Community members and police officers gathered at Regina’s Core Community Park on Friday for an annual barbecue that began as a way to honour the memory of Tamra Keepness.
A crowd of kids ran around on the play structure in the park where Keepness used to play. They waited to have their faces painted then got in the long line up for hot dogs and hamburgers.
The kids are about the same age as Tamra Keepness was when she went missing.
For many people in Regina, Keepness’s face is still etched in their memories as the five-year-old girl who disappeared from her home 11 years ago. Lucinda Toto is a relative of Tamra Keepness’s dad Troy Keepness.
“I was just driving myself in this morning and thinking, oh my God, how can some people live with this for 11 years,” Toto said. “How do they sleep? Do they have a conscience?”
She says some family members still gather to talk about Tamra and pray for a resolution to her case. Toto calls it heartbreaking to live without answers.
Keepness was last seen at 10:30 p.m. in her home on the 1800 block of Ottawa Street on July 5, 2004. She was reported missing on July 6, 2004, and her disappearance launched the largest search and rescue effort in Regina’s history.
Toto and other family members believe that there are people out there who know exactly what happened to Tamra on the night she went missing, and she begs them to break that silence.
“Come forward, enough is enough,” she said. “Why put the family through more heartache?”
Toto says her own grandson is about the same age as Tamra, who would have been 16 this year. She is sad to think that they could not grow up together and get to know each other.
“She would have been a beautiful girl,” Toto said, noting that they always want to hold on to some kind of hope.
Keepness’s parents stopped speaking to the media several years ago. Last year her father briefly spoke to reporters at the barbecue, but he was not there this year and neither were her other family members.
Dean Rae attended the barbecue as the deputy chief of the Regina Police Service. He says the Keepness case is an active, long-term investigation.
“Yes there are still tips coming in. In fact, we were just following up on one just recently,” Rae said. “I anticipate a day like today with added profile will bring in some more information and hopefully some more tips to help us with our investigation.”
In June 2014, the Regina Police Service doubled the reward for information to $50,000 from $25,000 but so far there are still no clear answers.
“I wouldn’t say there are suspects. There’s people of interest and there’s information out there and we believe there’s information in the community that will assist us in our investigation,” Rae explained.
He says it’s never too late to come forward. Every year, police hope that someone will come forward with a nugget of information that will lead to the final resolution of this case.
Anyone with information can the Regina Police Service at 306-777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.