Doug Campbell still feels his daughter’s presence on the beach, near their family home in Nova Scotia.
“[Jenny] had a real hunger and thirst to know what life was all about. She loved to write, she loved music, she was an artist in her heart. She loved to paint and [write] poetry,” Doug said. “She wasn’t much interested in surface things.”
On Sept. 6, 2017, Jenny McKay was killed in her home in Regina. Her husband, Jason, is accused of second-degree murder in her death. A verdict is expected on Friday afternoon.
Jenny’s parents, Doug and Glenda Campbell, told CTV News Regina that their daughter was “so much more” than the picture painted in the court room during the trial.
“We don’t want how Jenny’s life ended, or the drinking, to define who she was,” Doug said. “She was a whole lot more than that.”
He said that, by her own account, Jenny had a great childhood.
But as an adult, Doug believed there was something Jenny found to be elusive about her childhood.
It was the happiness from her youth that Jenny never stopped looking for.
“Back when happiness wasn’t something to be searched for, because it was all I knew. Who can speak of the greatness of legs that can run forever?” Jenny wrote in a poem, called “Summer in Youth,” that her parents hold close to their hearts.
Ally Campbell said she and her late sister spoke every day, and she was always there when she needed her.
“She was an artist, she could cook, she could play music, she could write and sing. She was just so talented and gifted,” Ally said.
“She was very gregarious, independent, artistic and lovely. She has bright eyes, a big smile and a great laugh,” Glenda said. “She was a good friend, she was faithful, she was interested in people and she loved her family very much.”
Jenny attended Holland College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. She graduated in 2002 with a degree in journalism.
In 2006, she left her home in the Maritimes for Calgary. It was there she met Jason McKay.
Jenny and Jason moved to Regina in 2007, and later that year they visited the Campbells in Nova Scotia.
The Campbells said they noticed an “edginess” about Jason, but said they didn’t judge him for it.
“She liked him, and you [have to] like your children’s partners,” Doug said.
“The miles and the time separated us,” Glenda added.
Doug said that after a while, Jenny was homesick and missed her family.
“She didn’t come home much, and that kind of bothered us,” Doug said. “We didn’t really know why, we thought it was about money but I think it was more about other things.
“She really wanted to be home, and she couldn’t seem to get home.”
When Jenny went to college, she started drinking. Her family said she had a weakness when it came to alcohol.
“I knew it, because I did when I was that age. I would consider myself an alcoholic in my 20s,” Doug said. “She just needed to drink, and he did too. They had that in common.”
Ally said that in hindsight, there were “a lot of red flags” about Jenny’s relationship with Jason.
“The last couple weeks, we knew she was trying to leave [Jason], and we were encouraging her to leave,” Ally said. “I knew toward the end it wasn’t good, but I never would have imagined that something like this would happen.”
Before she died, Jenny had decided to return to her maiden name of Jenny Campbell.
“She would tell us stuff when she was drinking, their problems and she would take off on him,” Doug said. “But when she came home she would say ‘it’s no big deal I can handle it’ and she would try to dismiss it.”
The Campbells said that Jenny had started renting her own apartment.
“We still didn’t know everything that was going on, she was trying to protect us from it,” Doug said.
Reliving the grief
Glenda told CTV News Regina she doesn’t think there are words that can properly describe the feeling of losing a child.
“Horror, disbelief, I don’t know, just shock,” Glenda said, as she recalled the moment she found out Jenny had passed.
“That’s the kind of thing that happens in the news to someone else,” Doug said.
He recalled the feeling of having been run over by a semi-truck.
“[I felt] gutted like a fish,” Doug said. “It just lays you wide open.”
Ally said that for her, reliving the tragedy of Jenny’s death in the court room has been “a nightmare”.
“We’re feeling all of those emotions again, the anger, the hurt, the guilt, the regret and hearing all the details of the abuse and the way she was killed. It’s overwhelming,” Ally said.
Doug said the extent of the violence, which came out in the courtroom, left him in disbelief.
“That 9-1-1 call, if we had any idea that she was that afraid, or that he was that dangerous,” Doug said. “It’s like she’s died all over again.”
But the Campbells say it’s the signs of the violence that Jenny was experiencing they want to draw attention to.
“Her behavior was very typical for someone in a domestic abuse situation,” Doug said. “Women in these situations are afraid, confused, they don’t know where to turn.
“When everything is controlled by someone else, you have no way out.”
Through all their pain over the last two and a half years, the Campbell’s said their faith in God is what has seen them through.
As for their daughter, Doug said he knows in his heart they will meet again.
“She wanted to have a wonderful life,” Doug said. “We had the privilege of having her for 33 years and we’re so grateful for that.
“Some people don’t even get that much.”