Born and raised in New West, Richards, 24, was killed by a neighbour, just a few weeks after moving into a Langley apartment near the helicopter flying school she was going to be attending.
Through that horrific experience, Doyle became involved in CAVEAT, a grassroots charitable organization that advocated on behalf of victims and their families. It was through CAVEAT that Doyle met folks who would inspire him, including: Simmonds, whose 19-year-old daughter Sian was shot and killed in her home in January 1993; Turcotte, whose19-year-old son Ken was beaten to death with a baseball bat and buried in a shallow grave near Mill Pond in Mission in October 1991; and Ray King, the father of 15-year-old New West resident Ray King Jr., who was murdered by a serial killer in July 1981.
Doyle, who would go on to become a director with CAVEAT, was compelled to pay tribute to the parents who inspired him to move forward with his life. The result is In Their Honour, a documentary that includes interviews with those parents and news footage connected to Richards’ murder.
"Sometimes, you have to go back to your past... in order to finally leave it behind,” says a synopsis of the film. “Their lives were uprooted after each of them – one mother and two fathers – suffered the shocking sudden death of their child, all three a victim of murder. Though the crimes occurred long ago, the impact resonated for decades. Still does. More than 25 years later, one man goes back to visit the parents of the three murder victims, people who inspired him to continue living, despite his own personal tragedy. Together, as part of a grassroots group of concerned citizens, they became highly active volunteer advocates for victims of violent crime.”
Doyle said the trio served as “beacons in a storm” at a time when he was dealing with a gamut of emotions after Richards’ murder. While they advocated for changes to the legal system to improve the rights of victims of crime, they also became a lifeline for each other.
“Our meetings, a lot of them felt more like grief therapy programs. It felt like a very effective therapy project at times,” Doyle recalls. “I know that they will tell you that it’s a club you don’t want other parents to join. But because they could all look at each other, and knew they were going through the same level of loss, that was helpful to them.”
In the documentary, Ray King says he was a “total mess” and was “drowning in a sea of drugs and alcohol” in the years after his son’s murder. Having sought support after additional details about his son’s death emerged years after the murder, he was told his file had been closed for many years and services were no longer available.
King’s life took a turn for the better after a chance encounter with Simmonds, who was stationed in a mall with CAVEAT to raise awareness about the organization’s efforts.
“Meeting him saved my life,” he says in the film. “Before him, no one else cared.”
Doyle was inspired to make the documentary after reconnecting with Simmonds, who formed a B.C. office of the Ontario-based advocacy group CAVEAT in the early 1990s. It has since ceased operations.
“I just found it so emotional to talk to him, and I started crying. I wasn’t upset; I was kind of just releasing things, emotions I had been carrying internally for a very long time,” Doyle recalls. “I literally woke up the next day and thought, 'I want to make a film.'”
Doyle’s goal was to pay tribute to the parents of the victims who inspired him, as well as the victims and others families and individuals featured in the film.
“They all became advocates for anti-violence and they tried to do good things to change the system,” he says. “I have always just totally respected and admired them for that.”
A cathartic experience
Making the film also turned out to be a healing process for Doyle, whose own life was devastated by Richards’ murder.
“It’s been cathartic," he tells the Record. "It’s been very important, actually; in fact, more so than I realized. I got that feeling as we were making the movie, that I am glad I get to tell sort of my angle on this too – why I know them, and in tribute to Angie."
Through filmmaking process, Doyle came to realize it was important to tell that story for his own healing.
"Because I have been in chaos for a long time. Frankly, I feel like in June of ’92 when she was murdered this crane came down and picked me and I’ve been hovering over my life ever since, not really back on the ground," he says. "But making the film has been really helpful. I feel like, it’s like the tagline says – sometimes you have to go back to your past in order to finally leave it behind. That’s really the essence of that for me.”
Doyle says he’s experienced losses of other loved ones, but it’s “totally different” losing someone to a violent murder.
“When it’s a deliberate act, it shatters all kinds of things in your mind about the way the world is and should be,” he says. “They were stolen in deliberate acts of extreme violence; that’s why it is entirely different.”
While some details about the murders are mentioned in In Their Honour, the killers are never named during the 93-minute film.
“That was intentional not to name them – because victims don’t get their due,” Doyle says. “There is too much attention on the killers. Just generally, that’s a view that I’ve held and others at CAVEAT have held.”
Doyle, who had no prior experience in filmmaking, initially partnered with a cinematographer on the project but they parted ways during the pandemic. Warren Prokopich and Barb Best, who graduated from New Westminster Secondary School with Doyle and Richards in 1986, produced the film along with Doyle, who was also the documentary’s writer, director and narrator.
Doyle hopes he’ll eventually be able to screen the film in the Lower Mainland, possibly New Westminster because of the city’s many connections to the film.
Because In Their Honour has been submitted to other film festivals, it’s unlikely to be publicly available until the fall, but the trailer is available for viewing.
“My goal was to finish the film. I knew not to have any expectations about being picked up by anyone. I know it’s a very tough subject, not a wide appeal, I would say,” Doyle says. “But that wasn’t the point; my point was I wanted to do it for the parents, I wanted to do it for me, in Angie’s honour. I wanted to do it for those reasons.”
In June, In Their Honour was shortlisted and screened in front of an audience at the Big Bear Film Summit in California. With a theme of A New Hope, the festival showcased stories of hope, survival, resilience, and courage.
In Their Honour was also selected as a special mention for the London International Monthly Film Festival in England and was named a finalist in Best Documentary Feature category of a festival in Athens, Greece.
“I hope that people think more about the victims than they do the killers, and that is aided by the way the film was shot. I hope it makes people realize that once a violent crime occurs, it certainly is just a beginning of the chaos and pain for the families,” Doyle says. “That is why we need to all do our best to not be violent, to not be anti-social, to not be angry in the world, and instead help one another, do good things, love one another and be kind. That is what I really hope people take from that.”