Click here to listen to Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo
Where is Cleo?
It's a mystery her family has been trying to unravel for decades after the young Cree girl was apprehended by child welfare workers in Saskatchewan in the 1970's. Her siblings say she was stolen, and then raped and murdered while trying to hitchhike back home, her body left at the side of the road somewhere in the United States.
They have no idea where she is, whether her name was changed, or if anyone has been charged in her murder.
Like many Indigenous children, Cleo's brothers and sisters were taken from their community, displayed in advertisements, and sent to live with white adoptive families across North America, through a controversial program called "Adopt Indian and Metis."
They've reconnected as adults and are determined to find their missing sister and penetrate the secrets shrouding the truth about Cleo.
Listen below as CBC News investigative reporter Connie Walker joins in their search, uncovering disturbing new details about how and why Cleo was taken, where she wound up, and how she died.
Episode 1: Stolen. Missing. Murdered.
Christine writes a gripping plea for help finding her eldest sister, Cleo. Connie pays her a visit and finds the only proof of Cleo's existence is a single, faded, undated school photo. As they begin to piece her family's story together, Christine gets a phone call she's been waiting years for. In it, she receives a cryptic clue which will take her search in unexpected directions.
Episode 2: Eyes that haunted me
As new information emerges about where she was sent after she and her siblings were separated, Connie meets Cleo's other sister, April, and speaks with her parents about adopting Indigenous children during the Sixties Scoop. Unbeknownst to April all of these years, her own adoption records actually contain a key detail in the search for Cleo.
Episode 3: A little lie
Cleo's older brother Johnny is the only sibling who really remembers her, the way they were taken from their mother, and the promise he made Cleo on the last day he saw her alive. He vowed to find her and still longs to fulfill that pledge. A longtime resident of Pennsylvania since his own adoption decades ago, Connie visits him and tries to understand why he has no desire to come back to Saskatchewan. A late night internet search leads the family one step closer to finding Cleo.
Episode 4: The funeral home
The search for Cleo leads Connie to investigate a headstone belonging to a 13-year old girl who died in 1978. The cemetery is more than 20 hours away from Arkansas, where Cleo's family has long believed she was killed.
Episode 5: Afraid of the dark
As Connie shares some shocking news with Cleo's siblings, the truth about what happened to her remains just out of reach. Police may have answers but can't share them yet. It's time to visit the one person who's bound to know more.
Episode 6: Little Pine
A brief encounter with someone who knew Cleo perhaps better than anyone else just before her death reveals crucial details. Connecting new facts about her life leads the investigation to a world far from where Cleo died, back to Little Pine First Nation.
Episode 7: Lillian
Connie's chance meeting with the father who Cleo never knew is followed by new revelations about the Semaganis children's biological mother, Lillian. A picture begins to emerge about why her children were taken, and when she joined the fight to stop the adoption of more Indigenous children into white homes.
Episode 8: Salesperson of the year
Digging through archives in Saskatchewan, Connie makes a shocking discovery. As she investigates the controversial Adopt Indian Métis program which Cleo and her siblings were a part of, the man who started the program agrees to speak with her about its controversial origins, and legacy.
Episode 9: Reunion
Christine travels to Pennsylvania for an emotional reunion with her brother, Johnny, who she hasn't seen since she was a baby. Determined to get more answers about the days and weeks leading up to her sister's death, Christine finally gets a copy of Cleo's death certificate. That, and other documents begin to shed light on the truth she's been seeking for decades.
Episode 10: Cleo's letters
Even though it was supposed to have been destroyed in 1983, the police file documenting the investigation into Cleo's death still exists and it contains more detail than Christine ever imagined learning about the last days, hours and even minutes of Cleo's short life.
- The Semaganis family
- Who is Cleo L. Madonia? (spoiler warning: listen to episodes 4 & 5 first)
- Lillian's life
- Little Pine First Nation
- The reunion
*New episodes every Wednesday