© PHOTO/GRAPHIC BY HANNAH KOST
Written and produced by Danielle Semrau and Hannah Kost
It’s a cool morning in Kamloops, B.C., and Glendene Grant stands dressed in a blue apron and jeans at the check out of MTF Price Matters. A woman with a young daughter approaches the check out, and Glendene warmly greets them, making casual conversation as the woman pays for her purchase.
Glendene is all smiles this morning as she talks to customers and bustles around the store. It’s clear that she loves her job, loves people. She keeps up a constant stream of conversation as she works, talking about everything from the latest sales to her grandchildren. And Jessie, always Jessie.
"It was like the beautiful swan story"
Leading up to her disappearance in the spring of 2006, Jessie Foster had moved back to Kamloops to live with her mother, three sisters and stepfather, Jim Hoflin. She had grown up in the mountain town but, as a teenager, had decided to move to Calgary, Alta., to live with her father, Dwight Foster, and her stepmother, Tracy Foulds.
She had spent the better part of two years living in the big city, and had blossomed. When she had first arrived in Calgary, Dwight says that she had been a tomboy with long hair parted right down the middle and his family’s teeth.
“She had the horrible set of teeth,” Dwight says, chuckling. “And she knew it. Bad teeth run in my family. So we made an appointment, we went in, and two and a half years and $7,000 later, she has a perfect set of pearly whites.”
Dwight says that fixing Jessie’s teeth brought about a change in his daughter. She became more confident, and her style began to evolve. More friends began to show up on his doorstep and by the end of her 2002 graduation year Jessie was confident and popular.
“It was like the beautiful swan story,” he says.
"Do you know what you're into, Jess?"
Three years after graduating from high school, Jessie moved back to Kamloops. Her father had always encouraged her to travel, and it seemed like she was about to get the opportunity. In April of 2005, a friend from Alberta invited her to go to Florida. Neither of her parents had met the man who, like Jessie, had been a fixture on the DJ circuit in Calgary.
Florida was a new experience for Jessie. She went parasailing, swam in the ocean, got some sun. Shortly thereafter, Jessie and her new travel companion journeyed to New York; Atlantic City was their next destination.
Jessie was travelling like she never had before. And while her parents had wanted her to explore the world, they became increasingly suspicious about the nature of the trips when they learned that she had not been paying for them. Her travel companion was footing the entire bill.
“[That] really started to get me worried,” Dwight recalls. "'Do you know what you’re into, Jess, what’s this all about, who is this guy, what does he want from you?'”
Jessie would take another trip to the United States – this time, to Las Vegas, for her 21st birthday. Her parents anticipated that her stay in Las Vegas, like the others, would be short. But it wasn’t. Jessie would remain there for the next 10 months.
She had only been in Las Vegas for a short time when friends introduced her to a wealthy man nearly twice her age. Their relationship moved quickly from the start. Glendene says that within a few months of meeting each other and beginning to date, they had already moved in together. Shortly thereafter, Jessie’s parents say they found out that the two were engaged.
Jessie never brought her new fiancé home to meet her parents, but Glendene and Dwight say the relationship was volatile. Both say that the couple fought a lot, and Dwight recalls hearing the two argue on the phone when Jessie was in Calgary for a visit.
"It wasn't conversation, it was screaming, cursing, name-calling," he says. "And I finally said, 'Jess, call me out of touch, call me an old fogy, but that doesn't sound like love to me.'"
Dwight says that Jessie justified the fighting, saying that the two were just passionate people who argued to express themselves, but it still made her parents uncomfortable.
“I even said to him, ‘Why in the world are you with a 21-year-old girl when you’re past your mid-30s?’” Glendene recalls. “’Why don’t you just pack it in, send her home and you guys can go on your merry way?’”
"You're not telling us something"
Jessie returned to Kamloops to celebrate Christmas in 2005;
it was a holiday she had always eagerly anticipated as a child.
“She’s really a little girl when it comes to Christmas,” Dwight
remembers. “First one up in the morning, first one with the
Santa hat on.”
But this time was different. Her family was just settling into the
routine of having her home when she unexpectedly announced
the morning of the 25th that she would be leaving for Las Vegas
“We get up Christmas morning and she tells us she needs to go
back to the airport that day,” Glendene says.
“I’ve never talked to Glendene in any depth about her leaving that
day,” Dwight says. “But I would have loved to have known what was
on her mind and what she was thinking, and how leaving must have made
everybody wonder, ‘What is up girl? You’re not telling us something.’”
