People in St. Anthony and area are pulling together to help find missing woman Jennifer Hillier-Penney.
Many have already been involved in previous ground searches.
Some residents now have formed a fundraising committee called Jennifer’s Search to help with costs associated with continuing ground and water searches, and other methods that may be utilized to help find the 38-year-old woman, who vanished without a trace on Nov. 30, 2016.
The first event will be a giant bingo at the Polar Centre in St. Anthony on July 5 at 8 p.m.
Marilyn Walker said she had been thinking of the idea for some time, especially after hearing from so many people in the St. Anthony area who wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do. Most people, she said, did not want to interfere with the RCMP effort and investigation.
“I just said, somebody has got to take the lead,” Walker said. “I said, I need to approach the family to do something and see if there is any way we can help.
“I asked, what if there was funding available, and the family said that while the RCMP is still involved, it will come to a point where (the family) will have to start paying themselves for further searches to be done. If they continue to get the sonar boat back, or bring back the tracking dogs, or hire a private investigator, or try to involve a psychic, the costs are going to start accumulating.”
Walker said that with the family’s blessing, she recruited committee members and started to organize the bingo at the town’s stadium, the Polar Centre.
The town, as its donation, let the group use the Polar Centre rent-free for the July 5 bingo event.
Immediately, one person donated $1,000 in grocery gift certificates that the group is selling tickets on. Other prizes are being donated by area businesses, people are volunteering their time to help out at the event and monetary donations are already coming in.
“There will be a lot of people showing up for this bingo, so we needed a large venue,” Walker said. “This is to help find Jennifer or to find some news of Jennifer to help bring closure for her family. It can also be to find any information on the other unsolved missing-person cases in the community.”
Those three other unsolved missing-person cases are that of: Mildred Sexton, missing since 2002; Andrew Sexton, missing since 2006; and Cleon Smith, missing since 2011.
While the three other cases have caused worry and concern in the community over the years, and left many unanswered questions, the recent case of Hillier-Penney is the only one deemed suspicious by the RCMP.
A note on a group Facebook page for Jennifer’s Search called Stadium Bingo Fundraiser states: “It is one of the most difficult situations that any family can be placed in, to have a loved one disappear without a trace. This is the case of the family of Jennifer Hillier-Penney. Since her disappearance, the family, community and general public have been shaken to the core. People are heart-sick and praying every day for this to be resolved.”
Last weekend the RCMP resumed searches in the area for Hillier-Penney after waiting for the snow to melt from wilderness roads and trails.
The police also utilized the Deer Lake Underwater Search and Recovery Team and its side-scan sonar to search Northern Arm Harbour, near St. Anthony.
Hillier-Penney was last known to be at the house she formerly shared with her estranged husband, Dean Penney, who had been away on a duck hunting trip at his cabin in the Northwest Arm area that night, about 45 minutes away.
Hillier-Penney vanished without a trace, but left personal items such as her cellphone, purse, coat and shoes behind. The keys were still in the ignition of her car that was left in the driveway.
Hillier-Penney’s family and friends have stated they will not give up until they find out what happened to her.
The Telegram ran a series of stories recently on the Hillier-Penney case and the three other unsolved missing-person cases in St. Anthony.
Walker said the committee — which does not include family members of Hillier-Penney — will meet to determine where funds will be dispersed when search options are presented.
“It will be controlled outside of family. It will be a group and a committee to distribute the money,” Walker said. “Also, at the end, when hopefully Jennifer will be found, and also if for some reason she is not and the family needs to try to put it to rest, then any funds left in the account will be used to create a Locks for Love site near Fishing Point Park.”
There are a number of Love for Locks or Love Locks sites around the world. They are specifically created sites where wire mesh is installed on the shoreline and people purchase locks — with the name of someone they love and/or want to remember — and attach them to the wire mesh. The keys are then tossed into the ocean.
“We would put a mesh wire around a beautiful cliff at Fishing Point and anybody who wants to show their love for somebody, you hook a lock onto it with the name of that person on it,” Walker explained. “The key, or keys, you have for locking that lock, you make a wish and toss them into the ocean.
“We would put it there in memory of the four who have gone missing from St. Anthony.”
Walker came up with the idea after returning from Australia in 2015.
“My husband passed away in September of 2014 and in 2015, myself and two of my sisters, and my sister-in-law and my friend, we flew to Australia because that was a vacation my husband and I had wanted to do, but he never got a chance to do it. While we were there, my family, without my knowledge, had purchased a lock with my husband’s name on it and three keys — one for me and one representing each of our children — and carried me to a place called The Locks of Love and you hook the lock on anywhere on a mesh wire over a rock, and you toss the keys into the ocean and you make a wish. I said, I’d like to see that in St. Anthony.”
Anyone wanting more information on Jennifer’s Search and the upcoming fundraiser can call committee members: Marilyn Walker at 454-4115; Gina Elliott at 454-5298; Shelly Hillier at 454-5233; Karen Burbridge at 454-6302; or Sheila Bartlett at 623-2079.
The RCMP asks anyone who may have information about the disappearance of Hillier-Penney to contact the St. Anthony RCMP at 709-454-3543. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), text TIP190 + your message to ‘CRIMES’ (274637), or at www.nlcrimestoppers.com.
See follow up STORY HERE.
To read The Telegram series on the St. Anthony missing person cases visit, www.thetelegram.com