Friday, September 19, 2008

ARTICLE #58) Former Lillooet resident continues her search for missing daughter

Monday, May 9, 2007
Former Lillooet resident continues her search for missing daughter
Bridge River Lillooet News by Wendy Fraser

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. And it’s a nightmare former Lillooet resident Glendene Grant has lived with for more than a year.

Her daughter Jessie Foster disappeared in Las Vegas on Mar. 28 of 2006 and has not been heard from since that date. Jessie’s cell phone, credit cards, bank account and bank card have not been touched.

Grant, who was born in Lillooet and spent her primary school years here, is a cousin of the Kane and Williams families.

Since her daughter vanished without a trace, an anguished Grant, now 49, has searched relentlessly for her child. She’s hired a private investigator; keeps in regular contact with law enforcement agencies such as the U.S. government’s ATLAS (Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery) taskforce; and has flown twice to Las Vegas to hand out missing persons posters on the Strip. An Internet technician, she also created a website, and online newsletter that she monitors daily. And she’s devoted long, intense hours to making sure Jessie’s story is featured on TV shows ranging from Geraldo at Large and the Maury Show to news broadcasts that include Global National with Kevin Newman. Last month, Grant flew to New York to tape an episode of The Montel Williams Show, scheduled to be aired sometime this month.

Over the past year, she has become sadly familiar with a strange, seedy netherworld well-known to police officers, private investigators and bounty hunters.

Glendene Grant is convinced her daughter is still alive and believes she’s being held against her will, trapped in a human trafficking ring. Networks of human traffickers prey on immigrants, indentured servants, massage parlour workers and prostitutes, holding them captive and forcing them to commit sex acts.

If Jessie Foster is alive, she will turn 23 on May 27. The second oldest of four sisters, Jessie, a straight-A student in high school, worked two part-time jobs in Kamloops and later lived with her father in Calgary before starting what was supposed to be a short tour of the United States.

Just days before she vanished, Jessie was planning to return to Kamloops. Grant told the News her daughter had paid for one month of car insurance so she could take her car from its storage spot in the family backyard in Kamloops and drive with her sister to Calgary.

“As soon as this happened, I knew that she just didn’t go away. There is no way she would have done that,” Grant says emphatically. Her reasons for hoping and believing Jessie is still alive include her profound conviction that Jessie “wouldn’t do this to her family” to her matter-of-fact motherly intuition that her daughter would not have left behind her hair-dryer and make-up.

Jessie left Canada in 2005 after a male friend from Calgary persuaded her to take a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They also visited New York City and Atlantic City before winding up in May 2005 in Las Vegas, the glamourous and glitzy gambling mecca.

Glendene Grant later learned that those four cities are known as hubs for human trafficking. She and her family now suspect the male friend was a recruiter for the sex trade.

In her almost-daily phone calls and emails home, Jessie said she was enjoying life in Vegas. She told her mother and sisters she had fallen in love with a rich man named Peter Todd. What she didn’t tell her family was that she was working for an escort service, had been arrested twice for soliciting and had been hospitalized after a beating.

Still, her mother was concerned.

“I told her, ‘You’re not staying in Las Vegas. You don’t know anybody there, we don’t know anybody there. If you ever went missing, I wouldn’t know where to start looking for you.’”

Glendene Grant pauses on the phone to gather her emotions. “I don’t know why I said that. It wasn’t as if I had a premonition or anything. But those words haunt me, they really haunt me.”

After Jessica vanished, her family learned the apparently wealthy Peter Todd had no legal source of income, his ex-wife had been arrested for prostitution and Todd himself had been arrested for spousal abuse.

When he was interviewed by police, Todd, 39, said Jessie had moved out several days after her last call home. North Las Vegas Police officers say they have no evidence to show that Jessie left town or encountered a violent end. Todd is not a suspect, they say, because they have no proof a crime has been committed.

“She was out of her element and out of her depth,” Grant says of her daughter’s experience in Las Vegas, a city whose marketing campaign encourages visitors to sin all they like. “The money is intoxicating and it can be an easy lifestyle.”

Glendene Grant believes Jessie was leaving for home when she either offended someone in the shady Las Vegas underworld or was “bumped”, meaning she was sold by her pimp to another pimp or “wasn’t top girl any more” and was degraded to a less important level in her pimp’s life.

Grant contends that police ad the media do not give the same attention to the cases of missing prostitutes as they do other missing persons. She adds that she is disappointed by the response of the Las Vegas police.

Officer Tim Bedwell of the North Las Vegas Police says there are no new leads in the disappearance of Jessica Foster. He describes it a “cold case”. Grant says he told her she is now the “prime investigator” into her daughter’s disappearance.

She and her family have organized yard sales, bottle drives, raffles, dinners and other fund-raising efforts to aid in the search for Jessie. They’ve needed the money for travel expenses, fees for private investigators and to increase the reward for information on Jessie.

“We started with a $5,000 reward. For people who are making $3,000 a day as prostitutes, that’s a laughable amount of money,” says Grant. “Increasing it to $7,500, to $10,000 and $20,000 and up, we hope someone will pay attention and come forward. And every time we increase it, Crime Stoppers in Las Vegas makes an announcement about that and her picture gets picked up and shown again.

“We can’t get her back without money,” she states flatly. “This is a situation that needs money. Jessie has lots of blood ties to Lillooet and we would appreciate any help that people can give.”

Jessie’s family has established a bank account at CIBC to collect donations to help their search. The transit number for Jessica Foster in Trust is 00050 and the account number is 98-27412.

Glendene Grant remains convinced her daughter is alive. She explains it this way, “My heartstrings to Jessie are still intact.”

After Jessie’s disappearance, Grant became friends with other parents of missing children. They share a tragic and common bond.

“I know people who feel their children are dead and people who believe they’re alive. The cops have told me a mother’s intuition can be the most important thing in these cases,” she continues. “I’ve always felt she’s alive. Once I eliminated I my mind the possibility that she was murdered or that she left of her own free will, that left me with the belief that she’s been taken against her will. I have a strong feeling that she needs to be found and rescued.”

Until that day comes, Glendene Grant will continue to devote her time to searching for her daughter.

“Not a moment goes by that I don’t think of her.”

NOTE FROM GLENDENE: Reporter Wendy Fraser used to be friends with my older brother when we were young kids…I was the annoying little sister who got in the way a lot! Thank you Wendy.

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