Why the truth keeps us talking ten years on
What do we mean when we talk about truth? Of course it must derive from reality, and must add up and equal the actual sum of its parts. It is difficult to speak of truth without speaking of fact, and yet, the two are not the same.
Here are the facts: On Jan. 31, 2008, Lindsay Buziak received a phone call. Lindsay, a 24-year-old real estate agent, spoke with a couple looking to buy a house in Victoria, British Columbia. The couple needed to purchase within two days, and had a budget of one million dollars. In the following days, friends and family would tell police that Lindsay felt uneasy about meeting the couple. They spoke with accents that sounded almost Spanish, but not quite.
On Feb. 2, 2008, Lindsay arranged to meet the couple at a house on 1701 De Sousa Place in the municipality of Saanich—a suburban area of Greater Victoria known for its quiet streets and family communities. Just before her appointment, Lindsay opened a text from her boyfriend, Jason—a fellow real estate agent which read, “I’ll come meet you and I’ll be 10–15 minutes or so.”
At 5:29 p.m., the realtor lock box was accessed.
At approximately 5:30 p.m., two witnesses said they watched a couple walk into the cul-de-sac on foot. They were well-dressed, around 30 to 40 years old—the man was six-foot with dark hair and medium build, while the woman, a blonde, wore a black dress with a swooping pink and white pattern. They met Lindsay at the end of the driveway. They shook hands.
At 5:38 p.m., Jason texted Lindsay, “Just a couple minutes away.” That message was never opened.
At 5:41 p.m., Lindsay’s Blackberry made an outgoing call, believed by police to be a pocket dial, as the phone was later found in her pocket.
At 5:45 p.m. Jason and a friend arrived and parked nearby. They waited ten minutes.
Jason sent one last text, “Are you ok,” which was also never opened.
At around 6:05 p.m., he called 911 and told the dispatcher he was worried about his girlfriend. The two tried to enter the house and found the front door locked. Jason’s friend jumped the fence and found an open door, then let Jason in through the front. Lindsay’s shoes—black satin pumps—lay on the floor next to a welcome sign. Jason ran upstairs. He found Lindsay against a wall in an upstairs bedroom. He performed CPR.
At 6:11 p.m., Jason made a second 911 call. Emergency workers arrived moments later, alerted by his previous call. An autopsy later revealed Lindsay had been stabbed over forty times in her throat, breasts, and head. There were no signs of sexual assault. Her purse, watch, and wallet lay untouched.
Police found no trace of the couple Lindsay met, even with a team of search dogs. All they found was an opening in the back fence where three wooden boards had been removed.
The cell phone the couple used to call Lindsay had been purchased from a Vancouver convenience store at the end of that November. It was first activated in late January. It travelled to Victoria in the 24 hours leading up to Lindsay’s murder. It was never used again after Feb. 2.
Jeff Buziak, the father
While we can have the cold hard facts, we cannot ask the same of truth. If fact is bone then truth is the beast. If fact is brick then truth is the house. But what happens when no one can figure out how those bricks fit together? What happens when there is no architect, construction crew, or blueprints? How does anyone find the truth from that — and what happens to those who try?
When Saanich Police Chief Mike Chadwick retired in 2014 after 39 years of service, his one regret was that Lindsay’s case remained unsolved. “There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about the Buziak homicide,” he told reporters the week of his retirement. Today, the case is still open and ongoing, and Jeff Buziak, Lindsay’s father, still searches for the truth of what happened to her.
Jeff was a real-estate mogul himself. He lives in Calgary, and when he’s not at work or practicing his hobby of hang-gliding, he’s piecing together his daughter’s death, however painful it may be.
“It’s been agonizing,” says Jeff, speaking in the fall of 2016. “I felt it would be a simple search. It’s interesting with people. They get in their heads [that] they don’t want the truth to come out. It probably never will. And even if people are willing to tell the truth, how accurate is it? That’s always been my question, especially when a lot of time has transpired. Will somebody, psychologically, just turn the truth a little bit to protect something or themselves?”
