‘I was starting to give up:’ Sask. woman still longing for closure after brother’s remains found a decade later

Randy Wallace George was 38 years old when he went missing near Big Island Lake Cree Territory. -- Obituary photo from Memento Funeral Chapel

Nellie Sandfly waited 10 years to find her brother.

She finally got some answers last month, when RCMP matched familial DNA with a skull found in the Big Island Lake Cree Territory landfill. The remains were identified as 38-year-old Randy Wallace George, just as Sandfly expected.

“I was pretty sure it would be him because of the location where he was found. It was close to where he was last seen. Sgt. Chris Hansen called me for DNA, so I did that right away and my other brother,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean the family has full closure.

“(The rest of) his remains are still not found, just the skull,” said Sandfly.

“That’s what we buried here on Wednesday – just the skull, full casket.”

George was last seen the morning of July 11, 2013. He was dropped off on Highway 21, near the First Nation community, and was last spotted walking on the side of the road.

Sandfly recalled that her uncle, who George was close with, came to her home and asked if she had seem him.

“I said no, I hadn’t seen him for a while. He hadn’t come around for a few days now and he told me ‘I think something happened to him.’ Then we started on the search.”

In the beginning, she was hopeful. 

She anticipated locating her brother that day, but searches – by the family, search and rescue, and police – were drawing blanks. The years kept passing by without any signs of where George was, eventually turning into nearly a decade of questions.

“I was starting to give up, honestly,” said Sandfly.

“I kind of figured he must be in water…We do have lakes near where he went missing, but it’s a slew and maybe he was in there, or I don’t know how the skull was found at the dump.”

RCMP have deemed George’s death not suspicious.

‘He was a jokester’

Sandfly continues to live on Big Island Lake Cree Territory. Now at the age of 50, she reflected on how she and her siblings were raised – living off of the land, raising animals and working hard.

Their family owned a ranch on the reserve, mostly raising cattle. George helped out with the farm and, as he got older, would leave for the summer to do seasonal work seeding and harvesting.

“He was a hard worker. He was the only boy for a while there until the two younger boys were born,” she said.

The siblings of Randy Wallace George (from left to right) PJ George, Rudy George, June Sandfly, Linda Sandfly, Shawna Sandfly and Nellie Sandfly. — Nellie Sandfly/Submitted

Sandfly described her brother as outgoing and always up for a visit. He also loved to hunt, was a fluent Cree speaker, and was always suggesting some greasy KFC chicken for dinner.

“He used to love to laugh and make people laugh,” she said. “He was a jokester.”

Despite the smile on his face, Sandfly said George was dealing with alcoholism and suspected he was going through withdrawals.

Her grief led her to feel frustrated towards her missing brother, which only got worse when their mom died. She never lived to find her son, she said.

“After a few years passed, I started getting angry at him for not taking better care of himself and for putting our mother through all of that grief, all of that worry,” said Sandfly.

“She passed with a broken heart.”