Adrienne McColl, a "gorgeous" 21-year-old with dreams of fashion school in Vancouver, "just couldn't stay away" from her much older boyfriend, according to her stepfather, who would not allow the man in his Calgary home.
Now, nearly two decades after McColl's violent death, that boyfriend, Stéphane Parent, is 53 and on trial for her murder.
McColl's death became a cold case until police announced Parent's arrest in Gatineau, Que., in February 2018.
On Tuesday, Day 2 of Parent's second-degree murder trial in Calgary, jurors heard from John McGee, McColl's stepfather, who died of heart issues in 2010.
The RCMP audio interview with McGee was recorded four days after his stepdaughter's death.
'She would keep going back'
McColl and McGee were close even after his separation from her mother, who had moved to Kelowna, B.C.
The two lived together in the months leading to McColl's death, and McGee was described by friends as "just like a father" to her.
"She just couldn't seem to stay away from him," McGee told RCMP Const. Daniel MacLean of McColl's relationship with Parent, who was 12 years her senior.
"She would keep going back, she would keep going back. There was always trouble."
McColl was last seen on Valentine's Day, 2002. The next day, her body was discovered in a ditch alongside a gravel road by a rancher near Nanton.
Within hours of his girlfriend's death, Parent bought a one-way ticket to Ottawa, boarded with no checked bags and left Calgary.
McGee was in Phoenix on a golf trip when McColl was killed.
When he arrived home on Feb. 17, he described finding his stepdaughter's weakened dog at the bottom of the stairs.
His car was gone from the garage.
McColl was missing.
Calls to her friends, coworkers and other family turned up no leads for McGee. He also couldn't find Parent.
It wasn't long before a police friend of McGee broke the news: the body of a young woman found in a ditch near Nanton was his stepdaughter.
McColl had been strangled and her skull was fractured.
Relationship 'brutal' at times
Parent and McColl met working together at Studio 82, a Calgary bar owned by McGee. When they worked shifts together, McGee said, "it was just brutal."
"She used to have an awful pile of friends and this guy just got rid of them all except one," said McGee.
In October 2001, McColl was pregnant, but two weeks before her due date, she gave birth to a stillborn.
Parent left town, flying to Montreal. When he eventually returned, McColl was living with her stepfather, who refused to let Parent in his home.
"I said, 'Honey, you're 21 years old, I can't tell you what to do. I can just tell you I don't want him in my house.'"