The Paramount+ film Never Seen Again tells the story of Tamra Keepness, who disappeared from her home on Ottawa Street in July 2004 at the age of 5.
Although investigators worked for hours, spoke to many people and offered a $50,000 reward, the girl has not been seen since. Although she has not been seen for almost 20 years, the police are still looking for her. So here’s what we know if you want to learn more.
What was the fate of Tamra Keepness?
Tamra Jewel Keepness was born in 1998 to Lorena and Troy Keepness and was reported missing on July 6, 2004 from her home on the 1800 block of Ottawa Street in Regina, Saskatchewan. She was one of five children and had a twin sister named Tannis. The family consists of people with Aboriginal roots. They hail from the White Bear First Nation, located in the south-east of the province. The 5-year-old was last seen going to bed on July 5. According to police reports, Tamra lived with her mother and partner Dean McArthur; Lorena and Trop split shortly after the twins were born.
Lorena and Dean had an argument on the evening of June 5th and Dean left the house as a result. Russell Sheepskin, who sometimes stayed with the family, is said to have met him and the two went out for drinks. Lorena stayed with her children for a while before putting them to bed upstairs and heading to a friend’s house a block away, leaving the eldest child in charge. According to police reports, Lorena also admitted to having a few drinks at her friend’s house. Russell is said to have come back and even checked on the children at midnight, but they were all asleep.
Russell later told police he saw the children sleeping in the living room. He and Dean reportedly got into an argument around 3 a.m., and Dean reportedly hit Russell so badly that he had to be hospitalized. Lorena came back soon after and found that the doors were locked. She went in through a window. She later said that she may have seen Tamra sleeping on the couch with her siblings while she slept upstairs.
Dean said that early in the morning he went to his aunt’s house to sleep. Lorena said that Raine, one of Tamra’s brothers or sisters, dreamed the next morning that Tamra was getting out of bed. After about an hour and a half, when Tamra was still nowhere to be found, her family called the police. Regina police conducted one of the largest and most thorough searches in the city’s history to locate the missing child, as there was no sign of a break-in or fight at the home.
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What happened to Tamra Keepness?
One of the Regina Police Department officers thought back to the day Tamra was reported missing and said the entire police force was busy. As of 2014, police said they received more than 1,700 leads and conducted hours of interviews to find Tamra. As of June 2014, there was also a $50,000 reward for information on the child’s whereabouts.
Tamra is smart, so Lorena is said to have called her “little Einstein”. She still believes her child will come back. Speaking about it, the mother said, “All I know is that someone stole it. My child was kidnapped by someone. I try to think of everything from the start, what and where. I’m trying to tell the police.” Lorena said, “I still don’t feel like she’s gone. I don’t feel like she’s gone at all. I still think she can go home.”
Every year, the city of Regina holds a barbecue at Pepsi Park on July 5th, the day little Tamra disappeared. Police believe it serves as a reminder for the family and helps them feel they are not alone in their search for their child. Erica Beaudin, the executive director of Regina/Treaty Status Indian Services (RTSIS), said, “There are other people missing her, wondering where she is and supporting her as a family to bring her home.” Although If she has not been seen for 18 years, her family has not given up hope.
Tamra Keepness and her twin sister Tannis were born on September 1, 1998 to Lorena and Troy Keepness. The family lived in Regina, but they were from the White Bear First Nation of southeast Saskatchewan.
Lorena and Troy split shortly after the twins were born, so the two girls split their time between their parents. Most of the time, they lived with Lorena, her partner Dean McArthur, and their three siblings at 1843 Ottawa Street near downtown Regina. People knew that the neighborhood had problems, especially with poverty and other social problems.
It was no secret that the adults in Tamra’s life had problems with alcohol and drug use. Dean had already served two months of his three-month sentence for drunkenly beating Lorena. Because of these problems and reports of child neglect, social services were of great help to the family. A total of 50 reports were made to crisis workers.
Tamra was a smart and kind girl, although her life at home seemed unstable to some. She loved her brothers and sisters very much, especially Tannis, and she always had a big smile on her face. She was also known for being cheeky and a bit naughty, and she was always looking for something exciting. She could be found at the end of the block climbing her favorite pine tree when she wasn’t playing Mario Kart on her Nintendo.
