A ground search will take place near the end of August to find clues to the whereabouts or the fate of Meagan Pilon, who has been missing since September 2013.
Pilon was 15 years old when she went missing. She was last seen by her father, Marc Pilon.
Earlier this year, Sudbury.com published a story on a group called Please Bring Me Home, a volunteer-driven organization that is actively investigating dozens of missing persons across Canada.
Please Bring Me Home is treating Pilon’s case as a homicide. The group had plans to conduct a ground search for Pilon this summer, with the goal of establishing a presence in Greater Sudbury to potentially help co-ordinate efforts around Northern Ontario.
Enter Natashia Pickering, who will be co-ordinating all the volunteers with her team members in the area.
Nick Oldrieve, executive director for Please Bring Me Home, said the plan for the search would be discussed with Ted Phillips, search leader, and Sherri Hall, director of human remains detection, on the appropriate next steps based on the recommendations by Please Bring Me Home.
Matthew Nopper, director of operations, will be assisting in the planning stage with them. This will likely include various volunteers searching, as well as the use of cadaver dogs.
Melissa Harwood, director of research and analysis, said the specific areas that will be searched have been chosen based on information, tips and data which has been collected over the course of approximately a year.
“These are what we call ‘areas of interest,’” she said. “There isn’t necessarily factual information or a first-hand tip that directly links to these locations. It’s a matter of the number of tips, leads and or information that has allowed us to believe that they would be reasonable areas to look at further or assess given all the information we have collected and or received.”
The likelihood of a suspect or someone having first-hand knowledge taking the group by the hand and leading them to a specific area is slim to none, they said. Therefore, volunteers base their search areas on probability. That probability is based on last known possible locations, potential suspects that were there at the time, rumours, theories and anonymous tips.
When Sudbury.com first spoke to Please Bring Me Home, they had enlisted the aid of retired retired RCMP Insp. Linda Gillis Davidson. However, Davidson has had to take a step back, and Harwood and Pickering will continue the investigation.
Pickering decided to get involved because her daughter was a local runaway. She started the Facebook page, Greater Sudbury Missing Persons, to help find her.
Shortly after posting the page, she said she had many parents and family members asking to post their loved ones on the page. Pilon's family was one of them in 2014.
“I have shared a close connection to Meagan's family since,” said Pickering.
Last fall, she said she reached out to Oldrieve after viewing their W5 episode to see if they could assist in helping find Pilon.
“After speaking with this team and seeing the efforts they were making to find missing persons, I decided to join this amazing team as their research consultant,” she said.
Currently, the local group is gathering volunteers to help in the ground search.
“We have had a great response,” Pickering said. “In counting, we have over 70 people wanting to volunteer their time. We can't thank everyone enough that reached out to us.”
All the volunteers’ names have been put in the Please Bring Me Home database. There will be a screening process and the individuals will be contacted very soon.
And, while the Pilon’s friends and family remain ever hopeful they will find her alive, they have accepted the fact it may not be a happy ending, Pickering said.