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Authors: Colleen Lewis,Jennifer Hicks

Mr. Big

Mr. Big

________________________________________

The Investigation into the Deaths

of Karen and Krista Hart

Colleen Lewis

and Jennifer Hicks

Flanker Press Limited

St. John's

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Lewis, Colleen, 1971-, author

Mr. Big : the investigation into the deaths of Karen and Krista Hart

/ Colleen Lewis and Jennifer Hicks.

Issued in print and electronic formats.

ISBN 978-1-77117-431-2 (paperback).--ISBN 978-1-77117-432-9 (html).--

ISBN 978-1-77117-433-6 (kindle).--ISBN 978-1-77117-434-3 (pdf)

1. Undercover operations--Newfoundland and Labrador. 2. Hart,

Nelson--Trials, litigation, etc. 3. Filicide--Newfoundland and Labrador.

4. Hicks, Jennifer, 1974-. 5. Abused women--Newfoundland and

Labrador--Biography. I. Hicks, Jennifer, 1974-, author II. Title.

HV8080.U5L49 2015 363.2'32 C2015-905577-6

C2015-905578-4

—————————————————————————————————————— ————————————

© 2015 by Colleen Lewis and Jennifer Hicks

all rights reserved.
No part of the work covered by the copyright hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means—graphic, electronic or mechanical—without the written permission of the publisher. Any request for photocopying, recording, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems of any part of this book shall be directed to Access Copyright, The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, 1 Yonge Street, Suite 800, Toronto, ON M5E 1E5. This applies to classroom use as well.

Printed in Canada

Cover Design by Graham Blair

Flanker Press Ltd.

PO Box 2522, Station C

St. John's, NL

Canada

Telephone: (709) 739-4477
Fax: (709) 739-4420
Toll-free: 1-866-739-4420

www.flankerpress.com

We acknowledge the [financial] support of the Government of Canada.
Nous reconnaissons l'appui [financier] du gouvernement du Canada.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L'an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l'art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation for our publishing activities.

Dedicated to the memory

of Karen and Krista Hart

These are the events according to Jennifer Hicks,

as written by Colleen Lewis.

1

The little dark-haired fourteen-year-old is looking forward to getting home this afternoon. Her father is there, waiting. And when her homework is completed, the pair will set out on an adventure that will keep them busy to nearly midnight.

Jennifer Hicks is the youngest of four daughters. Her mother, Gertrude, is the breadwinner of the family. She is a home care worker who works night shifts.

Her father, Cyril, can no longer work. He was once a cook and fisherman who would leave his outport home and head to the offshore—sometimes for six months at a time. His livelihood came to an end when Jennifer was barely more than a toddler. A piece of the ship's rigging slammed into his leg, and the damage would leave him disabled for a lifetime. But his youngest daughter treasures his time at home. Especially on days like this. Today there's no pain, no swelling in that old leg, and he's ready for an evening out with his daughter.

Though only a teenager, Jennifer and her sisters have been women from a young age. Each day, she cleans and cares for their household, as their mother works to provide a modest income. And there were times the workload was even heavier. Jennifer's aging and ill grandparents also lived with them for a while. Her grandmother battling advanced diabetes, while her grandfather faced the cancer that would eventually take his life.

The only time there weren't chores was Sunday. Their family was like many in the outports on the island, when it came to matters of faith. On the Sabbath Day, there was no work. She remembers how even the vegetables for Sunday dinner had to be peeled the night before. In the morning, her mother would dress up in her Salvation Army uniform, while Jennifer and her father would stay at home to prepare dinner.

Oh what a pleasure those Sunday mornings used to be. With the vegetables boiling, Dad would pour up two cups of the broth. He'd carry them to the table along with a couple of thick slices of homemade bread. He and Jennifer would laugh and talk about the week gone by as they soaked up the broth with the bread. The dishes would wait until Monday.

But at the moment, she puts all her chores and concerns to one side. She writes as fast as her hand can travel across the page, and her homework is a necessary chore she wants to put behind her quickly.

Today Dad is feeling his usual fun self, and he's getting ready to make his way up Hicks Hill to do what they love best—visiting friends.

