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‘Everybody’s baby:’ Police, family reflect on disappearance of Tamra Keepness (Missing 15 Years)

Jul 5, 2019

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Retired police corporal Jim Pratt remembers standing on a road on the outskirts of Regina as a team of searchers walked through a yellow canola field.

They were looking for a missing Indigenous girl, five-year-old Tamra Keepness. Elders had told police they had visions of the child near rocks, water and trees.

Pratt says a car with two older white women pulled up beside him, and one peeped out a window.

“Did you find our baby yet?” she asked.

No. And fifteen years later, Tamra still hasn’t been found.

Pratt gets emotional thinking about that day, that unsolved case and the girl so many worried about.

“Race was thrown to the side,” Pratt says.  “That little girl became everybody’s baby.”

Tamra and her toothy smile were well-known across Canada in 2004, and the search for the missing girl grew to one of the largest in Regina’s history.

She was last seen about 10:30 p.m. on July 5 of that year as she was going to bed in her home in Regina’s core, where she lived with her mother, stepfather, twin sister and four other siblings.

She was noticed missing the next day about noon.

“No matter what we did, no matter how many people we talked to, no matter where we searched, we were no closer at the end of that than we were the day that she was reported missing,” says Marlo Pritchard, a staff sergeant in charge of the major crimes unit at the time.

Now chief of police in Weyburn, Sask., Pritchard recalls the force was consumed with an urgency to find the little girl.

About 2,000 tips came in and, like a grenade going off with fragments flying everywhere, each one needed to be looked at as a potential lead.

It’s frustrating no one was able to find her, he says.

“It pulls at your heart. It hurts.”



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