Friday, September 19, 2008
Book: MISSING! The Disappeared, Lost or Abducted in Canada
PICTURED: Book Cover
NOTE: This is from the book MISSING! The Disappeared, Lost or Abducted in Canada by Lisa Wojna in which Jessie's story is written.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: pg 7 - In particular, I’d like to thank the following: The Wetaskiwin Public Library for their ongoing support; Kat Strachan for patience with a newbie; Glendene Grant for opening your heart when your pain is still so very raw; Lucy Glaim for revisiting the tragedy of two missing relatives; Mark Bonokoski for answering a cold-call email with such grace and speed; public relations manager Theresa Brien; Tony Romeyn and the Doors of Hope; Lisa Krebs and the Highway of Tears; Councilor Rena Zatorski of the Lheidli T’enneh Nation; and Amnesty International Canada.
Chapter 6: FOLLOW YOUR DAUGHTER HOME (pages 87 to 94)
Chapter Six - Follow Your Daughter Home
(pg 87) Long before The Guess Who recorded the smash hit “Follow Your Daughter Home”, fathers with daughters, and big brothers with sisters, have traditionally looked out for the womenfolk of their family. Sadly, they’ve had to. Pegged as little more than chattel, a woman’s worth was usually measured by the men in her life. It’s little wonder, then, why women have been victimized throughout history and still are to this day. Predators consider them easy targets, the "weaker of the species", and of no more value than what pleasure can be derived from their use. In reality, perhaps our most devastating downfall is our nurturing and trusting nature. Women like to think the best of people; I know I do. Sometimes, though, that's gotten women into trouble. In some cases that follow, a trusting nature could be blamed for leading a woman into dangerous places. In other cases, what led to her disappearance remains a complete mystery.
(pg 88) - LAS VEGAS BOUND
Pretty, pink and endearing from her first wail - a daughter named Jessica Edith Louise Foster, born May 27, 1984. Mom is so pleased with her new warm bundle that the thrill is almost enough for her to forget the recent labour pains. Dad...well, he can't take his eyes off his little darling.
Before long the newborn had grown into a toddler, and then even bigger. She's playing in the sand and splashing against the big waves washing up along the beach, learning how to swim and hanging out with friends. Soon she's marching up to get her high school diploma, and then, in the blink of an eye, she's gone. A young adult now, she spreads her wings and learns to fly. Mom and Dad find it worrisome to let go. It's always hard to let go. And so much harder when the one you love doesn't return home.
Such was the scenario faced by Glendene Grand and Dwight Foster. Although the couple had separated before jessie reached her first birthday, both maintained a strong bond with their daughter. During her formative years, Jessie lived in Kamloops with her mother. Glendene enrolled her daughter in swim lessons, Brownies, Guiides, dance lessons and the church camp, and she saw Jessie through elementary, junior high and most of high school. When Jessie was very young, Glendene met Jim Hoflin, and the couple began a long relationship that despite (pg 89) their current struggles, remains strong to this day. Other children came along, and life at home was generally pretty good.
Early in Jessie's grade 11 year, she moved in with her father and stepmother in Calgary to finish high school. Dwight had always mourned the fact that he'd missed out on Jessie's youth, and the father and daughter used those years as a time for bonding. In 2005 Jessie moved back to Kamloops. But after taking several trips to a few U.S. hotspots - Fort Lauderdale, New York City, Atlantic City - Jessie knew she wanted to move south. That May she chose to settle in Las Vegas. Her two worried parents might not have liked the idea of their darling daughter living anywhere with a reputation like "sin city", but what could they do? As any parent knows, putting up roadblocks accomplishes little more than a breakdown in communication. So everyone gritted their teeth, kissed and hugged Jessie goodbye and prayed for the best.
In November Jessie returned to Calgary and then Kamloops for an extended visit to both her parents' homes during the Christmas season, returning to Las Vegas on the 3:00 PM flight out of Kamloops on Christmas Day. Although it was the last time they were all together, Jessie frequently called her family members, sometimes daily. The last known contact anyone had with Jessie was when she spoke to her sister Crystal on March 28, 2006. Then nothing. No answer on her cell phone. No banking activity. No charges to her credit cards. Silence.
(pg 90) Jessie was officially reported missing by Glendene on April 9, 2006, after first calling Peter Todd, the individual Glendene had thought was Jessie's live-in boyfriend. During that phone call, Peter told Glendene that Jessie had moved out at the beginning of April, and he didn't know her whereabouts. The North Las Vegas Police Department and the RCMP were both called. Dwight also hired a Las Vegas private investigator. And in time, at least some answers came trickling in to the family, but they weren't necessarily answers they were prepared for.
