Jasmine Normand spent half her life trying to break away from addiction, but her untimely death wasn’t the result of a drug overdose.
The 27-year-old was slain in her Winnipeg apartment — and it was her mother who discovered the body.
Brenda Normand said she and a co-worker went May 10 to check on her daughter at her basement apartment on Maryland Street.
"I hadn't heard from her for a couple of days," Brenda said. "We walked down the hallway and her door was open... We called: 'Jassy.' There was no answer, so I said, 'She's not here, let's just go.'
"But (the co-worker) said, 'Is that blood on the wall?' My eyes were still adjusting to the dark. Then she said, 'I want to look under that pillow.' It was the large kind that would be on a wicker chair. She moved it and she saw hair. We left right away and called an ambulance," Brenda said.
"God knows how long she would have been there if the pillow hadn't been moved."
City police later ruled Normand's death a homicide — Winnipeg's seventh of the year.
"God knows how long she would have been there if the pillow hadn't been moved." — Brenda Normand on discovering her daughter's body
Normand was eight days shy of her 28th birthday.
"We always said this wasn't going to end well," Brenda said during a recent interview with the Free Press, recalling the years of her daughter's repeated addiction and failed treatments.
"We knew it would be something. We just always assumed it would be a bit of fentanyl in her meth. This is shocking."
Brenda and her husband adopted Jasmine, known as Jassy, when the girl was three weeks old. Described as bright and energetic, she went to school in Stonewall in her early years. She loved dolls, riding her bike, a trampoline, and a sparkly chandelier over her bed.
But unbeknownst to Normand's parents, drugs began to take over her life.
"We had no idea what was going on," Brenda said. "She wasn't going to school. She would take off and not come home at night."
She started running away, with police having to find her. Many treatment programs followed. When Normand came home, Brenda would sleep with her purse in her bed.
A few years ago, Brenda suggested Normand try connecting with her birth mother, hoping that might help. "I think she did, but it wasn't like how it happens on TV."
"We gave her unconditional help. We always told her no judgment. We said call any time." — Brenda Normand
Normand would get clean, but eventually she would spiral down again, her mother said.
"We gave her unconditional help," Brenda said. "We always told her no judgment. We said call any time.
"Very few people who know us knew of our struggles. Many are only finding out about it now."
Normand entered her last treatment centre late last year, getting out in early January.
Through the Living Recovery Foundation of Winnipeg, an organization that helps people with addiction, Normand found an apartment at 693 Maryland St.
"My husband and I went to see it first — we didn't want to get Jassy's hopes up," she said. "It was a basement apartment, furnishing provided, and was more acceptable than the last place — but the neighbourhood wasn't great."
Brenda said the last time they saw their daughter was May 5. She was high.
On May 9, Brenda learned a tenant in the building was concerned about Normand's well-being.
The next day, after picking up a submarine sandwich and pop for her daughter, Brenda and a co-worker went to the apartment. Emergency crews were called shortly after.
In the apartment, Brenda found a copy of Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, by Nic Sheff, the author's account of his struggle with addiction.
In the days since her death, a young woman who knew Normand from school reached out to her parents: "I loved your daughter very much, she was such a sweet, caring and funny girl. She could always make me laugh when I was down... While we hadn’t talked in recent years, I was saddened to hear of her sudden passing."
Winnipeg police are continuing to investigate. Anyone with information is asked to call the homicide unit at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).
Brenda, hearing the people behind the soon-to-open Bruce Oake Recovery Centre are already planning work towards opening a similar Winnipeg treatment facility for women, said she hopes they do.
As the family wrote it in Normand's obituary: "Addiction does not discriminate... Although she was taken by the hand of another, the addiction led to her fate."
"Jasmine's not the only one," the mother said. "There are many out there like Jasmine."
The family says she will be buried with her grandmother, who recently died, and who "never lost faith in Jassy and loved her unconditionally."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.