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1:55 AM - Sep 04, 2009 #11


Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander last seen Sept. 6, 2008
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | 5:59 PM ET Comments10Recommend38.
CBC News
Maisy Odjick, left, and Shannon Alexander, right, disappeared after saying they planned to go to a dance together and then stay over at Alexander's home. (Courtesy of the Odjick and Alexander families)The disappearance of two teenage girls in Maniwaki, Que., one year ago has left a painful void in their families and their small Algonquin community.

Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander were last seen on Sept. 6, 2008. At the time, Odjick was 16 and Alexander was 17.

A year later, Odjick's clothes, her flute, her camera and treasured photos are still where she left them at the home of her grandparents, where she usually stayed.

"I've kept everything the way it was when she left here, when she disappeared … hoping that she'll come home or that she'll call and let me know that she's alive somewhere," her grandmother Lisa Odjick said, wiping tears from her cheeks. "Not knowing if she's alive or dead, that's the hardest thing."

Quebec provincial police declined to comment earlier this week about the case, but they were scheduled to hold a news conference about it in Ottawa with the Ontario Provincial Police on Thursday morning.

At Lisa Odjick's cream-coloured bungalow on the Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg First Nation reserve, about 145 kilometres north of Ottawa, there is still a pillow on the arm of the brown fold-out couch where Maisy slept, and her clothes are still in the white cupboard in the corner. Her family got a cake for her last birthday and put gifts under the tree for her at Christmas in case she came home, her grandmother recalled.

"But she didn't come home. Now another birthday's coming up and she's going to be 18, and still no word," her grandmother sobbed. "And it's hard. It's so hard."

On Sunday, a march and candlelight vigil will be held to commemorate the girls' disappearance, organized by Maisy's mother, Laurie Odjick.

At an off-reserve apartment in nearby Maniwaki, Shannon Alexander's father Bryan said he has been waiting by the phone for months, hoping someone who knows the girls' whereabouts will call.

"My whole family's torn up," he said.

Girls were heading to dance
'Not knowing if she's alive or dead, that's the hardest thing,' says Maisy's grandmother Lisa Odjick. (Simon Gardner/CBC)Lisa Odjick said nothing seemed amiss when she last saw Maisy, who was heading out to a dance with her friend on Saturday night.

"She was all happy when she left here with Shannon," Odjick recalled, saying the girls were very close.

Odjick asked Maisy to call on Sunday, but grew worried when she didn't hear from her. She went over to Bryan Alexander's place, where the girls had planned to spend the night.

Alexander said he had originally left for the weekend to paint Shannon's brother's house, but returned a day early.

"I was spooked, there was no answer in the house," he said.

He found the doors locked and the dog outside. Inside, the girls had left their purses, their wallets, their identification, their backpacks — even Shannon's medication. But the girls themselves where nowhere to be found.

During the past year, the two families have heard rumours about what might have happened to the two girls — possible sightings in Ottawa and Montreal, for example — but neither the Quebec provincial police nor the Kitigan Zibi police have reported much progress in their investigations.

$13,000 reward
'My daughter would call me all the time,' says Shannon's father, Bryan Alexander. 'Even if she ran away, she would call me.' (Simon Gardner/CBC)Nor have any substantial tips come in through a website set up by some relatives in an effort to find the girls, Laurie Odjick said.

That is despite the fact that the public has donated close to $13,000 to reward anyone with information.

In May, a set of bones was found near the reserve. Bryan Alexander said his mother almost had a heart attack when it was suggested they might belong to the two missing girls. They turned out to be animal remains.

Both families have expressed dissatisfaction with the police investigation.

Laurie Odjick said she organized the initial searches for the girls when police didn't.

"They never even offered to help," she alleged. "Everything that has been done so far has been done by the family .… I don't think it was high on their priority list."

Odjick said police were slow to investigate and not thorough.

"There was no search team, there was no forensics team in that apartment, there was no questioning of the parents," she said.

She added that there was also jurisdictional wrangling that initially had the Quebec provincial police probing Shannon's disappearance and the reserve police probing Maisy's in separate files.

Running away, abduction possible
The families have heard from police that there is evidence that the girls may have run away. However, last fall, investigators would not rule out the possibility that the girls were taken against their will. Bryan Alexander said he thinks the girls were abducted.

Both the Odjicks and Bryan Alexander pointed to the fact that the girls left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, leaving behind even their identification and their most treasured possessions, such as Maisy's photos of her brother and sister.

"For her to leave without those, it's inconceivable to me, because she took those everywhere with her," Lisa Odjick recalled.

