Calgary woman found on roadside remembered as free spirit with big heart

On the first Saturday of April, Garnita Van Tassell got a knock at her door forever changing the course of her life. It was an RCMP officer, there to tell her that her daughter was dead and they were investigating her death as a murder.

“He said he was very sorry to inform me that they had found my daughter’s body and they were treating it as a homicide,” said the mother of two adult daughters.

“Never in my life did I think I would have to go through this, never.”

“It took them three days to find me, three days to find out who she was,” said Van Tassell.

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The body of 37-year-old Tara Miller was found by a passerby on Thursday, March 30, off the side of a rural road south of Calgary.

After the visit from the RCMP, Van Tassell immediately packed her bags and left her home in Battleford, Sask., headed straight for  Calgary. She and her loved ones are now trying to make sense of the unthinkable.

“No mother or father should ever have to do this for their child,” she said with tears streaming down her cheeks.

“She’s my baby, she will always be … That’s my child, I will never have a grandchild from her, I will never see her again, I will never talk to her again,” said Van Tassell from the living room of her sister’s Calgary home.

Click to play video: 'Unsolved death of teen found near Murdaugh home now being investigated as homicide'

Unsolved death of teen found near Murdaugh home now being investigated as homicide

Van Tassell said her daughter led a high-risk lifestyle and suffered from drug addiction but had recently enrolled in online classes and was determined to turn her life around.

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“She was a free spirit, she would help anybody with food or clothes or a place to sleep, she’d do anything for anybody, we loved her,” said Van Tassell gripping the hand of her sister sitting next to her on the couch.

“No matter what, she chose to live her life, she had a big heart, she would help anybody,” said Lisa Blair, Miller’s aunt.

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The RCMP serious crimes unit is investigating, asking anyone who may have known Miller, or her whereabouts leading up to her death, to contact them. They are also asking any witnesses who may have noticed anything suspicious at the intersection of Highway 552 and 128 Street east to come forward.

A vigil was planned for Thursday night at that very intersection, where Miller’s body was discovered one week ago.

“Just to leave her there like she was nothing, I can’t comprehend what it would take for someone to do that to another human being,” said Miller’s cousin Monica Blair.

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Garnita Van Tassell said she won’t rest until she finds out what happened to her daughter. She is begging anyone who may know something to come forward.

“If you are a friend of Tara’s, if she ever hugged you or bought you a beer, or gave you a piece of bread or gave you clothes, or anything … If you know what happened, you need to tell … I won’t have peace until I know why.”

The funeral is scheduled for Friday in Calgary.

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