December 12, 1993?

Michele Mandel

Memories are all that remain

They marked the anniversary of her murder with a small memorial in the newspaper.

Your presence we miss, Your memory we treasure/ Loving you always, Forgetting you never...

Words on a newsprint page beneath the photo of a smiling she who was once a he. Just words, signed by a mom and dad and friends, for there is no grave to visit. No cemetery plot for their tears to fall.

A year after her murder, Metro Police have yet to find the body of Grayce Baxter. It's unlikely they ever will.

Patrick Daniel Johnson, a part-time jail guard, is charged with first-degree murder. His trial, set to begin a few days ago, has been postponed until March.

For her parents in Vancouver, this has been a year of torment. It is not only dealing with her death that has been so hard, it is coming to terms with the web of deceit their daughter had woven so carefully. Learning that she wasn't the successful computer executive she had always told them, but was in fact a high-priced call girl. A dominatrix.

"They had no idea," says family friend Maurice Gareau. "We had to tell them when they came here last year after she disappeared. They were taken away by it, but they were more concerned she was missing."

Gareau was the one who reported her disppearance. She vanished last Dec. 8 after being paged by a client. Police believe she was murdered and then thrown in a North York dumpster, but a two-month search of the Pickering garbage dump failed to unearth her body.

And so ended her pursuit of riches in the netherworld of bartered sex.

She had been born Grant Baxter 26 years before, but with the full support of her family became Grace after a sex-change operation in 1985.

About five years ago, she came here from Vancouver, telling her parents that she was going to pursue a career in computers. But from the start, the striking 6-foot-tall blonde was working as an expensive escort.

"Her main goal was to make money." says Gareau, a bartender who befriended Grayce when she first came to Toronto. "She was pretty well tops in her field. She had a beautiful condo filled with expensive antiques. She like taking her mother on trips. They went to Hawaii, England. She just wanted everything. She liked having nice things and her nice things were always expensive.

"But she always said her money would be trouble for her. But had a smart head on her shoulders. She could take care of herself."

Or so her friends thought.

"It's like Russian roulette out there," Gareau says. "I have a friend who just a week ago had a date who tied her up with surgical tubing and had a gun to her head. It's scary."

Now, in Grayce's memory, her friends are banding together to help protect other prostitutes against "bad dates" who lurk in the city. A newsletter called Upfront will publicize a hotline number hookers can call to find out if they're out with a client others have reported as violent or abusive.

The first issue will be dedicated to Grayce.

"If this can even save one person," Gareau says, "at least some good has come from bad."

And last longer than mere words in a newspaper memorial.

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Created: July 19, 1997
Last modified: July 19, 1997

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