Story By Pam Pardy-Ghent
The bond between a mother and a child is a powerful one. No one knows that better than Lisa Lake, the mother of Cortney Lake. In this exclusive sit-down we learn first hand how strong those bonds truly are
Lisa Lake looks through her treasured collection of photographs of her children, Cortney and Colin. “She hated that dress. And that hair cut. This, this one is my favourite I think. This was her brother’s first Christmas …”
Smiles and laughter. Memories that can never be snatched away. But then the tears start.
There’s no words of comfort to offer a woman in Lisa’s circumstances, so there’s silence, and that seems to be the appropriate response. We look through more images; so many. Cortney was beautiful. She was full of life. She was many things.
Horror. Shock. Disbelief.
One image makes Lisa laugh, but the laughter turns to tears, tears Lisa is quick to catch with her fingertips as if letting them free would only cause more to fall. “It feels good doing this, looking through pictures. But it’s also very hard. You can’t imagine what this has been like. Horror. Shock. Disbelief,” she begins candidly.
Lisa recalls the day Cortney went missing like it was yesterday instead of almost six weeks ago. “I had called her, I was at a barbecue, and I said, we have some chicken and salads for you, and she said, ‘Good mom, I’m starved.’ And when we came home, she was gone.”
Call it mother’s intuition; Lisa knew something was wrong. Being away from home without giving a heads-up wasn’t like her, her mom shares.
“She lived with me, and if she wasn’t home and I was going to bed I’d phone her. She’d say, ‘Mom I’ll be home in an hour’ or whatever, ‘leave the door unlocked,’ or if I didn’t phone her she’d call and tell me, ‘I won’t be home tonight, I’ll be home tomorrow morning.’ She always kept in contact.”
A Mother’s Intuition
That’s why, on the night of June 7, alarm bells went off immediately.
“When she didn’t reach out to me, and I couldn’t get her, the bells went off.” Cortney was 24. Lisa says the two shared a great relationship, particularly of late. “You know, she was a typical teenager; ‘why mom, no mom’, while growing up. Still, we were always close, though there were a few years where there were things she did and choices she made where I didn’t agree with her. But I always supported and loved her through it all. As she got older we became as close as we ever were.”
Cortney was the first single mother Miss Teen Newfoundland contestant.
“It was a very proud moment for me. She had confidence, but maybe not enough. She said, ‘Mom, do you think I can do this?’ I said, ‘Yes my dear, you can do it. You are just as good as anyone else.’ And that gave her a lot of self confidence.”
‘Sweet little darling’
As a child, Cortney was a “sweet little darling.” As the first grandchild/niece on Lisa’s side, Cortney was incredibly loved and totally “spoiled rotten.”
“If she asked me for something and I said no she would say, ‘Well I’ll just ask Nanny or Aunt Glenda or Aunt Donna.”
Cortney grew beyond those years and entered school, completing a computer graphic design course from CNA. “She was amazing at that. She would do up posters for companies all across Canada. She was really good. She has a couple of tattoos, and one she had on her neck was an exploding star and she drew that herself,” her mom says proudly.
The room goes quiet. What Cortney was is in the past. There will never be any more memories beyond the ones they’ve made. That raw realization hangs painfully in the air. “I say to people, you go through the motions. You do what you have to do. That she’s gone never for a second leaves your mind. People don’t come up to me and say, how are you? They wouldn’t dare. They know what my answer will be.”
‘Really hard moment’
Lisa’s sister Glenda Power is always there for support. “You almost seem to be in shock, going through the motions of everyday life, and some little thing will be a trigger. Sunday, there was a search and after we had a family jiggs dinner. There was 16 of us around the table and everyone was busy and everyone at the same time just went, you know, every other meal like this we had, Cortney was there. That was a really hard moment,” Glenda shares. Lisa nods.
“It’s like you are okay, maybe in shock, but then there’s a moment that brings you to your knees,” Glenda adds.
Lisa nods again before continuing; “I try to keep going. I’m out with every search. It’s hard but we are to the point where we know she’s not coming back. But we have to find her. No ifs, ands or buts, she has to be found. I need closure. If I have to go through another five weeks of this…”
Lisa breaks down for moment and Glenda steps in to give her sister some needed time. “It’s so hard knowing there is a person or people out there who know where she is and to think they watch our family go through this torture and choose not to divulge where Cortney is? That’s hard.”
“I beg and plead, a tip is a tip. No matter if you think it’s important or not, share it,” Lisa adds.