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Set the stage for the disappearance
On July 5, 2004, Lorena, Dean and all five of their children sat in the living room at night and watched television. Lorena and Dean had a fight at one point, but they say it wasn’t about anything important. Dean decided to leave the house around 8:30 p.m. to cool off. He met Russell Sheepskin, a man who sometimes lived in his family’s basement while he was away, and the two decided to have a drink together. Dean stopped at a nearby 7-11 on his way to the St. Regis Hotel to buy milk for his and Lorena’s new baby, which he then brought to their home.
Lorena was with her children for most of the evening. Between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m., she put her to bed, leaving her 11-year-old daughter Summer to do it while she walked to a friend’s townhouse a block away. After a while, she and her friend went to buy more alcohol and Lorena stopped by the house to see how things were going. She called Summer when she got back to her friend’s house and told her to call if she needed anything.
At midnight on July 6, Russell came home after getting very drunk. He made himself something to eat and looked after the children. Some of them, like Tamra, slept in the living room, meaning they must have come down after Lorena put them to bed. A few hours later, Russell met Dean while smoking a cigarette on the porch. They got into a fight and Dean punched Russell in the face and stomped on his head. Russell went to the hospital for stitches after injuring himself. He says he didn’t lock the front door when he left.
Dean says that after the fight he decided to go to his aunt’s house where he wanted to spend the night. But he got lost, so he didn’t get there until two hours later, between 5:00 and 5:30 in the morning. According to police reports, no one saw him at that time.
When Lorena got home at 3 a.m., she found that all the doors were locked. So she went through a window to get into the house. She was drunk at the time, so she’s not sure if she saw her kids sleeping in the living room or not. However, she has said that she remembered seeing Tannis and Summer before she fell asleep on the couch herself.
Raine, Tamra’s older brother, felt herself getting up sometime on the morning of July 6th. He doesn’t remember the exact time, but he does remember that it was getting light.
Tamra’s grandmother came to visit her at 9 a.m. and saw Lorena nursing a hangover. It was around this time that Lorena woke up because her mother needed her to open the door. Soon after, Summer and Raine left home to go to a nearby community center for a day camp.
When Tamra didn’t come down for breakfast, that was the first time anyone noticed that she was gone. Lorena told one of the children to wake them up because they were going for a walk, but she wasn’t in her bed. Lorena reported her daughter missing around 12:15 p.m. that afternoon after checking nearby playgrounds and phoning friends and family.
Everyone in town was interested in the quest for Tamra, which would become the largest and most expensive in Regina’s history. First, patrol officers looked around the neighborhood to make sure she hadn’t just walked away or gone to someone else’s home. When they couldn’t find her, they searched harder. The Regina Police Service established a command post in the parking lot of a church on the 1900 block of Ottawa Street, and hundreds of volunteers, police officers, and RCMP cadets began a search by foot, horse, and air. They looked for her all over the streets, yards, neighborhoods, alleys, gullies, and trash cans. They also looked outside of town and at a local landfill. Although clothes and a child’s shoe were found, they did not belong to Tamra. Overall, not much has been found about the missing girl.
Since the initial search, others have continued in downtown Regina and near the family home. Lorena signed forms granting investigators permission to search her home. Their DNA was also given to them. A window had been broken during the fight between Russell and Dean, but otherwise there were no signs of forced entry or a struggle.
Police spoke to sex offenders who lived in the area. They also obtained surveillance footage of bars, gas stations, grocery stores and a Greyhound station near the crime scene.
Investigators brought in the family, including Tamra’s siblings, to talk about what happened the night before. This helped them figure out what happened. Especially Dean, Russell and Lorena were scrutinized very closely. At the time, investigators thought they wouldn’t give them all the facts and weren’t happy that the story of what happened was missing parts and didn’t make sense. The three people denied the allegations, saying investigators spent too much time with them and not enough time finding Tamra. To further the investigation, they named five people they thought were suspicious. One of them was a pedophile who had been friends with Tamra in the past.
A “red alert” was sent a few days after Tamra went missing. Various things have been said about why it took so long for one to happen. Some sources say Saskatchewan did not have an Amber Alert system at the time, and a Regina Police Service spokesman said the circumstances surrounding the disappearance did not meet criteria for an alert.
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