Friday, September 19, 2008

ARTICLE #97) Cash aims to spur response in missing-woman case: Family offers $50,000 reward with the hope of tracking down daughter who disappeared

Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Cash aims to spur response in missing-woman case: Family offers $50,000 reward with the hope of tracking down daughter who disappeared in Las Vegas nearly two years ago
Special to The Globe and Mail by Cathryn Atkinson

The family of a Kamloops woman who disappeared in Las Vegas almost two years ago is hoping a $50,000 reward for information on her whereabouts will trigger a response from those who knew her at the time she went missing.

Glendene Grant, the mother of 23-year-old Jessie Foster, said she hoped the money would create the sort of leads that will help recover her daughter. The reward had previously been $10,000.

Ms. Foster's parents reported her missing to police in North Las Vegas, where she had been living, shortly after she stopped contacting them in March, 2006.

The family hired a private detective who, after a short search, gave them the devastating news that their daughter had been leading a double life by prostituting herself through a Las Vegas escort service.

Ms. Grant's former husband, Dwight Foster, who is Ms. Foster's father, raised the money from adding a mortgage to his home in Calgary.

"He just stepped up to the plate. He doesn't know what else to do. He doesn't know how to be an investigator," Ms. Grant said. "We were talking on the phone just before Christmas when he offered to do it. I'm so grateful. It was a wonderful Christmas present to his daughter."

Ms. Grant said that raising the amount from $10,000 to $50,000 would mean that Ms. Foster's story would get a higher profile in the Nevada Crime Stoppers program.

"The media pickup over the last week or so has been good," Ms. Grant said. "I think $50,000 is enough to catch the Las Vegas media attention. I hope it's enough, because I don't want to wait any longer for news of her, but if it's not enough I will go higher."

Ms. Grant said she last saw her daughter over the Christmas holiday in 2005, when Ms. Foster had come home to visit the family. They had had no idea that anything was wrong in her life.

Ms. Foster, said her mother, spoke to either family or friends every day until March 28, 2006, when all contact suddenly ceased. Since then, she has not accessed her cellphone, or used her credit cards or bank accounts.

The second oldest of four sisters, Ms. Foster, a straight-A student in high school, worked at Boston Pizza in Kamloops and later lived with her father in Calgary before starting what was supposed to be a short tour of the United States. Her mother said she had planned to go to college on her return.

Instead, Ms. Foster called her mother and said she had met a rich man and fallen in love. North Las Vegas police said that the man, 39-year-old Peter Todd, had been previously arrested for spousal abuse and had an ex-wife who had been arrested for prostitution.

Police twice interviewed Mr. Todd in 2006, and he told them Ms. Foster had moved out of the home they had shared several days after her last call home. No evidence has surfaced to show that she had either left town or met a violent end, and Mr. Todd is not considered a suspect in the case.

Ms. Foster's disappearance was added to the ATLAS (Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery) human trafficking investigation, which began last year in Nevada. The investigation incorporates police work on missing persons in major cities across the state.

"They told me that Jessie's case had many indicators of human trafficking and that now they were going to add her information to their work, which is part of a covert operation. So I will not expect to hear anything more from them about it until something major happens," Ms. Grant said.

Added to Ms. Grant's difficulties in trying to keep up with an investigation into a missing child across international borders is that she is now no longer allowed to enter the United States to meet detectives or missing-persons groups because of a 25-year-old conviction for marijuana possession.

She had previously visited the United States without difficulty, but tightening homeland security rules brought her conviction to light.

Ms. Grant was first refused entry into the United States in May and again in November. She can apply to have her conviction removed, but said it costs hundreds of dollars and she wanted every penny spent on the search for her daughter.

She also discovered recently that Ms. Foster's closest friend in Las Vegas, Yvonne Hubrechtsen, was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 16 and deported after entering Canada illegally. Ms. Grant said Ms. Hubrechtsen had refused to speak to her by phone, and she thought that police could have gained useful information about Ms. Foster's disappearance from her.

"I would have loved to speak to Yvonne," Ms. Grant said. "She was a person of interest because she was the only other person that Jessie knew down there that I knew of. You'd think people who were her friends would be at the top of the list of people wanting to help instead of avoiding us."

Ms. Grant wants to tell her daughter all the family news she has missed in 21 months, including the fact that Ms. Foster's beloved uncle died last year.

And on Boxing Day came some good news Ms. Grant desperately wants to share with her: Ms. Foster's younger sister, Jennee, gave birth to a little girl, who has been called Maddison Louise, and has been given the same middle name as Ms. Foster.

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