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No sign of missing girl

Police and family baffled by 12 year old's disappearance
by Lisa Brown

Twelve-year-old Karissa Paige Boudreau has been missing since January 27.
 BRIDGEWATER - More than a week after 12-year-old Karissa Paige Boudreau went missing, police, family members and an entire community remain mystified by her disappearance.

 As of Monday morning, Bridgewater Police continued to chase leads trying to determine the Grade 6 student's whereabouts as they have since January 27. However, acting deputy chief Sgt. John Collyer said tips are slowing to a crawl.

 "The tips kind of trickled down almost to stop over the weekend," Sgt. Collyer said. "We are, however, going to be looking at bringing in a dive team … and we're also trying to get the helicopter up again today. With the winds that we had over the weekend and the thawing, there's more of the river open. Again, we want to try and whittle that down, whether there's a possibility of her being in the river or not."

 Karissa was last seen in the Bridgewater Mall parking lot near Sobeys around 5:30 p.m. on January 27. She'd argued with her mother and chose to wait in the family's red Dodge Neon while Penny Boudreau went inside to buy a few items.

 When Ms Boudreau returned 10 or 15 minutes later, Karissa was gone. Believing her daughter had walked off, Ms Boudreau drove around looking for her and went home. When there was still no sign of the 12 year old by 8:30 p.m., her mother called the police.

 Officers looked for Karissa and brought in a ground search and rescue dog to try to track her, all without success. At that point, police believed the girl had run away.

 They notified other police services and went public with their search late the following day when there was still no sign of Karissa.

 On January 29, Ms Boudreau made the first of two public appeals for her daughter's return. At a press conference called by the police, the tearful mother pleaded with her daughter to make contact.

 "Karissa, we love you. We don't know where you are, but just come home or call or something, please," Ms Boudreau said.

 "We're all worried. We just want you home safe. It's not like we're going to get mad. We just want you home safe, please," she added.

 Karissa's father, Paul Boudreau, also appealed to his daughter.

 "Karissa, we just want you to come home, honey. Just come home," he said.

 Ms Boudreau explained the argument she'd had with her daughter was neither unusual nor important.

 "It wasn't like a big argument," she said. "I took her for a drive that day just to try to have a heart-to-heart with her. In a car she can't get away and slam her door like she usually does to me. I just wanted to try to reach out to her as a mom and set some things straight as far as typical teenage things."

 Ms Boudreau said Karissa didn't like what she had to say and, as usual, didn't want to go in the grocery store with her. She said her daughter wasn't happy living in the family's current apartment and hasn't made a lot of friends since moving to Bridgewater.

 Karissa's parents live apart. She has been a student at Bridgewater Elementary School since mid-November. Prior to that, she attended Hillcrest Academy in Shelburne for two and a half months while living with her father. Last year, she was a student in Hebbville.

 Sgt. Collyer said police are particularly concerned because of Karissa's attire at the time of her disappearance. She was wearing a black hoodie, black vest and blue jeans with pink Crocs on her feet.

 "What's most disturbing to us is that she was dressed inappropriately for the weather," Sgt. Collyer said. "Here on the South Shore we had a snowstorm that night. Weather conditions were inclement at best."

 Police have received no reports of any suspicious or unusual activity in the parking lot around the time Karissa disappeared. Investigators have reviewed surveillance tapes from businesses around the Bridgewater Mall. They've determined that Karissa's mother was in Sobeys as reported, but there are no surveillance cameras on the parking lot so they cannot confirm that the girl was there or what direction she might have taken if she left.

 They called Lunenburg County Ground Search and Rescue to an area on the William Hebb Road in Hebbville after receiving a tip Tuesday evening. Volunteers combed the area for four hours, but turned up nothing.

 An RCMP diver studied the LaHave River behind the mall early last week, but determined it was doubtful that Karissa went into the water.

 "From our point of view, it's not likely she went into the river. However, we can't completely rule it out," Sgt. Collyer said. "We're about 90 per cent certain she's not there, but again there's always that other factor."

 When the skies finally cleared on January 31, two police officers spent three hours in a Department of Natural Resources helicopter scouring the area around the Bridgewater Mall, woods surrounding Bridgewater and more than 60 kilometres along Highway 103. Sgt. Collyer said they took another close look at the river behind the mall and the William Hebb Road, but saw nothing.

 Investigators have also spoken with Karissa's friends here and in Shelburne. They're monitoring her MSN account and Facebook, but haven't found any clues to her disappearance. They know she had only a few dollars, no wallet and no cellphone.

 Meanwhile, missing persons posters have been plastered around Bridgewater and stretched across the province. Child Find Nova Scotia is assisting and more than 13,000 people have joined six Facebook groups to spread the word about the girl's disappearance on the internet and offer support to her family.

 Bridgewater Police called a second press conference Friday where it was clear that Ms Boudreau still believes Karissa is in hiding.

 "Please, just reach out to someone. At least call us and let me know you're okay," the crying mother said. "The main thing is I just want somebody to come forward, if not Karissa herself, somebody let me know. It's hard to not know where your kid is."

 While her family describes Karissa as a loner who likes to spend a lot of time in her room, they say she's otherwise a typical 12-year-old girl. She likes singing and dancing to her favourite music, playing video games and watching television.

 Sgt. Collyer said officers are continuing to pursue all possible avenues in the case, but admitted they, too, are mystified by Karissa's disappearance. They continue to follow tips from the public, some now from other provinces.

 "We've had some sightings. We have not been able to conclusively say that it was her," he said.

 Investigators are also probing the possibility of foul play, including interviewing family members and trying to determine when Karissa was last seen by someone outside the immediate family.

 "This has been a criminal investigation almost from Day 1. That would be standard operating procedure for any police agency where the circumstances are a mystery," Sgt. Collyer said.

 "We do not have any evidence to point to anything that is criminal at this point and, believe me, we've explored that, but we'll continue to explore down that road. The family has been very co-operative with us in anything we've asked and we have no reason to believe, at this point, that there's any reason to disbelieve what mom has told us," he said.

 Police are also considering a report of an attempted abduction in Liverpool two weeks before Karissa's disappearance, but have nothing to connect the two events.

 "Our investigators are aware of it. It is obviously something that they would look at, but in the absence of any information such as somebody coming forward and somebody having sighted a vehicle of that type here, it's difficult for us to make any kind of link between the two incidents," Sgt. Collyer said.

 "At this point, … we don't know that this is an abduction. We don't know if this is Karissa running away. We just don't know. That is the problem," he added.

 The investigation into Karissa's disappearance is continuing and police are asking anyone who may have any information to come forward. She is described as five feet tall and 130 pounds, with shoulder-length brown hair.

 If anyone knows Karissa Boudreau's whereabouts, they are asked to call the Bridgewater Police at 543-2464.

posted on 02/05/08
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