Missing girl's mom angry at cops
By TIM COOK
August 6, 2004
Summer Keepness is hugged by her mom Lorena on the steps of their home in Regina, Sask. on July 12. (CP/Troy Fleece)
REGINA (CP) - The parents of missing five-year-old Tamra Keepness say they are devastated by the disappearance of their child and resent police suggestions that they haven't been candid with officers in their investigation.
In an emotional interview with The Canadian Press in the dim, barren living room of their rented home, the couple said police have, at times, made them feel like suspects in the case.
The child's mother, Lorena Keepness, said she has been hurt by the suspicions aimed at her household.
"I know some fingers are being pointed in the wrong direction," Keepness said. "They assume because of our problems that we would do something to hurt our baby.
"It's totally off-base."
Keepness concedes that she has had problems with drug addiction and abusive relationships in the past, but said she and her partner, Dean McArthur, have turned things around in recent years.
Police have said they have unanswered questions about comings and goings in the house the night Tamra disappeared. There have also been suggestions there was a party at the house when the girl disappeared July 5.
McArthur was arrested July 19 for an alleged assault at the Keepness home the night Tamra disappeared.
He said police grilled him for 20 hours about the case while he was in custody.
"They were not really interviewing me but interrogating me," McArthur said.
"It was always the same questions and they were assuming that I knew the answers to those questions, but I didn't know the answers and I still don't know the answers."
"I would never hurt a hair on that little girl's head."
Keepness said she struggles daily to cope with the heartache of losing Tamra.
"Sometimes it feels like somebody just ripped something out of me and when I think of her it just aches," she sobbed, tears streaming down her face.
"I just can't believe it is happening."
For the first time, the couple described in detail the events of July 5.
They say there was no party. They say they were alone at their home with their children and a family friend, Russell Sheepskin, earlier in the evening.
McArthur said he and Sheepskin went to a nearby bar, but Keepness stayed home until Sheepskin returned about 11 p.m.
She said she stayed home to see her children off to bed.
"They were having a snack and they were watching (The) Simpsons and I thought: 'I've got to warn them it is almost bed time,' " she recalled. "I said: 'You guys are going to bed when Simpsons are over,' and they were just kind of dragging around. They didn't want to go to bed."
"I kissed them all. They went upstairs."
Tamra was in an upstairs room with her brother.
Keepness said that with Sheepskin watching the children, she then left for a friend's townhouse only a block away and had a couple of drinks.
She said she returned home at one point to leave the phone number for the friend's townhouse.
Keepness said she arrived home for good sometime in the early hours of the morning and found all the doors locked. She said she entered the home through a window.
"I just went to bed," Keepness said. "I lied down and went to sleep because all the doors were locked."
McArthur said he was advised not to say when he arrived at the home. Police have charged him with assaulting Sheepskin at the house around 3 a.m. The case is still before the courts.
Sheepskin could not be reached for comment.
Keepness said that when she awoke later in the morning she noticed that the back door was unlocked.
Tamra wasn't discovered missing until about noon.
"It was either someone came right into the house and took (Tamra) or she got out first thing in the morning," Keepness said. "I wanted to believe that she got out first thing that morning because my son said he felt the bed move. She got up off the bed."
The neighbourhood where the family lives is one of Regina's toughest - blocks of boarded-up houses and vacant lots with streets frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers.
Police have said there were no signs that Tamra had been abducted from the home. They initially treated the disappearance as a missing persons case.
Detectives will say little about the progress they have made in their criminal investigation, but they say they are getting closer to piecing together the puzzle.
Police have confiscated a couch and an armchair from the family's living room, apparently for forensic testing. All that remains are a TV, a coffee table and three chairs.
Keepness said the finger-pointing that has been going on has hurt her deeply.
"People who know me know that we have done a lot to pull our family together," she said. "People who really know us and have been around really know that."
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