It’s one of the biggest dilemmas about the truth. Who has it? When do we know to believe it? It can’t be based on blind faith, but on tactile things we hold in our hands. Things we can know without doubt or hesitation. In Lindsay’s case, it’s doubtful that new hard evidence will ever be found now. Text messages get deleted, cell phones get lost, fingerprints and DNA wash away. We are left with truths trapped in memory, in the minds of other people. Yet each time we recall a memory, we reshape it, mold it to fit the hand that grasped it. With that, do we reshape truth? Or do we destroy it? How much can we rely on and believe in approximations?
“It’s been agonizing,” says Jeff.
Jeff Buziak is not alone in looking for answers. Google the name “Lindsay Buziak” and the first hits will be for lindsaybuziakmurder.com, a site run by people who had never met Lindsay or her father, but were moved by her story. The site has over a million logged hits, and a thread of over a thousand comments that still grows almost daily. Users in the comment section—including Jeff—continue to hash out the details surrounding Lindsay’s passing. They share theories, name names, link articles, and post photos. Although the site has a DIY feel, it contains the most detailed public record of what happened to Lindsay all those years ago.
The appeal of true crime
Back in 2008, Lindsay’s death made national headlines. In 2010, NBC’s Dateline featured Lindsay in an hour-long episode entitled “Dream House Mystery.” Nearly six million viewers tuned in.
Lindsay’s case is not the first to be highlighted as true crime entertainment, and certainly not the last. True crime’s popularity has seen a spike in recent years.. Documentaries such as The Case of: Jonbenet Ramsey, the podcast Serial, and Netflix specials such as Making a Murderer and Amanda Knox have all become internet sensations. Although true crime has been around for a while — many name Truman Capote’s 1966 novel In Cold Blood as one of its first highbrow forms — there’s no doubt that there’s been a resurgence in popular culture.
Between 1550 and 1700, capital crime pamphlets became popular reading fodder for English society’s elite. Those who could read and afford printed prose could purchase short volumes depicting crimes and their judicial proceedings. By the 1800s, true crime pamphlets had graduated to novels, coupled with the popularization of detective fiction. One of Western culture’s oldest true-crime sensations came from this era, when Lizzie Borden’s trial inspired numerous books and explosive media coverage. But it wasn’t until the release of In Cold Blood in the 1960s that true crime was rebranded from media sensationalism to literary art that can be critiqued and analyzed.
“The euphoric effect of true crime on human emotions is similar to that of roller coasters.”
Today’s true crime, whether featured in television specials or podcasts, lays somewhere in the middle. Some aspects are still glamourized, full of secret theories, love triangles, general whodunnits — just look at any news article written about Making a Murderer. But often the works themselves manage to serve as capable commentary on larger issues. Making a Murderer isn’t really about who killed Teresa Halbach; it’s about the corruption and pitfalls of the American justice system.
Why are we drawn to it? Why does the notion of truth make these programs so much more impactful than their fictional counterparts? While shows like C.S.I and Law and Order are widely successful, none are ever as talked about as true crime. Scott Bonn, criminology professor at Drew University and author of Why We Love Serial Killers, writes in an article for Time Magazine that, “The euphoric effect of true crime on human emotions is similar to that of roller coasters.”
He explains that just hearing the violent details of a crime can send adrenaline through the bloodstream, which can become a rewarding feeling, engaging the pleasure centres of the brain. Jeff does not have a background in biology, but he still sees the near-visceral effect is has on viewers. “People are hungry for reality stuff nowadays,” he says. “They become addicted to it.”
Amanda Knox, subject of an eponymous Netflix special, saw the issue from the opposite side of the spectrum. She was an American student arrested for murder while studying abroad in Italy, only to be acquitted years later by the highest Italian court system. Truth became slippery for her too, with detectives’ personal bias sneaking into evidence. The media pounced on the story. “It’s people projecting their fears,” she says at the end of her documentary. “They want the reassurance that they know who the bad people are and it’s not them. So maybe that’s what it is. We’re all afraid.”
“I’m going to find out who did this.”
Some find the morbid curiosity of true crime to be a moral dilemma, entertainment bloomed out of tragedy. Jeff Buziak thinks differently. “I think it’s a good thing. But I think where we’re having trouble bridging the gap is people not understanding how serious it is out there on the streets right now. Some people are attracted to it because it does reach out and grab your soul a bit.”
