© PHOTO/GRAPHIC BY HANNAH KOST
 

Written and produced by Hannah Kost and Danielle Semrau

The volunteers mingle inside the small trailer in Las Vegas, Nev., as a coffeepot brews quietly in the background. They take their seats as Shannon Forsythe with Run 2 Rescue, an American organization aimed at restoring victims of sex trafficking, details the day’s events.

 

“[We were told] about this girl who looked very similar to Jessie Foster,” Forsythe tells the volunteers gathered in the trailer before her. “We immediately went down there to find out if it was her, and we couldn’t tell.

 

"The picture actually went to mom and mom could not verify if that was her daughter, because that’s how similar [they were].”

 

Forsythe was but one member of a group of volunteers who travelled in February 2014 to Las Vegas. For four days they followed up on leads in the case of Jessie Foster, a Canadian woman who has been missing for eight years. They were there on behalf of Jessie’s mother, Glendene Grant, who continues her own investigation from Canada into her daughter’s disappearance.

 

One of the group’s goals was to find a homeless woman who reportedly bore a strong resemblance to the missing Canadian. After locating the woman, the volunteers were stunned: she was blonde like Jessie. She had perfect teeth and thin lips, just like Jessie.

 

Law enforcement was called. As the woman had drug paraphernalia on her, police were able to arrest her and take her in for fingerprinting. The volunteers were excited; the resemblance was undeniable. However, when the results came back, disappointment set in: it wasn’t her.

 

Jessie Foster is still out there, waiting to be found.

 

 

She leaves the hugest gap

 

March 28 marked eight years since Jessie Foster last

communicated with her family after vanishing from Las

Vegas in 2006. At the time,police had few leads and, as

the years passed by, the case slowly grew cold. But to her

family and friends, the mystery of what happened to the

beautiful blonde is a question that still demands an answer.

 

“Anytime you have something and there’s a piece missing,

it’s really noticeable,” says Jessie’s mother, Glendene Grant.

“And Jessie is that noticeable piece of us that’s missing.

For the tiniest little female adult, she leaves the hugest gap

in our family.”

 

In 2005, Jessie Foster was not unlike many other young

women her age. She had graduated from high school

only three years before, and had big plans. She dreamed

of opening her own beauty salon; she had always been good

at makeup and hair, and her own locks were always

carefully styled.

 

She worked hard, holding down at least two jobs, if not three. In fact her father, Dwight Foster, says that he had never known his daughter to only work one job. She was incredibly ambitious.

 

Dwight encouraged his daughter to travel and in 2005, Jessie decided to take a break from working to see the world. That May, Jessie travelled to Las Vegas for what her parents initially believed was to only be a three or four day trip. Instead, Jessie stayed in Las Vegas for 10 months, meeting and becoming engaged to a man she met there. She came back only once for Christmas.

 

That holiday was the last time her family saw her.

 

 

Those are the kind of things that haunt you

 

Jessie’s life in the United States was comfortable. Her neighbourhood was an affluent North Las Vegas suburb: she lived in an expensive home with her wealthy fiancé, and she often called her parents from beside the pool in her backyard.

 

After Jessie stopped communicating with her parents in 2006, they reported her missing, and Dwight hired a private investigator. Her fiancé told investigators she simply left with her luggage, never to return. That would be the last reported sighting of Jessie Foster.

 

“Was she running to something, was she running away from something?” Dwight wonders, as he imagines his daughter’s mindset in the hours leading up to her disappearance. “Those kinds of things haunt you, and if you let your mind wander into those areas you’re going to drive yourself insane. And I am proof of that.”

 

Dwight says what they do know is that as of April 1, 2006, Jessie’s phone hadn’t been used and her bank accounts hadn’t been accessed.

 

She had fallen off the face of the earth.

 

Over the next few months, what investigators were able to uncover only seemed to yield more questions.

 

The private investigator Dwight had hired discovered that Jessie had been hospitalized with a broken jaw and had been arrested twice for prostitution.

 

The circumstances of Jessie’s disappearance are a web of dead

and loose ends, and different scenarios torment Dwight.

 

He eventually made the journey down to Sin City himself, where

he says he walked up and down the strip with his daughter’s

photograph in hand, asking people if they had seen her. 

Venturing off the streets into air-conditioned hotel lobbies,

Dwight says he would stop hotel management and staff to ask

if they recognized Jessie.

 

“I was walking through the hotels and I was showing her

picture, managers of hotels would come down and look and they

would say, ‘Oh, I know her,’” he recalls. “Seems she was 

very well known on the strip. Made me want to throw up right

there. You’re not supposed to know my damn daughter.”

 

 

"I will continue to call myself the lead investigator"

 

The questions are unending: what had been going on in Jessie’s life in the months leading up to her disappearance? What had happened to her? And, most importantly, where is she now?

 

No one seems to have any definitive answers. But everyone — from her family to her friends to those who have heard her story — has a theory about what happened to her, pieced together from unearthed fragments of her life.

 

Jessie’s hospital records suggest to Glendene that her daughter was connected to violent individuals in Las Vegas. The later revelation that Jessie had been arrested for prostitution spoke loudly to Glendene.

 

She believes that her daughter is a victim of human trafficking.

 

“It’s like all of a sudden I realized, taken to another country, beaten and forced into the sex trade — yeah, that’s exactly what that is,” Glendene says.

 

“I call myself, and I will continue to call myself, the lead investigator on Jessie’s case.”

 

Glendene scours the internet daily for busted human trafficking rings. She follows up on tips. She relays them to Crime Stoppers, the RCMP and the Las Vegas police.

 

Dwight, meanwhile, thinks that his daughter — deeply ambitious and, as he describes it, financially driven — had the intention of entering the prostitution business rather than being lured into its grasp.

 

The two parents, separated since Jessie’s infancy, have been driven further apart by their diverging conclusions. But Dwight is quick to acknowledge both he and Glendene simply can’t be sure.

 

“We know so much up until April 1,” Dwight says. “The second she stopped communicating with us, well, this could have happened, that could have happened, this could have happened or, kaboom, that could have happened. Nobody knows.”

 

What happened to Jessie Foster remains a question demanding an answer. Until that moment comes, Jessie’s loved ones are left trying to put a puzzle together that is missing crucial pieces.

 

 

Next: Down the Rabbit Hole

 

Watch The Vanishing Point

Jessie Foster was all smiles at her high school graduation in Calgary, Alta., in 2002. Four years after this photo was taken, Foster disappeared in Las Vegas, Nev.

 

Photo provided by Glendene Grant.

"What do you miss most about her?"

"What was she arrested for?"

As of March 2014, Jessie Foster has been missing for eight years. Her mother believes that her daughter is a victim of human trafficking, while her father believes that she went to Las Vegas with the intention of entering the escort business.

 

Photo provided by Glendene Grant.

 

Jessie Foster smiled from the front seat of her fiancé's truck in their North Las Vegas driveway. The last reported sighting of her was at this residence in 2006

 

Photo provided by Glendene Grant.

© 2014 HANNAH KOST & DANIELLE SEMRAU
 

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