'I won't give up': Mom of Lorlene Bone marks 1 year since disappearance

It has been one year since Evelyn Chartrand last heard from her daughter Lorlene Bone. Family and friends will hold a candlelight vigil Tuesday to mark the anniversary of her disappearance.

'She was in Sapotaweyak and never did come out of Sapotaweyak,' Evelyn Chartrand says

Lorlene Bone, 31, was last reported seen in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation on Feb. 29, 2016. Family and friends will mark the one year anniversary of her disappearance with a candle light vigil. (Family photo)

It has been one year since Evelyn Chartrand last heard from her daughter Lorlene Bone.

"It's been tough on me and my kids."

Bone, who lived on Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation in western Manitoba, was 31 when she was last reported seen in nearby Sapotaweyak Cree Nation on Feb. 29, 2016. She had gone to a party in the community with a man she had just started dating, family members said. 

Family and friends have searched in and around the community, about 400 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, in spring, summer, fall and now through the winter and found no trace of Bone, who they describe as a kind, soft-spoken woman who liked meeting new people.

"It's been difficult," Chartrand said in a phone interview from her home in Wuskwi Sipihk, which has an on-reserve population of about 200. "I've been going there off and on just to go and look and search for her. I won't give up."

Her disappearance has been painful for others in her tight-knit family, as well. 

"They're hurting a lot," Chartrand said. "I've been trying my best to not to think about it … but it keeps coming back."

Bone likely dead: mother

Chartrand has accepted that her daughter is likely dead. For her, the search is now about peace and closure and giving Bone a proper burial.

Tuesday night, family, friends and community members will host a candlelight vigil along Highway 10, north of Wuskwi Sipihk at the junction to Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, to mark the anniversary. 

Chartrand has heard many rumours about what happened in the hours before Bone disappeared, where she is now and how she got there.

She is reluctant to share the rumours because the people who spoke to her have pleaded with her not to give out their names or go to the authorities with the information, although she has told the RCMP some of it.

Even though rumours are circulating, very few facts are known about when Bone was last seen. 

"She was in Sapotaweyak and never did come out of Sapotaweyak," Chartrand said. "That's the only thing I heard. She's there someplace in Sapotaweyak."

Out of character

Bone was first thought to have gone on a trip with her boyfriend, but when that turned out not to be the case, her family went to the RCMP. She was reported missing 10 days after she was last seen.

It was out of character for Bone to go more than two days without calling her mom, family members told the CBC in March 2016.

Family members and friends frantically checked Bone's friends' houses in nearby Swan River and other places she frequented, with no success. 

They then started handing out flyers in the Swan River area and assembled a team to start a ground search in March 2016.

It's cost the family a lot of money to pay for things like gas and food to keep up the search, Chartrand said. The community has held raffles, bingos and other fundraisers to help. 

Family, friends, community help 

Many of the rumours have pointed Chartrand to Mason Point, just outside Sapotaweyak along the shores of Lake Winnipegosis, she said. She plans to search the area with family members after the snow melts in spring. 

Still, she said family and friends are still out, looking for the smallest clue through the snow. They've braved the cold and snow, scouring the woods near the community on snowmobile. 

It's a small gesture that goes a long way for Chartrand.

"All my family and friends have been helping me," she said. "I feel good because they're there to support me."

Bone's disappearance has hit Wuskwi Sipihk particularly hard. 

Chartrand said workers at the band and health offices and other community centres have gone out of their way to help and provide support whenever they can.

But she still can't grasp why someone would want to hurt Bone, or anyone else.

'She's my baby'

"There's people out there … I don't know why they have such black hearts to do this to some person," Chartrand said. "What if one of their kids went missing?"

She also has a message for anyone who is holding back information.

"Go to the RCMP please," said. "Please, I need help to find my daughter." 

 "I'm not giving up," Chartrand said. "She's my baby. That's my baby. I'm not giving up on her."

RCMP in Swan River, along with the Dauphin Major Crimes Unit, consider Bone to be a missing person and are actively seeking and following up on information.

"This is still very much an open investigation," Sgt. Steve Henson of the Swan River RCMP detachment said in an emailed statement.

On Tuesday, the police force issued a news release urging the public to come forward if they have information about Bone's whereabouts.

"Her family deserves to know where their daughter is," Henson said. "If anyone saw her that day or has any information — even if they think it's insignificant — please come forward."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Swan River RCMP at 204-734-4686 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.