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Vancouver Cold Case Files: Murder of a country western singer

The coroner described the killing as “an enraged frustrated attack.”
vicky-and-debbie-roe-soft-sweet-country-album
Vicky and Debbie Roe (right) on the album cover of Soft, Sweet and Country, recorded in Nashville in 1974.

By 1975, 22-year-old Debbie and 17-year-old Vicky Roe had been singing together professionally for four years and had just returned from Nashville where they’d cut a country and western album called Soft, Sweet and Country. The sisters collaborated on a few of the songs and their back-up musicians were some of the best, including Charlie McCoy, who had backed up artists such as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

On the night Debbie was murdered, she was driving home to Langley after finishing her shift at the OK Corral in New Westminster, a bar that featured live country music. She stopped to get gas and something to eat at a Denny’s Restaurant on King George Highway.

The next day Debbie's blue Chevrolet Nova was found parked and locked on a desolate section of the Fraser Highway called Fry’s Corner. A family out for a walk found Debbie’s body seven kilometres away. She had been sexually assaulted, beaten, strangled and left to drown in 15 centimetres of water.

Coroner Doug Jack described the killing as “an enraged frustrated attack.”

Her car was found pointing in the direction of Langley. Investigators found a footprint in the ground made by a size nine shoe. Police theorized that her car broke down and Debbie hitchhiked and was picked up by the person who killed her.

Kym Neumann doesn’t believe that her friend and roommate would have hitchhiked. “It would have had to have been someone that she recognized for her to get in a car with some guy,” she says. Kym is also highly suspicious about the car breaking down. “That car was in really good shape. I used to drive it,” she says. “I believe somebody did something to her car.”

The family won’t get closure until Debbie’s murder is solved. The worst part is wondering who did it. They’ve wondered about an older family friend who was infatuated with Debbie. They wondered if it was a current or an old boyfriend. They wondered if it was one of the two police officers that had sometimes stopped Debbie on her way home to ask her out. They wondered if it was a stranger who followed Debbie from the bar, someone she had met at Denny’s when she stopped to get something to eat, or if it was someone who had tampered with her car, followed her and picked her up when the car broke down.

When DNA came out as a forensics tool in the mid-1990s the family was hopeful that police would catch Debbie’s killer. They were told that the DNA had been lost. Debbie’s murder was re-investigated in 2003 when police found new information but declined to say what it was.  Over the years dozens of police officers have been assigned to Debbie’s case, but if they’ve ever had a suspect, they haven’t told the Roe family. 

If you have any information about Debbie Roe’s murder, contact Langley RCMP (604) 532-3200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Eve Lazarus is a reporter and author, and she hosts and produces the Cold Case Canada true crime podcast. Her books include the B.C. bestsellers Murder by Milkshake; Blood, Sweat, and Fear; Cold Case Vancouver and Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City’s Hidden History. She blogs at Every Place has a Story