It’s been 12 years since anyone saw Tamra Keepness – 12 years of fear, of confusion, of frustration, but also 12 years of hope.
She was five years old when she was last seen at her home on the 1800 block of Ottawa Street on July 5, 2004. She was reported missing the following day.
An annual barbecue was held on Tuesday to mark the five-year-old’s disappearance in 2004. More than 100 people filled the Core Community Park as the smell of burgers and the sound of children playing filled the air.
In the midst of the crowd was Summer Favel, Tamra’s older sister. Favel was 10 when her sister went missing; she’s 22 now.
“It’s hard. It really impacted my life a lot,” she said.
Favel is tall with black and blonde hair, a flower tattooed on her chest, and a sweet smile. She was soft-spoken as she spoke about her missing sister.
“I remember that she was brave, and she was smart, really smart,” said Favel when asked what she remembers about Tamara.
“I feel content because people are still remembering her, and – I don’t know … it’s still hard to deal with.”
Favel said she still has faith the case will be solved and Tamra will be found.
“I know she’s not gone, and I just pray that she comes home one day.”
In 2014, the Regina Police Service raised the reward for information in Tamara’s case to $50,000.
Acting Chief Dean Rae said he believes someone in the community has information that will solve the case, and he hopes they’ll take the opportunity of the barbecue to come forward.
There were many children at the barbecue, calling up an idea of what Tamra might have been like as a child. There were also teens there, some the same age Tamara would be now.
Kenilee Pelletier is a 17-year-old student at Winston Knoll and was helping out as part of the Youth Employment Training Initiative.
“She was five years old. Right now I have a little brother that’s the exact same age and him, just disappearing into nowhere and just having no leads after so many years. I don’t know – it just takes away on you, on your heart.”
The barbecue is held every year, put on by the Regina Treaty Status Indian Services. Erica Beaudin is the urban services manager and she said her life changed forever the day Tamra went missing.
“When a child is taken, innocence is lost. And while that innocence was lost 12 years ago, what was restored was a faith, faith in a humanity that did not see colour, that did not see socioeconomic status, that did not see anything but bringing a little girl home.”
Beaudin said it’s important to have the barbecue every year to show the community still remembers Tamara, and to let people know that they’re still working on it.