Missing since June 19, 2008
Featured in Episode 209
Jennifer Leigh Catcheway was born on June 19, 1990 and was a member of the Skownan First Nation in Manitoba, Canada. She had three siblings, was very responsible and was a fiercely loyal person. She grew up on the First Nation before later moving to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba with her family. Jennifer was close with her family and regularly left notes to inform them of her whereabouts. When Jennifer last stood in her family’s home, she was a few days shy of turning 18. She wrote a note to her parents stating, “Gone to see my cousin. Be back later. Love you. Put my ice cream in the fridge, I’ll have it when I get back,” and with that she left her home, never to return again.
Jennifer called her family on the morning of June 19, 2008, to confirm she would be home later that night for her birthday party, but she never arrived. Originally, Jennifer’s parents believed she called them in Portage La Prairie, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police traced her phone call to Grand Rapids, over 400 miles away.
Around 12:00 P.M., Jennifer was seen leaving Portage La Prairie in a truck with her 38-year-old uncle, Charles Parenteau, and her 28-year-old cousin, Shawn Catcheway, where the trio traveled to Grand Rapids and Jennifer was seen at a house party on the Dakota Tipi First Nation. Charles and Shawn are believed to be the last people to see Jennifer. Charles claimed to have dropped Jennifer off near the Waterhen Junction on Highway 6.
When she didn’t turn up at her own birthday party, her mom, Bernice Catcheway, decided to give her a few days and reasoned that her daughter was probably just partying or celebrating and just figured that she’d be back soon. But after a few days Bernice began to really worry and went to the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS). Sadly, like happens all too often in these cases, they didn’t take her seriously. When the constable that Bernice reported to found out Jennifer was 18, he told Bernice to just give Jennifer a week or so and reassured her that her daughter was probably just drunk and partying.
Jennifer’s uncle and cousin were arrested a few weeks after she vanished, but both were released without charges and the RCMP later ruled the case a homicide, but Jennifer’s remains have never been found.
Her parents say they have not spoken to officers in years, but have continued to search for Jennifer themselves ever since she disappeared; they are even offering a $10,000 reward to whoever finds her. The Catcheways have traveled throughout Manitoba, following up on every tip they have received. They have combed forests, fields and bodies of water with the help of volunteers. Each year the family has an annual fundraiser to raise money for their annual summer-long search for Jennifer's remains.
In October 2017, her family spoke at the MMIWG inquiry hearings in Winnipeg and they believe the RCMP never handled the case correctly and don’t even know who the detective is assigned to her case. On June 19, 2018, Jennifer’s 28th birthday and 10 years since she disappeared, her family celebrated and mourned. To mark the anniversary, this party had a fireworks show and the Portage la Prairie mayor and council and First Nations leaders were in attendance.
During the celebration Bernice stated, “Jennifer should be here. She just went on this ride with these people that she trusted. She trusted them — one was her cousin. She was our baby girl.” Bernice said the lack of closure is painful and also urges anyone with information on Jennifer's location to come forward, even anonymously.
"You can leave a note somewhere, leave a map, anything," she said. "Help us bring Jennifer home."
At the time of her disappearance Jennifer was foot seven, weighed 165 lbs, had long brown hair, brown eyes, and was last seen wearing a green and white striped shirt. She has two tattoos: the letters “JC” on her left ankle and the letter “J” on her left hand.
If you have any information about Jennifer, please call Crime Stoppers @ 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), the RCMP @ 204-857-8767, or you can contact the CBC news via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or anonymously via SecureDrop.