Volunteers find possible clues to disappearance of Sindy Ruperthouse

Volunteers who spent the weekend combing a path near Val-d'Or, Que. for clues into the 2014 disappearance of Sindy Ruperthouse, an Algonquin woman from Pikogan, have found a dozen items and handed them over to police.

More than 50 volunteers took part in weekend search of path near Val d'Or, Que.

Searchers gather for a prayer as they prepare to look for clues to the disappearance of Cindy Ruperthouse, 44, near Val-d'Or on Saturday. The Algonquin woman went missing in April 2014. (Émélie Rivard-Boudreau/Radio-Canada)

Johnny Wylde's emotions ran the spectrum on Saturday, as dozens of volunteers poked sticks into the ground, searching along the sides of a path leading to a snowmobile trail in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region: fear, anxiety, doubt and sadness.

"It was very difficult," said Wylde. "I was even asking myself if it was the right thing to do: What will happen if we find her? What will happen if we don't?"

Since his 44-year-old daughter Sindy Ruperthouse disappeared in April 2014, Wylde and his wife have talked to a lot of people, trying to establish a timeline for their daughter's whereabouts.

Because of one of those conversations, Wylde asked for help to comb through a sparsely wooded area northwest of Val d'Or, about 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

The 61-year-old father of five says some people fishing on the Bourlamaque River remembered seeing someone linked to his daughter. Wylde believes that person is responsible for her disappearance.

Volunteers aid in search 

"We found some clothing, a weapon and some bones which might, or might not, be related to the crime," said Raymond Létourneau, the spokesman for Témiscamingue Search and Rescue Volunteers, whose members supervised the 40 volunteers in last weekend's search effort.

Létourneau said the searchers established a grid to meticulously comb the borders of a path leading to snowmobile trails. 

He said the volunteers whistled for their team leader each time they found something.

"Depending on what was found, we'd put it into a bag, identify it and note the geographic position. Or we [would leave] the clue at the site, take a photograph and write down the GPS location."

Létourneau said the area looks like a place someone might have left a pile of wood, so it was relatively clear. He said it was about a 10-minute walk from Highway 117, the main road running through the region.

"We were able to help, encourage and support the family," said Létourneau. "That was our mission."

'Difficult' day for missing woman's family

Wylde stayed back at the command post for the day because it was too emotional for him to take part in the search.

He said he, his wife and one of their daughters left at the end of the day feeling drained. One of his grandchildren wanted to participate but was too afraid of what he might find.

"We didn't feel good," said Wylde about the long day of waiting, but he said they're not giving up.

There are two other areas he wants to check out, but he's decided to wait until he and his family gather their strength again.

"It's long," Wylde said. "Sometimes I think I'll never find her. Other times I wake up in the morning and I think this is the day I'll find her."

"It's very difficult, and I'm torn. I wonder sometimes if we'll make it."

with files from Émélie Rivard-Boudreau