Saskatchewan

16 years later, searchers, Regina police still looking for Tamra Keepness

There is no evidence as to what may have happened to Tamra after she disappeared in 2004, even after thousands of hours of investigations, hundreds of interviews and years of investigating tips.

Tamra Keepness disappeared from her Ottawa Street home on July 5, 2004

Tamra Keepness is shown in photos on a poster asking for tips to help find her. The five-year-old disappeared from a Regina home in July 2004. (Troy Fleece/The Canadian Press)

Tips still trickle into the Regina Police Service around once a month about the disappearance of Tamra Jewel Keepness, the five-year-old girl who disappeared from an Ottawa Street home during the summer of 2004.

There is no evidence as to what may have happened to Tamra, who was last seen on July 5, 2004, even after thousands of hours of investigations, hundreds of interviews and years of investigating tips, but the case will remain open until it is solved — if it is solved.

"Someone knows what has happened here. Someone knows the key to solving this crime," police Chief Evan Bray said Friday at Regina's Core Community Park.

"It doesn't happen that someone just disappears, and so that's the answer we need to get to."

A barbecue has been held each year on the anniversary of Tamra's disappearance in the years following — an initiative to keep her name in the public's mind, in hopes someone who knows something that could be useful will come forward.

The barbecue was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Instead, community members gathered in Core Community Park in Regina to hand out candy bags and freezies on a warm, breezy Friday afternoon.

Tips will usually start coming in more frequently around the anniversary of Tamra's disappearance, Bray said, but there hasn't been any significant piece of new information in years.

Still, investigators will exhaust any options that a tip may provide, he added.

A barbecue is usually held on the anniversary of Tamra Keepness's disappearance but it was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Freezies and candy were handed out instead. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

"Oftentimes, it is just one small piece of information. We see that time and time again in an investigation — someone comes forward with something that seems very insignificant, but ultimately it can be the missing piece to put the puzzle together," Bray said.

Erica Beaudin, executive director of Regina Treaty Status Indian Services, organized the event and has participated in the annual remembrance events in the years after Tamra's disappearance.

Beaudin was also one of the volunteers on the ground who was searching for Keepness all those years ago.

She says she has a personal stake in finding out what happened to Tamra because of that.

"Even after the police scaled back on their search, our First Nation search teams continued to search, continued to search in the city, around the city, as well as on different First Nations," Beaudin said.

Tamra's age still sticks out in Beaudin's mind, and she struggles to believe that a young child could disappear without a trace. 

Erica Beaudin, executive director of Regina Treaty Status Indian Services, talks with Evan Bray, chief of the Regina Police Service, at the awareness event for Tamra Keepness. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

There is a $50,000 reward for information which could solve the question of what happened to Tamra Keepness. Anyone with information is asked to call the Regina Police Service at 306-777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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