Woman admits to role in torture death

The Calgary Sun

November 3, 2007 

Labelled a "rat" by a fellow prostitute, a city woman was tortured, carved up and killed before being wrapped in plastic sheets, stuffed in a hockey bag and deposited in a city dump.

Those chilling details emerged yesterday in a statement of facts filed by the Crown after one of three murder suspects pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Crystal Dawn Struthers admitted taking part in the confinement and torture of Ruchael Eva Friars, 34, whose body was discovered nearly two months after her death.

Struthers, 28, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the slaying of Friars, who was killed several hours after being confined in a crack house April 30, 2006.

The two women -- along with two other prostitutes -- were smoking crack cocaine when Struthers took notice of Friars, the statement filed as a court exhibit said.

"Struthers ... told (the others) that Friars was a 'rat' and specifically was responsible for providing information to the police that led to the arrest of friends of the women," the statement said.

The victim was then locked in the room where the woman had been smoking crack. Her hair was cut off and she was forced to write a note that said "I'm a rat" hundreds of times.

"Friars was bound and cut with utility blades across her back and the bottom of her feet ... When Friars screamed in pain, an attempt was made to glue her eyes and mouth shut with Super Glue."

She was then drugged with an antipsychotic narcotic, beaten repeatedly and had the word "goof" carved into her forehead.

In a statement to police following her 2006 arrest, Struthers said Friars was probably conscious for about the first four hours of the attack.

She told Det. Lionel Busch Friars was sedated "'cause they knew she'd scream."

Struthers said one of the other women wanted to leave, but was told she couldn't.

"I said, 'Yeah man, we're all in this together ... Like, we're all staying here until this girl takes her last breath.' "

An autopsy confirmed Friars had multiple cuts on her back, glue on her eye lid, and a sedative in her blood, but could not determine cause of death. Struthers' sentencing hearing will take place after she has a psychological and risk assessment.

Sara Ann Rowe had her hearing on a first-degree murder charge adjourned until next October. The date for the first-degree murder trial of Alexis Vandenberg has not yet been set.