Dead woman’s sister remembers her kindness

Leeanne Lawson usually wrote letters to her sister.

When four months went by without one, her sister knew something was up.

“This summer I was so worried, because it never goes that long,” Melissa Sauder said.

“Something wasn’t right.”

Her worst fears were confirmed around 7 p.m. Friday when police told their mother her sister’s body was found in an Ottawa alley earlier that day. Lawson is Ottawa’s seventh homicide victim of 2011.

Ottawa Police said autopsy results confirm she was killed but released no other details.

Sauder was on the phone with her mom when cops showed up to deliver the news.

“I didn’t sleep one wink last night,” Sauder told the Sun Saturday.

“I still don’t think I’ll believe it until I see her body.”

Major crime investigators were on the scene behind the Ottawa Hydro building at 351 King Edward Ave. all day Friday with more police there Saturday.

Sauder said she’s not sure if anyone specifically had it out for her sister.

“I know there was people that didn’t like her,” she said.

Lawson, 23, left her hometown of Bancroft for Ottawa about seven years ago and had dreams of being a veterinarian.

“She was really kind to people. She loved animals and drawing,” said Sauder.

So much so, she recalls Leeanne being afraid to smack a mosquito when they were kids.

“She had a little graveyard for mice that my mom would catch in the trap,” she said.

But life got in the way.

Lawson went from drawing cartoons of Winnie the Pooh to living on the streets in Lowertown.

“I honestly don’t know what happened. When we were growing up, she was perfect compared to me. She kept her room like perfect, neat. I was a pig.”

The sisters, who are 14 months apart, drifted apart in the past two years.

The last time they spoke was over the phone in April.

Sauder is married with a son, Blake, who turns 14 months old on Sept 7.

“It kills me that she never got to meet him. She was so excited.”

Dealing with complications after giving birth, she made it a point to mail photos of Blake to Leeanne.

“At least she got to see his face,” she said.

When Blake grows up, she said, she’ll show him the letter his aunt wrote back saying, “he’s so cute.”

For now, all she has left are a box of letters.

“She wasn’t perfect, but she was definitely a perfect sister.”


  1. Cam

    Wish you could have been the one covering the trial. I still appreciate how you covered this story when all other papers wanted sensation to the point of printing falsehoods. Thanks again.

  2. Cam Sauder

    Kelly, I give you 5 points for your reporting. Only after dealing with other media did we realize how fortunate we were to have you do this piece. At least they caught and convicted her killer. Too bad you couldn’t have written that story as well.

  3. Cam Sauder

    So glad we had you there to cover this for us. Too bad you could not have covered the trial and conviction as well! Thank you for a job well done.

    1. rochekelly

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Melissa. Your strength and composure throughout has been truly remarkable and my heart aches for you in the loss of your dear sister. Call anytime if you need to talk.

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