CANADA

Carpenter loved her family—and feared the attentions of men

ROBIN AJELLO January 30 1995
CANADA

Carpenter loved her family—and feared the attentions of men

ROBIN AJELLO January 30 1995

Carpenter loved her family—and feared the attentions of men

CANADA

Melanie Carpenter often told her mother: “Mom, when you go out, hold your head up. Look like you’re in control. Don’t look vulnerable. Don’t look like you could be prey.” In fact, friends and relatives say that Carpenter, a 23-year-old hazel-eyed blond, was extremely cautious when it came to men. If someone odd was hanging around the Island Tan salon in Surrey, B.C., which she managed, she would call her fiancé, Aaron Bastien, and ask him to come down. At five feet, four inches and 112 lb., Carpenter often dressed conservatively to conceal her attractive figure. She worked out at a women’s-only fitness centre so that men could not ogle her. “She is the kind of girl,” said her mother, Sandy, “who didn’t like guys making remarks.”

Carpenter worked alone at the Island Tan outlet even

though her boss, Gary Marshall, had tried to convince her to work at another location where there were usually two or more women on at a time. She was there alone on Jan. 6 when she was abducted by a man whom police believe was Fernand Auger, a convicted sex offender. Despite an exhaustive search, her whereabouts remained unknown at week’s end.

Born on April 22, 1971, in New Westminster, Carpenter grew up across the Fraser River in the municipality of Surrey. At the age of 10, she began taking gymnastics, and six years later she became the Lower Mainland champion on the beam and vault. But while Carpenter was good at sports—she also played softball and volleyball—she was not a particularly adept student. “She wasn’t a real scholastic kid,” said her father, Steve. “If the subject didn’t interest her, she was the kind of kid who would look out the window and watch the birds making a nest.”

By all accounts, family is Carpenter’s main priority. “She never forgot her Nana, even when she fell in love,” said her grandmother, Enid. “She called me all the time.” She also loves animals, and her pets include a cat called Kitty Ball and a rabbit called Gizmo, named after a character in the movie Gremlins. Until her suspected abductor killed himself, Steve Carpenter had planned to ask him the rabbit’s name to prove that he had Carpenter.

According to her father, Carpenter was afraid of being abducted. He said he advised her not to put up a struggle if attacked by a man with a weapon, that it was better not to resist and to stay alive. Since her abduction, though, he has had cause to reconsider. “I wish,” he said, “I had told her to fight with everything she’s got.”

ROBIN AJELLO