MONTREAL – Police announced Wednesday they have found the remains of Jolène Riendeau, the 10-year-old Point St. Charles girl who disappeared in April 1999.
Montreal police Sgt. Ian Lafrenière refused to say where or when the remains were found or under what circumstances, citing the continuing investigation to locate a suspect in the case.
“Sadly, what we can say is that it was definitely a homicide,” Lafrenière said. "We have a very serious lead and we don't want to jeopardize it and allow a guilty person to escape justice."
Riendeau's death becomes the 16th homicide of 2011 reported by Montreal police. Police considered the girl a missing person until her body was found, Lafrenière explained.
Pina Arcamone, executive director of the Missing Children's Network in Quebec, said she accompanied members of the Riendeau family Wednesday morning to a police station to receive the news.
Arcamone said the family was told police were doing tests on the remains and meeting with witnesses in the case. "We hope to have some answers very soon.
"Of course they are wondering when did this happen and what happened to their daughter, where was the body of their daughter found and, especially, who did this and why someone wanted to harm a young girl, not even 11 years old?" Arcamone said.
"It's too soon to talk of grieving or closure," Arcamone said. "They still have a lot of questions. Their pain, their suffering, their anxiety will continue until the investigation will be finished.
Lafrenière said police recieved 1,500 tips from the public about the case. "It's a very sad moment for the family."
The family was gathered together and did not plan to make any statements to the media Wednesday and probably not in the next few days either, Arcamone said.
"This is another nightmare that is starting for the family."
The disappearance of Jolène terrified her community and elicited an unprecedented response from police, community organizations and neighbours, who helped look for her. The outgoing, street-smart youngster, became a household name as almost one million posters were plastered on telephone poles and shop windows across the province.
It was on a spring afternoon 12 years ago that Jolène Riendeau returned home from school and helped her dad prepare supper. The feisty 10-year-old girl loved to peel potatoes, something she did that afternoon in the kitchen of her Point St. Charles apartment.
After she had finished, René Riendeau gave his daughter $2 so she could buy something at the local dépanneur. Jolène put on her roller blades and left home, telling her dad she would be back an hour later for dinner.
It was 4:30 p.m. on April 12, 1999.
Jolène skated to a dépanneur on Charlevoix St., about six blocks from her home. A neighbour saw her munching on potato chips outside the store a few minutes later. But instead of returning home, the young girl mysteriously vanished. No one saw her being kidnapped; no one heard cries for help and no one saw her leave with anyone.
Although Jolène sometimes came home late, her parents were particularly worried that night because she had not called them.
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