Family of woman who fell to death at Transit Hotel still searching for answers as inquiry wraps up

Despite three days of witness testimonies at a fatality inquiry, the family of a woman who fell to death at the Transit Hotel says they still have many questions surrounding her death. 

The fatality inquiry into Rhonda Auger's death wrapped up on Friday afternoon, after court heard from medical responders, police, city officials and Transit Hotel staff. 

Rhonda, 49, was found unresponsive on the ground outside Transit Hotel along Fort Road on April 27, 2017. 

It was reported that she fell three stories from the hotel. She was taken to hospital, where she later died of blunt force injuries. 

"I'm just really appreciative of the inquiry itself. It answered a lot of questions, but there are still a lot of questions that are not answered,"  said Rhonda's sister, Priscilla Auger, who initially asked for the inquiry.

"But one of the biggest questions is, how did she end up in the Transit? Who let her up there? Why was she up there? And what really happened to her?" 

'My kids miss her the most' 

Speaking in court Friday, Priscilla said her oldest sister Rhonda was an outgoing and bubbly person who cared a lot about children, especially her grandchildren. 

"She had a lot of friends...she never cared what people thought of her. She was a loving and caring person," Priscilla Auger said. 

Priscilla said her sister lived in the Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement and was visiting family in Edmonton at the time of her death. 

Priscilla Auger

"In Buffalo Lake, she would always help people out if they needed a babysitter." 

Priscilla said a day before Rhonda died, she was preparing presents and making arrangements for her grandson's birthday party — which was scheduled three weeks after her death. 

Sheldon Auger, Rhonda's brother, also spoke in court. He said she was staying with him in Edmonton during her visit. 

Court heard that on the evening of April 27, Rhonda received a phone call from her son's ex-girlfriend, who was asking for money.  Rhonda became upset afterwards, Sheldon said. 

Sheldon said the ex-girlfriend picked up Rhonda to go to the bank and that was the last time he saw her.

He said since the day his sister died, police have not contacted him for the investigation. He said that makes him believe they're not taking his sister's death seriously. 

"It's very frustrating. She was a good woman. My kids miss her the most … she's a great auntie," he said. 

"It just sucks. It's been three years and we have no answers. No answers. No closer than where we were three years ago."

Rhonda's oldest son, Harley Ray Auger, also said he wasn't contacted by police. 

'She wouldn't put herself in danger' 

Provincial court Judge Renée Cochard asked Priscilla, Sheldon and Harley if Rhonda was suicidal. 

All three said there was no indication Rhonda wanted to kill herself. Priscilla said Rhonda dealt with anxiety and was previously on anti-depressants, but she was writing down plans in her address book before she died, which indicated she was looking forward to her social plans. 

Judge Cochard said a toxicology report found a lot of alcohol in Rhonda's body. Her family said she liked to drink, but not to an exorbitant amount and she never used hard drugs.

Priscilla Auger

"She would never get drunk to the point where she'd be falling or not know where she was going," Priscilla said. 

"She wouldn't put herself in danger. She was the type of person who had to know the person, to go with them," said her sister.  

Priscilla also said Rhonda was scared of heights, to the point where she wouldn't climb a ladder. Harley said his mother also refused rides at Edmonton's K-Days festival because of her fear of heights. 

Recommendations from counsel 

The purpose of the fatality inquiry isn't meant to place blame or fault on the death, Cochard said. It's meant to make recommendations about how similar deaths can be prevented in the future. 

But for Rhonda's siblings, they hope the results of the inquiry will reopen their sister's investigation. 

"I want this solved. I want them to take this seriously, regardless of race," Sheldon said.

Judge Cochard will gather counsel recommendations on Monday and findings of the fatality inquiry will be released in March. 

Priscilla Auger