Through a grey, misty spring day a burst of vibrantly colored balloons float to the heavens as family and friends gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember Dontay Lucas, the six-year-old Hesquiaht and Ahousaht boy who succumbed to injuries at a family member’s home on March 22, 2018.
NTC Vice-President Mariah Charleson told the crowd that she knew Dontay and spent time with him at an event in Hesquiaht not long before he died. Known for his brilliant, happy smile, Charleson recalled being with him on the beach, entertaining him by turning over rocks so find hermit crabs.
“I remember his big smile as I turned each rock over,” she said. “What happened to little Dontay is he was murdered at the age of six years and there are still no answers four years later – the community can’t sit silent with no justice…Dontay’s life mattered.”
The tragedy unfolded at a townhouse in south Port Alberni on March 13, 2018. The following month Ha-Shilth-Sa reported that, at approximately 9:30 a.m. that morning, the RCMP responded to a report of a child in medical distress at a residence. The boy was transported to hospital, but sadly did not survive.
Police and the BC Coroner’s Service began an investigation that continued over the following two weeks.
“The child’s death is being treated as suspicious and the investigation is ongoing,” stated the Port Alberni RCMP in a news release on March 28, 2018.
The release noted that police believe there are people who have information regarding the death of the child, and ask for the public’s assistance as the investigation continues.
Citing a popular quote, that it takes a community to raise a child, Charleson said that many loved and cherished Dontay and that he deserved to be here today.
“We call for people to speak up. If you have information to share with RCMP please do so, the family deserves answers,” he said.
A group from Tseshaht, including Chief Councillor Ken Watts, were there to honor Dontay’s memory. They said he was part of their community and attended their school. Together, they sang a song of comfort for children as a portrait of Dontay’s smiling face was passed around so that people would not forget him.
Grandmother Judy Campbell, tears streaming down her face, said her grandson grew up loving culture. He would dance and join in the singing circle.
“He had dreams, he wanted to be fireman when he grew up,” she added.
Patrick Lucas thanked everyone for coming to support him that day. He said he learned a Hesquiaht prayer song after his son died. Raising his face to the sky, he sang the song for Dontay.
Lucas said he met with RCMP officers in December 2020, when he was told the case was almost solved. The last meeting with police was March 2021, when he was told he would have answers in four to six weeks.
“I really hope something gets done,” he told the crowd, adding that he won’t stop until justice is served.
After wiping his tears, the father released a shiny red firetruck balloon for his son as others in the crowd released colored balloons.
“If I could talk to him now, I’d say ‘I love you son, you mean everything to me and I’ll always be here for you’,” said Lucas.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Const. Carroll of the Port Alberni RCMP at 250-723-2424 or Alberni Valley Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477(TIPS).