When it comes to the stories I’ve written in 2018 there is one that stands not so much as a favourite, but rather because of how it left me with a feeling of sadness and disbelief.
Samantha Piercey was 28 when authorities say she killed herself while incarcerated at the Correctional Centre for Women in Clarenville.
But my story with Ms. Piercey didn’t start with writing about her death, it started two years before while reporting on an assault trial. She was acquitted of the charges against her.
It wasn’t the first or the last time Ms. Piercey would be before the court.
In January of this year I was in the courtroom when she was released on bail after allegedly assaulting a man.
I ran into her at a local coffee shop some weeks after. As she served me, she looked up and said: “You work at The Western Star.”
Not sure of what would follow and feeling a little awkward, I replied: “Yes.”
We both knew then that we had been in a courtroom together and there was a slight pause.
I then asked her how she was doing and she said good, was just taking it day by day and doing her best. I wished her well and went on my way.
In April, I was back in court as Ms. Piercey had been arrested again for allegedly assaulting the same man.
This time she was denied bail and sent to Clarenville with a trial set for June.
As I left court, so did another young woman.
I couldn’t help but remark to her that she had to be related to Ms. Piercey as they looked so much alike.
She was her sister and in that moment my heart went out to her. We exchanged comments on how hard things were and parted ways.
Ms. Piercey died May 26.
As news of yet another death at a correctional facility in this province broke, hers was the last name I expected to hear.
She always carried herself well in court, was very articulate and seemed to accept her fate on the day she was denied bail.
I spoke with her mother just after her death and won’t forget the shock and pain I heard in her voice.
Lisa Piercey told me that her daughter had struggled with mental health issues for a long time. Still she could not accept the explanation she was given for her death.
A month later the family took part in a rally calling for an inquiry into the correctional facility deaths and to demand change to the province’s prison system.
It was there that I met Ms. Piercey’s sister, April Piercey, again.
When I approached, she stretched out her arms and embraced me in a hug.
For a moment, I wasn’t an "evil reporter out to smear her sister." I was someone who had shared a part of her life and who would help to tell her story.
Ms. Piercey wasn’t just someone who got in trouble with the law.
She was a daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother, aunt and friend to many people.
Despite her troubles, Ms. Piercey told her sister going to Clarenville may be what she needed.
Her mom said she was ready to deal with her issues and to return to Corner Brook for her trial.
Unfortunately, she never got that chance.