Indigenous

RCMP probe Northern B.C. site for young family that disappeared 30 years ago

There are several active and highly public RCMP search sites in Northern B.C. this week. But there was also a much more discreet RCMP search on Wednesday, at an undisclosed location near the Highway of Tears. 

Police spent several hours at an undisclosed site near the Highway of Tears on Wednesday

Ronald and Doreen Jack, both 26, and their two children Russell, 9, and Ryan, 4, were last heard from during the early morning of Aug. 2, 1989. (Marlene Jack)

There are several active and highly public RCMP search sites in Northern B.C. this week. But there was also a much more discreet RCMP search on Wednesday, at an undisclosed location near the Highway of Tears. 

It was a small team of RCMP who travelled to the site where family and community members are hoping to find answers about the disappearance of a young family of four who vanished 30 years ago. 

The Jacks - Ronnie, Doreen, Russell and Jack - were living in Prince George when they went missing. The northern B.C. city is about 200 kilometres from their rural home community of Burns Lake. 

Ronnie and Doreen started dating when they were teenagers. By 1989, they were 26 years old, raising their two boys, who were nine and four years old, in the city. On Aug. 2, 1989, Ronnie talked to his mom on the phone and told her they were heading to a logging camp where they'd been offered work. 

They were never heard from again.

RCMP say they believe someone out there has information that could help solve the disappearance of the Jack family. (Prince George RCMP)

Marlene Jack, one of Doreen's younger sisters, has been unrelenting in her pursuit of answers about the family's disappearance and long anticipated Wednesday's search. 

"I'm so nervous," said Marlene, standing on the side of Highway 16, which is often referred to as the Highway of Tears, as she waited for the RCMP to pick her up and take her to the site. 

"I hope we find something today. I really do."

She's trying to remain positive that it will bring to light new evidence. 

By Wednesday afternoon, the RCMP had finished their probe for the day, and Marlene said it produced some promising results. She said the investigation will continue following the same lead. Further work will be taking place at an undisclosed location in the coming weeks. 

Marlene said it was emotional being out at the site. 

"I cried out there a lot," she said.  "Just everything came up."

RCMP say they aren't releasing details about their current activities in order to protect the integrity of the investigation. But they are keeping Jack and other community members updated. They allowed a few specific people on site on Wednesday while they did their work. 

Family member says search is a 'huge step' 

Across the country, in Fredericton, First Nations chiefs and delegates are at a gathering of the Assembly of First Nations. 

Corinna Leween, chief of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation in B.C., addressed the general assembly on Wednesday morning. She asked people to say a special prayer "that they do find the family and that they can finally lay them to rest."

"We're hoping and we're praying that this probe will produce some evidence, that they've found their families," said Leween.

She commended the family for their determination to keep the case active, and also gave thanks to the AFN for its support. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs also provided support for Marlene Jack to travel to the community from her home in Vancouver. 

The last lead RCMP investigator on the case spoke publicly about was about a year ago, when a news release was issued asking an anonymous tipster to come forward and speak with them.

The RCMP also said they know there are people who have information about what happened to the family who've never come forward and urged them to do so.

Marlene says not a day goes by that she isn't trying to keep her family's case active. She is always waiting for new information to come to light and coming up with ways to advocate for her family and others who don't have answers or justice for their missing and murdered loved ones.

She said Wednesday's search was "a huge step" because the last search she's aware of happened nine years ago. 

Still, she said she's trying not to get her hopes up and plans to travel back to the area from Vancouver as the investigation continues.

About the Author

Chantelle Bellrichard is a reporter with CBC's Indigenous unit based in Vancouver. Email her at chantelle.bellrichard@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @pieglue.