'Nerve-wracking' search

Craig
Craig Babstock
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Missing person

Right up to the moment his wife disappeared 18 days ago, Harold O'Rielly says his life was nearly perfect.

Harold and Donna, who are originally from Gander but moved to Moncton in 2004, were approaching their 35th wedding anniversary in August. Their two daughters were both pregnant and the family had a trip to Florida planned which they would have left for last Friday.

Amy Popowych (left) and Karen Streek and Harold O'Reilly, daughters and husband of missing Moncton woman Donna O'Reilly. - Photo by The Canadian Press

Right up to the moment his wife disappeared 18 days ago, Harold O'Rielly says his life was nearly perfect.

Harold and Donna, who are originally from Gander but moved to Moncton in 2004, were approaching their 35th wedding anniversary in August. Their two daughters were both pregnant and the family had a trip to Florida planned which they would have left for last Friday.

Harold recently retired and Donna was set to retire in a couple of weeks.

"It's like somebody realized we had everything going good," Harold said. "Everything seemed like it was fitting right together. Whoever ripped the heart out of us knew what he was doing."

Harold and his family are convinced someone abducted Donna the night of Feb. 26, when she left Highfield Square around 8 p.m. after finishing her job at H&R Block. They said it's the only explanation for why she would go missing and make no attempt to contact her family. The family, which is offering a $25,000 reward for her recovery, said she had no enemies and was not in any kind of trouble.

The couple's two daughters, Amy Popowych and Karen Streek, were waiting at Amy's Ontario home to do a live video chat with their mother over the Internet the night of the 26th because Amy was going to tell her mom she's pregnant. Harold was alone at their Front Mountain Road home, waiting for his wife to come home from work.

She didn't show up, and he phoned his daughters at 10:45 p.m. to tell them there was no point in waiting up because Donna must still be at work.

"When the tax season gets busy, there were times last year when she was there until 12-12:30 a.m.," Harold said. "I fell asleep, and when I woke up the power was off (in our neighbourhood) and I didn't know what time it was, and when I looked it was quarter to one and no Donna, no car, no nothing."

He called his sister-in-law and she sent her husband over to Highfield Square to investigate, while Harold jumped in his pickup truck and drove down Gorge Road to see if she had slid off the wet road, because it was rainy and windy that night.

"When I got half-way down Gorge Road, my brother-in-law called me and told me her car was still over in the mall parking lot, so that ended my search," Harold said.

Police were called to investigate and talked to Harold about his missing wife. When asked if they treated him as a suspect, he didn't hesitate in his answer.

"Absolutely they did," he says, adding he was upfront with investigators and they no longer believe he's a suspect. "I think they could dispel that myth pretty quick."

Because Donna hasn't been found, speculation continues to swirl about what happened to her and who's responsible. Harold said whenever a woman goes missing, people are going to look at the husband. When asked if that makes an incredibly difficult situation even more difficult, he said no.

"At this stage of the game, I couldn't care less what people say about me. When I think to myself all we did, we built this house together and she'll never be here to enjoy it. It's the least of my worries what people think about me."

He said police also questioned him in the beginning about the possibility his wife left him for someone else.

"Right from day one I'm sure the police's angle asking all their questions was that she ran off with another man," he said. "To be honest with you, I wish I could find out she's run off with another man, because I would not want to see anybody hurt her."

Harold said having his daughters and many other family members in Moncton over the past couple of weeks has been a great help, because to go through this ordeal alone would be unbearable.

"It's been pure hell. I don't have any other words to describe it," he said. "You wait every minute, every hour, every time the phone rings, expecting it to be her, or some trace of her, and absolutely nothing. It's just nerve-wracking."

Organizations: H&R Block

Geographic location: Moncton, Highfield Square, Gander Florida Gorge Road Ontario Front Mountain Road

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