The crisp, fresh air of spring still draws many folks outside for their daily walks, but most now prefer to stroll in daylight hours only.
Workers at the local hospital, at restaurants and coffee shops who work the night shift, often forego rear doors and leave through main, well-lit exits after their shift. For most, taking quick glances over the shoulder on a parking lot or a hiking trail has become routine.
It’s an unsettling and nagging insecurity that has gradually built in the town of just over 2,200 people over the past 15 years — a period when four of the town’s residents have gone missing without a trace, leaving a swirling storm of rumours, suspicions and unanswered questions.
Mildred Sexton, 47, missing since April 16, 2002. Andrew Sexton, 21, missing since Feb. 26, 2006. Cleon Smith, 30, missing since April 2, 2011.
Jennifer Hillier-Penney, missing since Nov. 30, 2016. (Jennifer Hillier-Penney Part 2) (No indication of serial killer: expert) (RCMP resume searches for Jennifer Hillier-Penney) (St. Anthony residents step up again)
A new case just about every four to five years.
No trace of the missing, no answers, no peace of mind — ironic given the town is named after the patron saint of missing things.
People who go to their cabins, on woods roads and trails, or who fish along the rugged shoreline, always have a lookout for some clue, some piece of evidence that could change the tide of the one or more of the cases.
Then there are those who live in the town with some level of suspicion hanging over their heads — invisible fingers pointed their way as they go about their daily lives. Rumours and allegations bandied about on social media.
As time passes after each case — after the RCMP major crime investigators leave town and the official searches have ground to a halt — initial shock and fear fades, and people gradually return to their daily routines. But the missing are never far from anyone’s mind.