Waiting For Salina

By Marci Preheim
Waiting for Salina blog
October 07, 2018

It was a crisp fall morning in downtown Raleigh. I chose the only open table outside a bustling café, to savor my cappuccino. I concentrated on sipping without ruining the palm leaf etched in foam at the top of my cup. I was waiting for Salina.

I have been remotely acquainted with Salina for a few years, but I knew her from Twitter as Cathy. You know how Twitter is. You scroll through fragments of people’s lives and piece together a narrative. Cathy was hurt. Cathy was angry. Why? I couldn’t quite tell, but her cries on Twitter had a familiar ring.

I looked over my shoulder and saw her approaching. Her gait was slow and labored. She wore a button down cream-colored blouse, and stretchy blue slacks. She smiled sadly when she saw me, and made her way to the table. Cathy is middle-aged with short brownish-reddish hair and glasses. Her deep-set brown eyes looked weary and she wore no make-up. After a little small talk, we picked up the conversation we had been trying to have all weekend at The Courage Conference, hosted by Ashley Easter for sexual abuse victims and advocates. Like on Twitter, Cathy’s story was coming together in pieces. I had to ask a lot of questions, but I sat in stunned silence as it came into focus more than a hundred and forty characters at a time.

“You can write my story if you want to, but I’m not that interesting,” she said.

I felt bad that she thought I was merely sniffing out a good story for my blog. I guess writers have that reputation. I didn’t know how to tell her that I hate writing these stories. I would rather live a quiet life, write lovely stories and Bible studies and maybe even a novel. Advocating for victims invites the wrath-filled, hate flood of powerful religious men into my life—men who lust after their platforms and pocketbooks, and feed on the weak, all in the name of Jesus. Truthfully, it would be easier to look the other way, or say: “I will pray for you.” But how do I hear a story like this and turn a blind eye?

“Maybe all I have to offer you is to listen to your story, believe you, and be properly appalled,” I said. But as I left our breakfast table that morning, the outline was already forming. For the first time since I was twenty-two, I felt like I needed a cigarette. I started writing on the little notepad they had given us at the conference so I wouldn’t forget the details before I could get back to my computer.

A week or so later, Cathy called me and asked me if I would write a letter for her to the District Attorney. “I’m not so good at writing. The DA is my last hope. I need protection. Please help me.”

“I’m not a lawyer.” I said. “But how about if I write your story in the form of a letter, and then you can add the details for the DA?” She agreed and I added a “Dear DA” to her story that I had already written and edited a week prior.

October 30, 2017

Office of the District Attorney

___________ County Justice Center

Dear DA,

My name is Cathy H. This is the name given to me by my kidnappers when they abducted me from my father’s funeral some forty years ago. I was 12 years old. They kept me in a corner of their basement, and convinced me that my deceased father (Gold L. “Lew” Canby) was not really my father. He sexually abused me until I became an adult and left “home.”

I attended the Christian School operated by the church that my abuser founded. I tried to tell a few people at the school that he was abusing me sexually. They told me I was an ungrateful child to say such things about a man of God who had done so much for me, and I was paddled for disrespecting him and the church. It did not take long to learn that it was better to say nothing.

In 2015 I began speaking out about the years of sexual abuse I suffered, as well as the sexual misconduct problem at the University I attended (my abuser is an alum, and was often invited to speak there). My story caught the attention of two FBI agents. They asked if I would take a DNA test to see if it would turn up on the missing person’s list. My DNA was matched to the Canby family of Martinsburg West Virginia with a missing person (child) by the name of Salina Canby.

I did not believe it at first, even though I am a nurse and I understand that DNA does not lie. This is how brainwashed I was. I gave the investigators my birth certificate given to me by my abuser. They informed me that the document was fraudulent. He was a printer by trade so this was not hard for him to do.

Even though I was having a difficult time believing these facts, memories were beginning to return to me of my life before I was abducted, and I reached out to what was left of the Canby family. When I reconnected with them, they told me they had not been notified of my father’s death, nor were they invited to the funeral. When they finally discovered that my father had died, they came looking for me. They told me that the funeral home director shut the door in their faces and refused to answer any of their questions.

