November 30, 2016, was the last day Jennifer Hillier-Penney was ever seen. In the months since, intensive searches have been done in hopes of finding at a least a small clue as to what may have happened to the woman. This isn’t the first disappearance the area has experienced.
Eyes have turned to the waters near the St. Anthony area in Newfoundland, Canada. Hillier-Penney’s disappearance has been considered to be suspicious, but absolutely nothing has appeared to help solve where she may have gone or what may have happened to her.
Here are the details and the timeline as we know it. Click ‘Start Slideshow’ to begin!
Just two days after Jennifer Hillier-Penney was last seen in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, Canada, a search was under way. Hillier-Penney’s last appearance was in an area near Husky Drive in the town, at about 8:30 p.m. At this point, not much had been revealed, perhaps not even known at all, about what she was doing there. Still, the search was being taken seriously. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had even dedicated additional resources toward finding Hillier-Penney, including the addition of a canine unit.
Who is Jennifer Hillier-Penney?
Jennifer Lynn Hillier-Penney is a 38-year-old mother and wife. She and her husband of 17 years have a 15-year-old daughter. When she disappeared, Jennifer and her husband were in the middle of some marital issues and basically living separate lives, but Jennifer had been staying at the home they owned together while her husband was out of town. At last check, she was five feet and seven inches tall and weighed between 160 and 170 pounds.
The Search Continues
On the fifth day of searching for Jennifer Hillier-Penney, authorities kicked things up a notch. The forces on the ground weren’t having any luck so a birds’ eye view seemed the only appropriate next step. The RCMP brought in a helicopter to try to see things from a better view. Officials also pointed out that neighboring units had also offered support, helping to increase the range of the ground search. Still, nothing new had been revealed. Authorities turned to the community, asking them to keep an eye out for anything suspicious, or to let them know if they had seen anything. “Hopefully we can find Jennifer very quickly,” one official said.
For 17 years, Jennifer Hillier-Penney was married to Dean Penney. Together, they had two daughters, aged 21 and 15 at the time of Jennifer’s disappearance. In the later parts of their marriage, they two had been living apart, seemingly moving on with their lives without each other. Though Jennifer had been staying in the house when she vanished, Dean wasn’t home, and, according to his mother, he was completely taken over by shock when he heard about the news. According to sources, the home the couple had once shared didn’t show any signs something had happened there. According to Dean’s mother, if police were considering him a suspect, they were sorely mistaken. As for police, they won’t say one way or the other.
Air, Land and Water
A week after Jennifer Hillier-Penney had been reported missing, RCMP began following their next inclination, searching the harbor of St. Anthony. According to an RCMP spokesperson, the search of the waters was brought about by information gathered by authorities, but what exactly that meant went unexplained. Using divers, the RCMP was hoping to find at least a clue as to what may have happened to Hillier-Penney. If air and ground had turned up nothing, shouldn’t there be some sort of clue underwater? Authorities searched with high hopes, but remained unsure of what they might find.
The Harbor is Clear
The next day, the RCMP announced they had found nothing in St. Anthony’s harbor and would be ending their search in that area. Their water search was not complete, however, as they were still planning to move onto other areas. Which areas weren’t explained, but they seemed pretty confident they would find something in the water somewhere. Would these searches reveal something about the fate of Jennifer Hillier-Penney? Only time would tell.
Time for a Break
Jennifer Hillier-Penney was last seen November 30, 2016. On December 12, 2016, the RCMP decided to call it quits. For the time being, anyway. “The water, air and ground searches are completed for now, but can be resumed as new information is received as the investigation continues,” a spokesperson for the RCMP said. Air, ground and water searches had turned up nothing. Though authorities believe there was something suspicious about Hillier-Penney’s disappearance, they said the public at large should be safe. However, past history might lead others to believe otherwise.
Not the First
Jennifer Hillier-Penney’s disappearance was certainly a shock for many people in the St. Anthony community, but it was also something which seemed familiar. Hillier-Penney wasn’t the first to go missing in the community. In fact, since 2002, she is the fourth. Each of the others who disappeared were never seen again, which is more than a little disconcerting in such a small community. Authorities don’t believe the disappearances were connected, and maybe they weren’t, but it still remains interesting. Let’s learn what we can about these three.
2002 – Mildred Sexton
The family of Mildred Sexton described her as an unassuming woman who lived a quiet life. She didn’t get out of the house a whole lot, just to visit family, get groceries or run other errands. It would be very strange to see her leave town, but that is what she was doing the last time she was seen, according to authorities. There is only one road which leads out of St. Anthony, and 47-year-old Mildred appeared to be walking down it on April 16, 2002. Anywhere she might want to get is awfully far away. In the 15 years since she vanished, nothing has been heard. Some suspect she may have fallen through the ice into the harbor, some suggest she did, in fact, walk out of town to somewhere, and others still say she somehow made her way onto a foreign boat in the harbor. As can be expected, there are more questions than answers in this case.
2006 – Andrew Sexton
When 21-year-old Andrew Sexton went missing in February of 2006, a blizzard was coming in. He and a couple friends decided to head out onto the snow with their snowmobiles for a little adventure before the storm started up, but not everyone made it home. The two boys with Andrew returned home, and had been there for some time, until Andrew’s best friend called Andrew’s parents to tell them he wasn’t there. A search was quickly put together, but the storm became too heavy to search through. Once the storm passed, the search was on. Andrew’s snowmobile was found, with fuel in the tank and keys in the ignition, but with no Andrew in sight. And no clues, either. The search needed to be put on hold. Once the snow had melted, a request for a new search was put in, but the RCMP denied the request. After gaining some funds, Andrew’s family started a new search, including ground and water parties, but nothing was ever found.
2011 – Cleon Smith
Cleon Smith was only 30 years old when he vanished in the hills and woods behind St. Anthony in 2011. Everybody in the area new Smith and had seen him walk the trails often. It was apparently he knew them well, and several saw him head off into the woods that day and never come back. A massive search was undertaken, full of people who desired nothing more than to find the former hockey player. A few days after the search began, footprints were found which lead into the ocean, leading some to suspect Smith may have walked out onto the ice after getting lost in the snow. Nothing was ever found of Cleon Smith, above or below the water.
A Strange Coincidence
Now, I’m not going to go and say what I’m about to write has any sort connection to the fact these people have disappeared. I simply think it is very interesting that, in the Catholic faith, St. Anthony is the Patron of Lost Things. Across the world, he is believed to be connected to miracles involving people and things which have been lost. This, perhaps, stems from a time in which he prayed to have a stolen book returned, only to see it happen and the thief attempt to join the same priestly order as St. Anthony. An interesting story, to be sure.
It took four months for the family of Jennifer Hillier-Penney to speak to the public. Her siblings are convinced nothing good happened to their little sister. “There’s a murderer out there somewhere,” Jennifer’s sister, Yvonne Hillier-Decker, said. For them, the idea of Jennifer leaving on her own is preposterous. Her daughter was home, and Jennifer’s keys, coat, boots, cell phone, purse and passport were all left behind the day she disappeared. Their father, Allan Hillier, felt the same way when asked months earlier if he thought something bad had happened to Jennifer. When asked, he responded “It looks like it.”
Trying to Continue
By July 2017, any active searches by authorities had been long over, though the investigation continued in earnest. This wasn’t enough for those he truly wanted to find Jennifer Hillier-Penney. An organization gathered together to help get funds for the Hillier family so the search could continue to be funded. Their method: A bingo game for anyone willing to attend. “It could be for an extra camera that can go down to a farther depth in water,” one organizer said. “It could be more extensive dog searches, it could entail probably a psychic along the way.”