Cynthia Beryl Weber, Plucked by the Hand of God

Posted: August 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

“The mystery was never solved, never will be; and we shall talk of it with awe and almost trembling as long as we live.” Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, (1885)

Glenrose Hospital, cuckoo’s eye view

Cindy Weber was a runner.

Catatonic depressions. Suicide attempts. Drug overdoses. The twenty-year old Edmonton resident kept landing in psych wards but she refused to submit,
always struggling—and often succeeding—-to wriggle free from confinement.
Her sixth overdose-related hospitalization, she resolved, would be her last; an early checkout at the end of a noose would put an end to her managed care forever.
As her air supply dwindled she thought she was free but in reality she was soldering herself inside another cage, this one more claustrophobic and constructed without a key.

Someone cut her down, but not soon enough. Cindy ended up not only trapped in a hospital but trapped inside her own body—her brain ravaged by hypoxemia, she was no longer able to speak or walk unassisted.
Her cognition was intact—she could communicate with the assistance of an alphabet board—but her motor skills and sense of balance were decimated.
She could no longer dress herself, or feed herself, or make it to the bathroom without a walker or wheelchair.
Although her mother brought her home on weekends Cindy,
now twenty-two, lived full-time in Glenrose Hospital’s long-term care ward, the decades of confinement stretching out before her without a parole date or commutation in sight.

Cindy may have lost the physical capacity to run but she was still a runner at heart.
She and her mother were enjoying a routine weekend at the Weber residence, located at 13511 118th Street in Edmonton, when the impossible became a reality.
On July 18th, 1981 Mrs. Edna Weber awoke at 6:45am to find her daughter had vanished;
the back door, securely locked the night before, now stood open.
Aside from Cindy the only item missing from the home was the white terrycloth sun-suit she’d worn to bed—her anti-palsy medication, her alphabet board and her walker had all been left behind.
Since she was present at the scene let’s follow the story in Mrs. Weber’s own words (all quotes verbatim from the Edmonton Journal):

July 20th, two days after her daughter disappeared: “[Cindy] can’t walk or talk and she can hardly see because her glasses were left behind. I checked the yard and the park hoping maybe she had crawled there somehow, but I found nothing except the back door open. [Cindy] seemed so happy the night before. She sat out in the sun during the day and we went to a movie in the evening. We had a great time. I never saw Cindy so happy. I just pray to God this doesn’t go on for months. I just can’t take it.”

 

July 21st, three days after her daughter vanished: “[Cindy] hated being in the hospital and she always tried to run away from them. She told me once she would rather die than stay in the hospital. The police know there is something very, very rotten here [regarding Cindy’s disappearance]. Never in a million years could she have walked far enough to reach a car. The police say that someone who knows her must have picked her up—-not knowing if she’s all right is the worst part of it. I’d feel better if I knew she could take care of herself but she has to be fed and dressed and undressed by somebody. Without her medicine she will be shaking uncontrollably. The longer it goes the less hope I have.”

 

October 22nd, three months after Cindy’s disappearance: “Somebody out there knows what happened to her. There’s no way she could’ve left on her own. I don’t hold out much hope that Cindy’s still alive. Let’s face it—where does a crippled girl go for three months?”

 

The term “crippled” is now antiquated but Mrs. Weber’s question is nonetheless valid:
where does a physically-challenged girl go for three months, especially a physically-challenged girl without anti-palsy medication, walking apparatus and only means of communication?
In the immediate aftermath of Cindy’s disappearance the Edmonton Police Department downplayed the possibility of foul play, positing instead she’d been scooped up by someone she knew.
None of Cindy’s friends, however, had visited her at the hospital in more than a year.
Her social circle was questioned regardless,
but investigators soon determined her fair-weather friends had played no role in Cindy’s disappearance.