Outpouring of Love
One positive that has come out of this whole situation is the outpouring of love and support from total strangers.
“Because of these searches for Cortney, people we’ve never met are now like family to us. I can never thank them enough,” Lisa says.
When asked why she thinks so many have reached out, Lisa pauses for a moment. “Cortney’s story has touched people’s hearts.”
“Because we’ve come out in a public way, people have connected with Cortney and they put themselves in Lisa’s position and say, what if it was my child or my niece or my mom or my granddaughter? And they feel like they know Cortney and that’s good.”
Lisa smiles. “People say they think abut her when they go to bed and they think about her when they get up in the morning. They check NTV or the Facebook Help us find Cortney page to see if there’s any news.”
Lisa thinks back to the night she found out Cortney wasn’t simply missing, but murdered. “When they came to my house and said, we don’t have Cortney’s body but we know she’s been murdered, I said then and many times since, how do you know this? It’s hard to believe, but I have confidence in the police, but it’s difficult.”
When asked what gives her the strength to go on, her answer is simple. “Cortney and her son gives me strength. And knowing I need closure.”
Her family has been a source of her strength as well. They are very close, and while they might not always see eye-to-eye, when in need, they are as strong as any army, she shares.
When asked if she’s angry, Lisa’s shoulders square. “There is anger at the person or persons responsible. I was like, I’m gonna kill someone, but what good is that? I need to know, when is Cortney coming home? My main focus is finding her and after we find her, then I’m praying justice will be served.”
Lisa says her greatest wish is to finally find her daughter’s remains.
Glenda steps in with her own plea; “When a family loses someone suddenly it’s a tragedy, it’s hard, but generally there’s a body and there’s a process when you come together as a family. You are in shock together, you grieve together, but then you celebrate the life of the person who’s gone and there’s a process of burial and respect and the community comes together. We can’t do that. We’ve been in an extended period of grief and shock now for five weeks with nowhere to go.”
Of course, it’s hardest on Lisa.
“I will tell you this, I never slept in my bed until last night. That was the first night I slept in my bed since she went missing. I slept on the couch every night since June 7. Cortney, she had her own key but she left it home on the stove –typical teen to forget it. I’ve slept on the couch every night afraid I wouldn’t hear her knock on the door.”
As for Cortney’s six-year-old son, he too is having a hard time with his mom being gone. “He’s traumatized. You can imagine. It’s hard for us to process, but for a six-year-old?”
And Cortney loved her son. She loved going to his swimming lessons and his sports activities. She was proud of his report cards. “She was with him that last afternoon. They went to his swimming lessons and I gave her 10 dollars to take him to the Dollar Store and he thought that was wonderful.”
Her Daughter’s Memory
Lisa says, besides finding her daughter’s remains, she wants to keep her daughter’s memory alive. “There’s times I shield myself because I don’t want to run into people because I have meltdowns, but share stories of Cortney with me. I want to keep her alive or keep her memory alive.”
When asked why she agreed to sit down for a chat with The Herald, Lisa sits up straight. “I want to keep her story out there. This has to be kept alive until she is found. Her memory will always be alive for me but I need it to be there until she’s found.”
Glenda couldn’t agree more. “People are going fishing, they are going to their cabins, they are going berry picking, hiking into the woods and please, keep looking, keep thinking; could Cortney be here?”
Lisa’s eyes tear up. “Please. Keep your eyes peeled; to the sides of the road, to the woods, to your backyard. Keep looking. Help bring Cortney home.”
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) Major Crime Unit are investigating Cortney Lake’s June 7th disappearance as a homicide.
Cortney was previously believed to have been last seen on June 7th, 2017 at 7:52pm walking away from her home on Wellington Crescent thanks to a residential security camera. Investigators received images from a vehicle’s dash-cam of Cortney getting into a black GMC pickup truck on Michener Ave (nearby) at exactly 7:54pm.
Investigators believe Cortney may have been conveyed to a secluded, wooded or less traveled area within a short drive from where she was picked up. They are appealing to the public to come forward if you witnessed a black GMC truck the evening of Wednesday, June 7th after 7:54PM in any of these types of area. The truck in question has a Browning© camouflage “deer head “decal on the passenger side of the back (truck pan) window. We are asking the entire community who may have been on the roads in and around Mount Pearl, Outer Ring Road, Galway Development or the TCH and has a dash cam to review footage.
Bring Cortney Home
Anyone who has information pertaining to the Cortney Lake homicide investigation is asked to contact the RNC at 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)or at www.nlcrimestoppers.com.