“I'm finished,” yells Jennifer.

Her father gathers up his coat, and the two head up over the hill for a night of socializing. They know every one of the families who live in the little white houses along the lane. In fact, they are all related in some way or another. In every house, food is eagerly offered up by the hosts, and in return, Cyril Hicks offers up his brand of storytelling, of long days at sea and the adventures he once faced. In the kitchen of each home, Jennifer sits close to her dad and enjoys the sweets that are offered up. All the while, she listens ever so carefully to the cheerful and wonderful stories her dad shares. And she enjoys the appreciation shown by his audience, even though many of the stories have been heard before.

It will be midnight before these two make their way back down over the hill.

It's one of the good times, one of the positive memories Jennifer has of growing up in a community where not all the memories were so bright. Life wasn't always so easy and her family has faced many private struggles.

But through the struggles of daily life, one thing remained clear to a young Jennifer Hicks.

A father's love was the most valuable gift a daughter could ever know.

2

It had been a long school year, and a long winter, for Jennifer. Here on the edge of the ocean, the bitter northeasterly winds had kept spring out of reach for the past two months. Finally, mid-June was bringing the first of the summer-like temperatures.

Today was one of the first where the students could walk to class without wearing a jacket.

Jennifer, at nearly sixteen years old, is so proud to be able to wear her new spring blouse. Of course, it's perfectly matched with the rest of her outfit. As always, her hair was styled with precision so each glossy ringlet was perfectly aligned with the next.

Jennifer quietly placed her pencil upon her desk, satisfied with the answers she had calculated. It looked as though she was the first of the class to finish the final exam in grade nine math, and that was fine with her. For the next half-hour, she could relax and feel the sun beaming through the classroom window. All the while, she dreamed of the summer ahead.

She had already established a list of families around the harbour who relied upon her for babysitting services, and she had proven her reputation as an excellent house cleaner as well. So finding work and money to pay for some summer fun would not be an issue.

Jennifer's best friend is her older sister Susan. Rarely would either of them be seen around the harbour without the other. The girls loved to hitchhike, and come the summer, that's exactly what they planned to do. They would work by day, and when they weren't making money, they would hitchhike their way to the neighbouring communities. Two attractive young women who, together, were enjoying a vibrant teenaged life.

“Okay,” said the math teacher out of the silence, startling the daydreaming girl. “Turn in your papers on the way out the door, folks.”

Even as she realized this school year was about to end, Jennifer knew in her heart that she wouldn't be returning to school in the fall.

3

Jennifer's hand shook from exhaustion as she squeezed the tea bag against the side of the cup. It's 6:00 a.m. and her day is about to begin despite only having four hours sleep. She's as tired as a new mother. In fact, many mothers would never know the kind of struggle she faces in caring for her three nieces—two with special needs.

Last night, she and her sister Susan had arrived home with the kids at around eleven o'clock. For the past week, they had been 400 kilometres away in St. John's at the province's only children's hospital. Susan, now twenty-one, has three children. The oldest is five. The toddlers both have cerebral palsy, and Susan is studying business administration at the local community college.

Susan is already in the shower on this morning, and Jennifer doesn't mind preparing breakfast. The rare peace and quiet of early mornings are celebrated with toast and tea. It's a chance for the sisters to have moments like those of their childhood, when their parents were still married. Today, however, their family and their parents, have moved in separate directions. All except Jennifer and Susan.

Jennifer hears the water shut off in the washroom as she sips her tea. When the sisters moved to Gander, they were both accepted in the business administration program at the local college. But Jennifer was happier doing what she loved best. And what she loved was the feeling of caring for those in need. Especially her sister and her beautiful nieces.

Susan came out of the washroom, dressed and ready to face the day. She sat at the table, and they ate quietly in the blue light of the morning. It was twenty below outside on this day in January, and neither woman had slept enough to recover from the past week or last night's drive.

“Jennifer, the girls have a follow-up appointment with Dr. McDonald today,” said Susan. “Would you mind?”

“Of course not,” said Jennifer.