Bereft of leads, detectives next shifted their focus to family members and hospital caregivers, polygraphing, according to the Edmonton Journal, “those close to Cindy” to no avail.
Investigators gleaned no information relevant to her current location but they did learn Cindy was desperate to leave the hospital.
Her speech classes at Glenrose had recently been canceled after her progress plateaued, the Canadian healthcare system apparently unwilling to fund treatment for a patient with no hope of recovery.
As Cindy’s patient advocate Edna Shaffler told the Edmonton Journal, “She was very upset about the hospital canceling her speech classes so I took her outside.
I told her maybe they would work out something else. But Cindy just took a fit and tried to run away from her wheelchair. I never saw her like that before.”

On the one-year anniversary of Cindy’s disappearance Mrs. Weber offered a $5K reward for information leading to her daughter’s location.
She also contacted three psychics and, interestingly enough, two shared the same vision:
Cindy had been abducted by a man and a woman, the two clairvoyants claimed, and her body was currently secreted in deep brush on the outskirts of Edmonton.
Despite the psychics’ similar visions and the passage of four decades the reward remains unclaimed—-neither Cindy nor her body has ever been located,
in deep brush on the outskirts of Edmonton or anywhere else.

O Sister, Where Art Thou? A Not Exactly Overlapping Not Exactly Crime

Cindy Weber wasn’t the only young woman reported missing in Edmonton in the early 1980s.
Nine months before Cindy’s disappearance eighteen-year-old Laura Noyes vanished from the Dickinsfield Apartments on October 23rd, 1980.
At 9am, as Laura’s sister Dora told the Edmonton Journal, an unknown man rang their buzzer and asked, “Is Laurie there?”
This being Canada, hotbed of politeness, Laura went downstairs to see what the visitor wanted—and never again returned to the apartment.
Laura had grown up in Victoria, a fourteen-hour drive from Edmonton; she’d only been in town a month and had no known friends in the area and no romantic entanglements.
On the one-year anniversary of Laura’s disappearance her sister was pessimistic:

“We don’t have any hope left for her. I knew Laurie very well. She wasn’t the kind of person to run away without telling us about it. She would always phone to tell me if she was going to be out late so I wouldn’t worry. All she had was the clothes on her back and about $20. No, there’s no way—-she’s gone.” Dora Noyes, Edmonton Journal, October 22nd, 1981

Plot twist: two years after Laura vanished she was located alive and well in another province.
The Edmonton Police Department did not reveal either her whereabouts or reason for disappearing—we never learn why Laura went missing, or where she went missing to,
or whether her sister Dora, so certain she had come to harm, was ever able to make peace with her abrupt departure.
Laura Noyes’ story has a sad postscript; a year after the Edmonton Journal announced her reappearance Laura, now age twenty, was dead.
She died “suddenly at her residence,” according to her obituary; authorities apparently did not suspect foul play and there’s no evidence of a criminal investigation.
Laura’s demise, like her disappearance, remains shrouded in mystery.

The Edmonton Journal’s linked coverage of Cindy and Laura’s disappearances has always struck me as serendipitous.
Two young women missing under bizarre circumstances,
and yet situations which initially seemed sinister are revealed to be decidedly less so as the facts fall into place.
Although it’s theoretically possible a kidnapper obtained a key to the Weber residence I’ve always believed the evidence, or at least most of it, indicates Cindy believed she was being rescued;
her carefree mood prior to her disappearance suggests she knew confinement in Glenrose’s long-term care ward was forever in her past.

118th Street, Edmonton

I can picture Cindy inching her way across the floor on her hands and knees, careful not to awaken her mother—-but I have no idea who awaited in the darkness as she finally managed to unlock the back door.
Leaving her medication and alphabet board behind does not bode well for a lengthy period of survival, unfortunately.
I’m not sure if euthanasia was an agreed-upon outcome or if the person Cindy believed to be her savior had darker motives all along.

Cindy Weber led a troubled life but least one of her wishes came true: she slipped the surly bonds of long-term hospitalization. If she died, she did so not as a patient but as a human being.
Live free or die—and she did.

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