Dateline   |  June 14, 2013

Deception, Part 3

Police begin to consider:  Would a dedicated wife and mother of two simply skip town and run away from her own family? 

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> wendy ratte. the sweet free spirit of prince george , british columbia , had vanished from her life as slick as a magic acted. her passports nowhere to be found. as unlikely as it seemed, police had to seriously consider could, would a dedicated wife and mother of two simply skip town, run away from her own family? which brings us to the greyhound bus station a few blocks from the place wendy 's van was found abandoned. gabriel was putting up a missing persons poster there. and --

>> i asked the lady who was there at the cash register , do you recognize this lady on the poster. she did say that she recognized my mom. and i was taken aback. you do? she said, yes, very certainly. we asked her repeatedly, and she said, "i saw her, she was sitting at that table over there."

>> what does that do when you hear that?

>> it's hope, you know.

>> shortly after wendy disappeared, anna was looking for clues and found an application for a teacher's job in california.

>> i thought, well, maybe -- maybe she's there. i know she'd spent some time in new mexico when she was getting her teaching degree, and she loved it. well, maybe she went there.

>> then there was that religious group she'd been so into the years earlier. the emissaries of divine light . could she have up and joined them?

>> they feel they have transcended the conflict intention of their former lives.

>> a canadian news magazine show profiled the group and found it had several branches in the u.s.

>> i helped police look into that and gave them every information i could. and would often ask, how much did you look into this because i knew there was an american sect.

>> still, why would her own kids think it possible she abandoned her family without so much as good-bye? the reason for that was history. she had done it before.

>> just disappeared from her life.

>> this is karen crieder, wendy 's sister, who told how wendy vanished at 17 years old. the family found her living in a tent in new hampshire.

>> just as our very approach, she began screaming obscenities and shouting and behaving in a menacing, hateful way. and she was not a person i'd ever met, and we knew she was not well and needed care. and forcibly took her and put her in the hospital.

>> doctors thought wendy suffered from drug-induced manic depression . but karen said they didn't have time to make an official diagnosis. that's because wendy turned 18, checked herself out, and disappeared again. this time for almost two years.

>> when wendy disappeared, all traces of her were gone. she did not call anybody. we couldn't find her. we couldn't track her.

>> she showed up suddenly apparently seeking refuge from an abusive relationship she was in at the time and then was gone again.

>> there was a clear disengagement from reality. she didn't understand that her disappearances were hurtful to her family members. didn't get that at all.

>> so it went on and on until one day she turned up and announced she was getting married to denis . the family was overjoyed.

>> our family thought that he was a very good influence on her and the fact that she chose to take a chance and take her away was nothing short of amazing.

>> wendy became a dedicated wife, teacher, artist, mother. but there were always issues. mood swings for one thing.

>> some days she would be so happy, and other days the world would just weigh down on her.

>> but denis ' sister said that what she observed in saskatchewan when anna and gabriel were still young weren't just mood swings but something far more complicated than that.

>> the first time that i really noticed it was with the kids. she was always so gentle with them, soft spoken. and all of a sudden she was very cold and very abrupt with them. and i started noticing denis when this would happen, denis would take her away. he'd say, "oh, we're going for a walk now." when they got back, she was back to normal. and finally we asked him, you know, "what is going on?" finally he said, you know, "that's shawna. that's not wendy ." he said, "when she does that, she's shawna."

>> wait, did wendy suffer from multiple personality disorder? that was never diagnosed. the stories were all anecdotal. but --

>> i met swna. wendy and i met in a parking lot somewhere just to say hi. she was driving a very fast, very expensive car. she was bragging about how much money she made. she was uninterested in anybody else besides herself. and she said, "i'm not wendy anymore."

>> shawna seemed to have been around off and on for quite a while. she even called herself that in a letter she wrote her parents when she was just 23. "shawna has magic, "she wrote. so, two wendys?

>> wendy was the good mother, conservative, hard worker, wanted to save the world . while shawna was the wild child . she didn't want to be tied down. she wanted to have a good time. she felt restrained by the bonds of marriage and family.

>> maybe it was shawna who got on that bus, or perhaps oshanna? yes, three wendys. she came to light sometimes at seances with anna and gabriel .

>> i don't know if they were real or not real. they seemed tracey neale tim e -- seemed re al at the time. she was in touch with a spirit, an ancient spirit with -- named oshanna. she found some peace in that, and one day she said, "let as hold hands and speak with oshanna."

>> i remember her transforming into this character. this different self. it was a surprise to me. i didn't know she did this. she was a completely different person. she wasn't responding in the way my mother usually does.

>> everybody was looking for wendy , said gabriel , when really maybe they should have been looking for one of the shawnas.

>> i think that she had the capacity to pick up and go. she might have reached that breaking point where she just thought or she didn't think, just snapped and just left.

>> then one day after a month of rumors and unsubstantiated theories followed one after the other, there was a break. wendy had been getting unemployment insurance . and two of her checks had been cashed at an atm in full view of the bank's surveillance camera.