“I'll get the girls' stroller ready for you. Are you sure you can handle Olivia as well?” Susan asked. “If there was a way I could take today off class, you know I would. I've just missed the past week because of the hospital stay, and I don't know how many more missed days my instructor will tolerate.”

“It's not a problem, Susan, you don't have a thing to worry about,” said Jennifer.

Holding back the tears, Susan accepted her sister's help. But quietly she worries about Jennifer. While Jennifer didn't talk about having a family of her own, Susan knows, deep down, her sister wants her own children to care for and nurture.

“As soon as we get this worked out, you have to make sure you're enrolled back into the program this September. This isn't fair to you, Jennifer.”

But as usual, Jennifer put her own needs aside once again. This time it was to help Susan, and especially her nieces. She was at her best when she was taking care of others.

Especially those who needed the extra attention.

A young Jennifer Hicks spent most of her teenaged years babysitting around her community. Here she is with her two nieces and nephew, whom she cared for in the first months after she had left her home­town to live in Gander.

4

Susan didn't have to worry about Jennifer for long. Within a few weeks, Susan decided that her family and the needs of her children were more important than school at this point in her life. She quit college, and Jennifer suddenly found herself with a lot more time on her hands.

“I think it's time I start making some money again,” said Jennifer one evening early in the spring. The kids were in bed. She was watching television with her sister, when she made the decision that the next day she would begin searching for work. The next morning she was up at the break of dawn. She had a long, hot shower and then spent time putting together the perfect outfit. She styled her hair and applied her makeup with precision.

Jennifer believed that, without a high school diploma, her ability to clean and organize would be her best skills for employability. She'd also worked at a Chinese restaurant in her hometown, so she had some skills to offer up. She bundled up in her warmest jacket, gathered up her resumes, and made her way to the strip of hotels along the Trans-Canada Highway. Jennifer knew finding work wouldn't be an easy task. Even minimum-wage jobs were hard to come by in Newfoundland these days.

The first hotel was just minutes from her apartment, and working here would be ideal. But that wasn't to be. They took her resume, but she got the standard line. “We have nothing to offer at this time.” However, a short distance down the road, she caught a lucky break. Just two days ago, an employee at the Albatross had to leave on short notice. The hotel was playing host to several conferences, and management was desperate for a waitress.

“When can you start?” asked the manager.

“Right away,” said Jennifer. And within minutes she was learning the ropes. She studied the menu and learned her new responsibilities. That night she went home knowing that she had earned a good day's pay, not to mention $33 in tips.

In a few days, Jennifer was quite comfortable waiting tables in the hotel dining room. She was quick on her feet and had no trouble getting the orders right.

As days passed, she grew more efficient at her job. And she was also glad to be having a bit of a social life. In early May, she met a fellow one night at the bar, and they began dating.

For Jennifer, things were starting to fall in place.

“Jennifer—phone!” yelled Susan from the bedroom. “It's Cara.”

Cara was one of Jennifer's co-workers at the restaurant, and the two had quickly become good friends. A Saturday mid-afternoon phone call probably meant she was hoping she and Jennifer would be getting together for a night on the town. But that wasn't the case at all.

“Hey, girl, we need to talk,” she said. “It's important news about that sleaze you're dating.”

“Really? What's the matter?” asked Jennifer.

“Are you sure you want to hear this over the phone?” asked Cara. “That guy has been sleeping around. You know the girl who was with us at the bar last week? Well, he's been seeing her behind your back. She's pregnant, Jennifer.”

Jennifer hung up. She hadn't been in love with the guy, but she was hurt nonetheless. And she was mad.

She picked up the phone once more and dialled his number.

“You know what?” she growled into the phone. “I'm not asking you to choose between me and her. I'm making the choice for you.”

And those were the last words she had spoken to him.

It took some time to come to terms with what had happened, but certainly everything was not all bad in her romantic life. Jennifer's pride in her appearance made her a bit of a catch around the neighbourhood. One soldier in particular would have stopped at nothing for a date. Kevin had been stationed at Canadian Forces Base Gander for two years now, and Jennifer was just his type. Every Friday, he'd call her up hoping this would be the weekend she'd say yes to a date. But for several reasons Jennifer just wasn't interested.

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