"Why isn't she calling?"
Jessie walking through airport security is the last image her mother, stepfather and sisters have of her.
Her sudden departure on Christmas morning had been unsettling for her family, but over the next few months, she continued to call and keep in touch with her parents and siblings. She was constantly texting her sisters, and called Glendene and Dwight a couple times a week.
According to Glendene, near the end of March 2006 Jessie left a birthday message for her stepmother who, along with Dwight, was in Mexico. Her message was upbeat and she seemed happy.
Shortly thereafter, Jessie’s sister mentioned to Glendene that she had not been able to reach her. The next day, Glendene’s other daughter said she couldn’t reach Jessie either. The silence was unnerving; Jessie was always in contact with her family and friends.
Glendene began to phone her daughter. It wasn’t long before she had filled up Jessie’s voicemail with panicked messages, and had sent her several emails demanding that Jessie call someone, anyone.
A province away, Dwight arrived home from Mexico, and he and Tracy began to listen to their voicemail. Jessie’s message began to play, brightly wishing Tracy a happy birthday. Then, a message from Glendene: she hadn’t been able to get ahold of Jessie for a few days.
Have you heard from her? She asked.
“An intense fear gripped my heart,” Dwight remembers. “I felt right there something really serious had happened… And all these thoughts came creeping into my head. What’s happened? Did she have an accident? Where is she? Why isn’t she calling?
“I had a private detective the next day.”
Jessie would be officially reported missing on April 9, 2006.
"Your life literally stops"
Jessie was missing. Her family and friends were in shock,
paralyzed by the news.
“This is not something that happens to us,” Dwight says.
“And everybody says that, you know. This happens to other
people. But you know what, that’s bullshit. Because it happens
to us, it does happen to us… It can happen to me, it can
happen to anybody.”
Glendene became crippled by her loss. She couldn’t work,
couldn’t take care of her home, couldn’t leave the house.
For a time, she turned to alcohol.
“Your life literally stops,” Glendene recalls. “My doctor put
me on antidepressants for a while and those didn’t help…
because I wasn’t chemically imbalanced, I was sad.
And they don’t have sad pills, which is probably why I tried
the booze. ”
For Dwight, time seemed to move faster. Days felt like hours, weeks like days. Waking up every morning became difficult, with thoughts always turning to Jessie.
“You just lose track of your life, and the routine that you’re so used to,” Dwight says. “I started to fall apart at that point. It’s not a fun feeling when you can feel yourself losing your grip.”
Jessie’s parents say that the investigation into her disappearance was revealing little. As Jessie had been living in North Las Vegas, her case had fallen to the North Las Vegas police. They didn’t have a missing persons unit. And because Jessie was 21, she was considered old enough to be missing if she wanted to be.
“When you don’t have a body, you don’t have a crime scene,” Dwight says. “We were limited as to the next move.”
The North Las Vegas Police Department was contacted for comment, but did not respond by press time.
Meanwhile, what Dwight’s private investigator was uncovering brought up more questions for the family than answers. Records he accessed revealed that Jessie had been beaten and hospitalized with a broken jaw. He also learned that she had been arrested for prostitution twice: first in June of 2005, and then again in September.
The news was a blow to the family. While Jessie had mentioned to her father that she was working for an escort agency, she had maintained that she had been a receptionist.
“If had known then what I known now… I would have contacted the local police, I would have contacted the border patrol, I would have contacted the FBI,” Dwight says. “To this day, I am destroyed by it. Because you always wish you had done more to protect your child.”
This new information forced them to ask themselves a hard question: What had been going on in the months leading up to Jessie’s disappearance?
Watch The Vanishing Point
"Her packing her bags and leaving her mother's house..."
"Your life literally stops."
"This is not something that happens to us."
In high school, Jessie Foster moved from her home town of Kamloops, B.C., to Calgary, Alta., to live with her father and stepmother.
Photo provided by Glendene Grant.
In April of 2005, Jessie Foster travelled to Florida with a man she met in Calgary. It was the first of four trips the duo would take. Jessie's parents later learned that he had covered all of Jessie's travel expenses.
Photo provided by Glendene Grant.
Jessie Foster was always in contact with her family during her time in Las Vegas. When she stopped contacting them in late March of 2006, they began to get worried. Early that April, her parents reported her missing.
Photo provided by Glendene Grant.