It appeared that Peter Todd - the well-to-do Prince Charming Jessie had told her family about, the man who'd swept her off her feet and was to a large degree the impetus for her move to Las Vegas - was allegedly more foe than friend. The talk about town was that Peter Todd was actually a pimp who'd recently separated from his wife, a known prostitute. It's an accusation Peter vigorously denied. Furthermore, on questioning Peter, investigators learned that Jessie may have also fallen in that line of work, either willingly or though coercion. The news shocked the family.
"She's a good kid...We're talking about a girl who got 'A's on her report card. She never smoked cigarettes. She never did drugs," Glendene told Global National's news reporters during one interview.
And if this wasn't enough of a shock, the news got worse. Peter's estranged wife had threatened Jessie several times, (pg 91) frightening her enough to keep her from answering the front dor if she was home alone for fear that the "ex" was on the other side. It was a concern Jessie voiced many times and Peter later confirmed.
As shocking as this news was to Glendene and Dwight, regardless of what their daughter did for a living, she was still their daughter. She was still that little girl who loved to play in the water and build castles in the sand, and no one had the right to harm her. They had to act quickly if they were going to find her.
Along with hiring their own private investigator, Jessie's family began creating and distributing missing persons posters, contacting media and garnering publicity for their plight. They knew that the more they kept Jessie's face in the public, the better chances they had of finding her. They developed a website (http://www.jessiefoster.ca) with family pictures, a chronicled account of Jessie's early years and later disapperance, copies of every news article written about her and information on Jessie's vital statistics. And in the year following her disappearance, Glendene and Dwight made several trips to the city that never sleeps. Since Jessie's been gone, every waking moment has been dedicated to finding her. That's that way it has to be. Until they know otherwise, Jessie's family continues to believe that she's still alive.
"I have since the beginning felt that she has been a victim of human trafficking," Glendene said in a Kamloops This Week (pg 92) article dated March 16, 2007. "Therefore, not only do I believe she is alive, but I believe that she is being held against her will somewhere."
The suggestion that Jessie may have become a victim of human trafficking isn't the result of a panicked parent, nor is it the imagination born of television and movie dramas. Human trafficking is a sad reality, even here in the Western world we believe to be so civilized and beyond its earlier dark history of slavery. Statistics released in June 2006 by the U.S. Department of State reports that "between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across transnational borders, or from one country to another each year. When intra-country or 'within country' estimates are included, this figure rises into the millions."
Women and children are often abducted from one country and tranported to another, enslaved by their captors and forced into sexual and other forms of exploitation. Sometimes these victims are simply moved from one corner of the country to another. Either way, if Jessie became a victim of human trafficking, she could be anywhere in the U.S. or in some far-off land overseas. The North Las Vegas Police must have agreed at least to some degree with Glendene's assessment that abduction by human traffickers could be a possibility, because Jessie's case has since been moved to the ATLAS (Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery) task force and the vice squad in the Metro Las Vegas Police Department (LVPD).
(pg 93) As the Metro LVPD grudgingly added yet another case to their ever-burgeoning workload, arguing repeatedly that in Jessie's case they have yet to determine any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Glendene continues to do her part. She makes sure everyone has heard of Jessie and can identify her if they see her, by maintaining a public presence for her daughter and garnering as much media attention as possible, especially in the U.S., because that's where Jessie was last known to be seen. Just say the name "Laci Peterson" and an image of the sparkly-eyed brunette with the bobbed haircut and brilliant smile immediately comes to mind. That's what Glendene wants for Jessica. She wants people to experience that immediate recognition so that if they see her anywhere, they'll know her story and will call the authorities. To the end, Glendene has appeared on several American talk shows, the most recent being The Montel Williams Show in New York City, where she told Jessie's story.
Like any mother in her situation, every once in a while Glendene gets caught up in "what ifs," such as when she remembers driving Jessie to the Kamloops airport the afternoon of Christmas Day, 2005. Glendene and Dwight likely wish they could have talked Jessie out of leaving. They probably also wonder if there was anything they could have done to prevent their daughter from getting caught up with a dangerous crowd. And they miss her so very much.
"Jessie is the second out of four sisters. They are very, very close, and the gap in their sisterhood is so huge it is (pg 94) unimaginable," Glendene said. "This is how it is with all of us. Just a small little girl like Jessie and she leaves a hole too huge to imagine when she is not there to fill it.
"Jessie was a tomboy when she was in elementary school and when she got to high school she blossomed into the most beautiful young woman. She is petite and always has her hair and makeup done. However, she can belch louder than a drunken sailor and can spit further than any man I know. She has a wonderful senxe of humour and always has a smile on her beautiful face."
But Jessie's family can't let themselves become distracted by memories and reminiscing. There are fundraisers to host, investigators to check with, media to inform, a website to update. Doing these things are the only ways that the family can survive this ongoing purgatory and hold on to that thin strand of hope that in time, they will find some kind of resolution.