The families have said in the past that the girls would sometimes leave for a few days at a time. But both girls also seemed happy and had not indicated any plans or reasons to leave at the time they disappeared, their families said.

Shannon had been planning to start nursing school the month after she disappeared. Her father said he had already paid her tuition. In any case, the girls would have called if they could, their families said.

"My daughter would call me all the time," Bryan Alexander recalled. "Even if she ran away, she would call me: 'Daddy, I ran away, I'm just down the road, I'm over here.' Know what I mean? That's the type of girl she was. It didn't matter if she was across the street. If it was more than 10 minutes, she'd call me."

Laurie Odjick said she hopes police are right and the girls did run away.

"''Cause that means they're still out there. But as a mom, it doesn't make sense 'cause that's not [like] my child."

She said the hardest part is having to continue living and working and looking after her other kids as usual without knowing what happened to Maisy.

"My biggest fear … is that I might never know."

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7:03 PM - Sep 04, 2009 #12


Missing girls believed to be alive
Police search focuses on Ontario
By Neco Cockburn, The Ottawa Citizen
September 3, 2009

Investigators believe two native girls missing for a year from the Maniwaki area are alive, although it has been several months since they received a tip regarding the girls’ whereabouts.

Maisy Odjick, 17, and Shannon Alexander, 18, have been missing from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation-Maniwaki area since Sept. 6, 2008. Their disappearance was reported a few days later.

Police have turned their search efforts to Ontario, since most tips received involved potential sightings in Ottawa, Kingston and Saugeen Shores on Lake Huron, where Odjick has family.

Investigators hoped a news conference Thursday marking the anniversary of the disappearance will result in more tips, since none have been received for about eight months.

“It’s certainly not a cold case. It’s always been active,” said Chief Gorden McGregor of the Kitigan Zibi Police Department, which is investigating with Ontario Provincial Police and Sûreté du Québec.

McGregor said as tips have slowed down, the search has been scaled back in order to save resources in his department, which has eight officers, including the chief.

At one time, the file was handled full-time by one of McGregor’s officers, but the officer is now working the case on a part-time basis, with as many as eight Sûreté du Québec officers, depending on the information received, McGregor said.

Other forces, including Ottawa police, have been contacted to look into possible sightings, and OPP joined the case in October, after a potential sighting was reported in Saugeen Shores.

Hundreds of tips were received and followed up, according to investigators. However, none of the sightings has been confirmed. The tips indicated that the girls were seen together, said Capt. Jacques Piché of the Sûreté du Québec.

Piché said there is no information to suggest that the girls are not alive. Nor is there evidence of an abduction, he said.

“We have no proof in that sense, so we are considering this case as a disappearance. We are not eliminating anything, we are covering all bases,” said Piché .

OPP Det.-Insp. Chris Gilpin said it is “very unusual” for two girls to go missing together, but “to not have contact with their families for long periods of time, that does happen on occasion.”

The girls’ families have been frustrated by a lack of clues, as well as the police response to the case.

Maisy Odjick’s mother, Laurie Odjick, attended the news conference and told reporters that officers could have done more in the early stages of the investigation.

“From the beginning, from the very first press conference we had, they were labeled as runaways,” she said. “I think that big label that was put there made things a lot harder and a lot slower.”

Police did not look at family computers for six weeks, she said. During the news conference, McGregor said it was three or four weeks before police looked at the computers.

“We didn’t think about it at that time ... we were following up the tips and stuff,” he said, adding there was no evidence of luring on the computers.

Odjick has also questioned the co-ordination between the two police forces that were initially involved in the case.

The Kitigan Zibi Police Department and the Sûreté du Québec opened separate files because Maisy Odjick comes from the reserve and Alexander’s home is in Maniwaki.

McGregor said investigators from both forces worked closely together from the start. “From the beginning, it was never a question of jurisdiction. It was never a question of the colour of uniform, the colour of the skin. It’s a matter of trying to find the girls,” he said.

Maisy Odjick is six feet tall and 125 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. She has two piercings in her bottom lip and one in her left nostril, and scars on top of her right eyebrow and left forearm.

Alexander is five-foot-nine, 145 pounds, with brown eyes and dark brown hair. She has acne and pierced ears. She often wears a silver necklace with a feather on it, and has a scar on her left knee.

A vigil for the girls will be held on the Kitigan Zibi reserve on Sunday at 7 p.m. Anyone with information is asked to call the Criminal Information Centre at 1-800-659-4264 or OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

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11:48 AM - Sep 07, 2010 #13


Families of missing girls cling to hope
Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander disappeared two years ago today, and police are still stumped, reports Meghan Hurley.
By Meghan Hurley, The Ottawa Citizen September 6, 2010

Laurie Odjick's hopes were temporarily dashed last November when her missing daughter's 18th birthday came and went without a phone call.

