Four families and circles of friends have no answers about what really happened.
There are some things that likely can be ruled out, however, such as the suggestion by some that there’s a serial killer in the area.
Enzo Yaksic runs Northeastern University’s Atypical Homicide Research Group in Boston, Mass. The group specializes in the use of data in analyzing serial killers.
In addition to Jennifer Hillier-Penney, three other people have gone missing in St. Anthony in the past 15 years: Mildred Sexton in 2002; Andrew Sexton (no relation) in 2006; and Cleon Smith in 2011.
Yaksic agrees it’s a stretch to link the four missing-person cases in St. Anthony.
“Here, we cannot be certain that the disappearance of these four individuals resulted in homicide, let alone that lives were claimed by a serial murderer,” Yaksic wrote via email.
“Regardless of the statistics, the threat of the existence of a serial murderer can cause upheaval in modern society especially when the victims appear to look like us or those we know. … It can also be comforting to believe that law enforcement must find only one individual responsible for a myriad of offences rather than groups of assailants causing co-ordinated attacks.
“Four is certainly a high number of unsolved missing-persons cases for any town of this size.”
In Jennifer Hillier-Penney’s case, the evidence suggests she did not go of her own free will, and her friends and family say she was not suicidal.
Meanwhile, Dean Penney’s name is not the only one bandied about in talk around town.
Some people speculate about a man related to the Hillier family who often talked to Jennifer and sometimes made statements that could be perceived as threatening.
He was also rumoured to be seen talking to Mildred Sexton around the time she went missing.
The man’s criminal record includes uttering threats, two counts of assault, mischief related to property damage, breaches of court orders and theft.
Glen Hillier, Jennifer’s brother, says no one in his family thinks this person had anything to do with Jennifer going missing.
“He spends time at the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s. He goes around saying all kinds of stuff,” Glen Hillier said. “Whenever he had a mental breakdown he’d call Jenny and they’d talk. They were pretty close.”
Glen Hillier says his family has been through a lot in recent years.
They lost a brother to cancer, the family business in St. Lunaire-Griquet burnt to the ground, their mother died in October 2016 and, less than two months later, Jennifer went missing.
“It’s so hard,” he said. “Sometimes you just break down crying for no reason. I went down to the graveyard on Mother’s Day and looked down at the grave and had a chat with Mom, then I looked up to have a chat with Jennifer, because I don’t know where she is, so that’s the only way to look. I pray that she comes home or that I wake up from a bad dream. It seems like a nightmare.”
Additional article: RCMP resume searches for Jennifer Hillier-Penney