Reaching beyond true crime, the non-fiction industry as a whole has blossomed commercially over the last few years. Maybe we all realize how hard it is to nail down the truth, and so we admire those who can, or at least those brave enough to try. In a way, we’re all looking for truth, readers and writers alike. Many do not have any clear motivation for slogging through, for crating off bricks to build our own houses, to be comfortable in the spaces we make for ourselves, to be at home.
Jeff’s search for the truth has a clear purpose. “One [is] a promise I made to Lindsay holding her in the morgue, telling her ‘I’m going to find out who did this.’ I need to make this world a safer place for young women.”
Ten years later
For others, this search might seem hopeless, diluted. It has been ten years, after all. There could understandably be a point in anyone’s journey where the weight of it all might stop them. If truth can now only be found in the memories and words of others, then how is that attainable? How complete does it need to be to satisfy? How can we be sure it’s still the same truth we started with, back in 2008, on a Saturday night off the coast? Yet Jeff still holds out hope — a hope that one day police will announce an arrest has been made, that he’d see the monsters he’s chased for so long behind bars.
His efforts have gone beyond talking though, as he’s continued the investigation the Saanich Police started. He felt the police left him in the dark for most of the investigation, and that he needed to find answers for himself. Shortly after pursuing his own leads, the Saanich Police issued him an official warning that they believed his life was in danger, but they could not tell him how they knew, or who to look out for.
“I will not stop. It is my sole purpose on this earth.”
Since 2008, Jeff has organized a Walk of Remembrance every year for his daughter, always on Feb. 2. He flies in from Calgary each time. But two years ago, he ran into one of the men he believes to be involved in the death of his daughter. The two passed each other on the street, a few blocks down from the University of Victoria. Police were called after the altercation became aggressive, catching the attention of passersby.
“It was on the street, I was threatened, hollered at, called profanities. I was told I’d be beat down and slapped down if I didn’t stop,” Buziak was quoted as saying in a Saanich News article at the time. “Saanich Police were called because passersby saw me verbally violated on the sidewalk.”
An edge of anger creeps into Jeff’s voice when he talks about knowing certain pieces of the truth, without knowing the whole. He, like many others online, believe the police already know who the perpetrators are behind Lindsay’s death, but won’t make an arrest until they have more evidence. This time fact hinders truth. That doesn’t deter Jeff. “Unless you kill me,” he says, “I will not stop. It is my sole purpose on this earth.”
The house at the corner of De Sousa and Torquay is still there, of course — a mix of grey siding and stonework, with wide windows and shingled overhangs. It’s been purchased, maybe more than once, and is now a place that someone calls home, where a man sets the recycling on the curb every Thursday morning, maybe while a woman scrambles eggs. The lawn is lush, the ferns and flowers carefully pruned and planted, hedges in neat columns on each side of the front door. Looking at it brings sobering meaning to the phrase if these walls could talk.
And Jeff Buziak continues to organize the remembrance walks. Participants hold posters of Lindsay’s face. A popular photo shows her grinning, dark hair pinned back from her face, wearing hoop earrings and pink lip gloss. Some signs have pictures of flowers. Some just the word “justice.” Along with the walk, Jeff gives talks throughout British Columbia and Alberta for those who have lost someone to homicide. He estimates that his largest crowds have been upwards of four to five hundred people.
Our obsession with true crime isn’t going away anytime soon. While many people who attend Jeff’s talks are there as fellow grievers, some might also be drawn by this fascination with tragedy. In many ways, it’s a natural reaction to a terrible event — the car crash you can’t look away from.
The next time you settle in to binge-watch Netflix’s newest murder documentary hit, though, take a moment to ask yourself why. Are you indulging in something deeper, more meaningful, than morbid curiosity? If not, how can you? For Jeff Buziak, the privilege to look away, to turn off his screen, is gone. For him, the truth is the difference between letting go and holding back, between healing and pain, between life and death. There’s no dramatizing that. It’s his reality.
After speeches, Jeff says he’s often inundated with questions from listeners, asking what he does to cope with his loss.
“I speak the truth about Lindsay,” he sometimes tells them. “And I guard that, I soldier it, watch over it. I can’t solve the world’s issues, but I can get out there, tell my truth, and do my part.”