But she hasn't given up.

"I'll never lose hope, never lose hope until they bring me a body or she comes home," she said. "That's the only time I will give up on her."

Odjick has been yearning to hear her daughter's voice, smell her strawberry-scented hair and wrap her arms around her in a tight embrace since she disappeared two years ago.

It was Sept. 6, 2008, when Maisy Odjick, then 16, and her friend Shannon Alexander, 17, disappeared from the Kitigan Zibi-Maniwaki area, about 130 kilometres north of Ottawa. The teens left their wallets, purses, clothes and medication.

"That's my baby. I can't believe two years have gone by," Alexander's father, Bryan, said through tears. "Believe me, I cry every day. Damn right I do. I love my baby."

The Sûreté du Québec, OPP and the Kitigan Zibi Police are stumped.

Investigators have been sent as far as Toronto to check out possible sightings of the girls.

"If something comes in, boom, we're going for it," said Steve Lalande, Sûreté du Québec spokesman.

But the clues have led investigators to several dead ends. The case has gone cold and leads are drying up.

Kitigan Zibi Police Chief Gorden McGregor said the girls' disappearance is one of the hardest cases he's worked on in his 30-year career.

"For us, it's not suspicious, but there's always something weird about it," McGregor said. "We have two missing girls, they left and we don't know why or how."

The girls could be anywhere, Maisy's aunt, Maria Jacko says. She said only five kilometres of the 385-square-kilometre area was searched for the girls. "Our community is the biggest first nation in Quebec in terms of land mass," Jacko said.

Since the girls disappeared, family members have made many attempts to search for them.

In one case, someone wrote to Jacko to say they had a feeling the girls might be near a shack on Bitobi Lake. Family searched, but found no traces of the girls.

To mark the second anniversary of their disappearance, Jacko wants to begin mini searches to eventually canvass every square kilometre of the community.

The case of another missing woman whose body was found close to home made Jacko believe the girls could be nearby. Tiffany Morrison was last seen in June of 2006 when she left a bar and shared a taxi from Montreal to the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve with a man from the community. Her remains were found four years later in a wooded area under Montreal Island's Mercier Bridge, minutes from her home.

But in Maisy and Shannon's case, there have been few fruitful leads in the past year, leading police to investigate even the most bogus sounding tips, including those passed on by psychics.

"Anything we have we investigate, whether it sounds ludicrous or not," Lalande said. "If they say the body is under a pile of hay, we will look underneath the hay."

A woman who claims to be a Reiki master gave Jacko a map of Kitigan Zibi with a lake circled. The woman told Jacko she had a strong feeling the girls could be found in that area, but a search ended with no clues.

"That's one of the places I would like to go again with the mini searches because this lady is so persistent that they are there."

The girls' parents said from the beginning that the investigation was botched because the Sûreté du Québec assumed the girls were runaways.

Native organizations believed there was an element of racism -- that investigators often assume young, troubled aboriginal women are runaways.

Jurisdictional questions added to the confusion: Maisy is registered to the Kitigan Zibi band; Shannon is Inuit and not registered to the band. Maisy's mother says every time she asked the Sûreté du Québec for updates, they referred her to reserve police.

At the outset, the girls' files were kept apart, even though they went missing from the same place and were believed to be together.

Kitigan Zibi police took Maisy's file, while the Sûreté du Québec had Shannon's. Eventually, the files were formally joined.

Family said the police initially moved slowly. There was no ground search in the days immediately after the girls went missing, for example, and it took police more than a month to seize the girls' computers.

"There were always issues from the beginning. For me, that's just another fight that I'm not ready for yet," Laurie Odjick said.

"As much as I want this world to stop, it's not going to. I would go back in time, but we can't do that."

- - -

Today's Vigil

A vigil will be held today to mark the second anniversary since Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander disappeared from Maniwaki without a trace.

Family and friends will begin a walk at the Home Hardware at 7 p.m., travel through the town on Main Street to the river, walk by the Maniwaki Woodland School and end in Nagishkodadiwin Park.

"This case has been silent for too long," said Maisy's Aunt, Maria Jacko, and one of the organizers of the vigil. "The families hope that the vigil will help people to remember that Maisy and Shannon are still out there and that we need to continue to search for them."

At the park, there will be a prayer by Pauline Decontie and a performance by the KZ Women Drum Group.