They learned that my abuser had officiated the funeral, so they found his address and went to his home. They asked what happened to Salina and were told by he and his wife that they did not know what happened to her. This is when the Canby family filed a missing persons report. As it turns out, the Canby family had been waiting for Salina for over 40 years.

I, Cathy H. or Salina Canby—whoever I am, still live in the town where I was abducted. This is the same town where my abuser and his wife live. I began confronting them for abducting me and sexually abusing me. They deny it. Although in private, my abuser acknowledges it and says, “no one will believe you over me.”

About a month ago, he came to my home and threatened me that if I do not stop exposing the abduction and the sexual abuse and besmirching his public persona, he will kill me. “People who disappear and are never found do not talk again. It would be a shame if that were to happen to you because of your big mouth.”

I have suffered from suicidal thoughts for years. I am in constant writhing pain that will not heal. But I decided that if I am going to die anyway, I will die exposing this man for who he really is.

So, I put out public announcements of what I have been through. As a result, I have heard from many other victims of my abuser. Those victims are too afraid to speak out because he is making an example of me by harassing me, threatening me, even gaining the help of his congregation (Yes, he is still a pastor) to stalk and intimidate me.

The worst part is that even some of the women from that congregation stalk and harass me. They started an online blog to track my every move. Every time some form of harassment takes place, I report it to police, but at least one of the local police officers is a member of my abuser’s church. He threatened to find a reason to arrest me if I did not stop speaking out. Other local police want to help me, but don’t have enough evidence or man-power to protect me. Most recently, I was awakened in the middle of the night to policemen dragging me out of my home because there was animal blood all over my front door. My neighbor thought I had been murdered and called the police.

I live in constant fear as I get regular rape and death threats from Google Drive phone numbers that are difficult to trace. I have shared these messages with the police. I also have video of my abuser chasing me into my home, but according to the authorities here, it is not enough evidence for an arrest.

In spite of the fear I have for my own safety and the safety of the others (girls, now women) my abuser has molested, I am determined to warn the parents of the new group of young girls he has access to. He has now planted and is pastoring a church in a nearby town. My concern is that this new church meets at a middle school, giving my abuser access to groom and molest more little girls. I believe that many of his victims would come forward to testify if he was in custody, but they are too afraid while he remains free to terrorize us.

This is a personal plea for any help you can offer in getting this man off the streets and protecting the women and girls in our community.


Cathy H. aka Salina Canby

* * * * *

Since this letter went out to the DA, Cathy noticed a Gold Honda Accord outside the grocery store, the gas station, the restaurant where she had two martini’s (which was reported online as evidence of her hell-bound eternal state), and most alarming—at her doctor’s office in a different town.

She got a look at the driver of the vehicle and recognized him but couldn’t place him until three days later. Then it hit her that it was a man who used to attend her abuser’s church, but is not allowed to anymore because he is a class 3 sexual offender and by law may not be near children. This latest realization has stricken her with new fear. Being antagonized by small-minded church people is one thing, but being stalked by a dangerous criminal is quite another.

In addition, the police officer that attends her abuser’s church followed through on his threat to put a warrant out for Cathy’s arrest. He brought her in to interrogate her. The stress of being stalked and harassed on a daily basis, and then investigated by police, rather than protected, sent Cathy into a tailspin. She told me later that she doesn’t remember exactly what she said to that police officer—but she knows she snapped. She attempted suicide that week and landed in the hospital for forty-two days. Cathy had to hire a lawyer and appear in court to face charges of disorderly conduct. She testified alone while over fifty people from the congregation showed up to support her abuser.

Like the others, after the District Attorney read her letter, he promised to do what he could to help. I imagine a manila folder being tossed into an in-box, waiting for Salina to be killed before anything will be done. A year later (notice the letter was dated October 2017) Cathy/Salina’s abuser still walks around a free man while she lives in a prison of fear. I don’t know, maybe we as a society can call out the monsters before they kill…just a thought.


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