Two years of tor­ment wait­ing for an­swers on miss­ing daugh­ter

Mother says ‘cru­elty of the un­re­solved’ worst as­pect of dis­ap­pear­ance of teen

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY + REGION - PAMELA COWAN pcowan@post­media.com

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Paula Bali re­gret­ted telling her 11-year-old son to get his own glass of choco­late milk — es­pe­cially when she saw a tear trickle down Joshua’s face.

“He al­ways asks me to get him things from the fridge,” Paula said. “The other day, I said to Joshua, ‘Why don’t you get it for your­self ? Your legs are younger than mine.’ I fol­lowed him into the kitchen and his head was rest­ing against the fridge that was still closed. I said, ‘Joshua, what’s wrong?’ and he said, ‘Mom, I’ll be hon­est with you. I feel so guilty when I get a glass of choco­late milk be­cause I don’t know if my sis­ter has food. I don’t know if my sis­ter has choco­late milk if she wants it. I don’t know if she’s safe.’

“That’s no way for a child to live. It shows how much life changes when you lose a child. It’s the cru­elty of the un­re­solved.”

For two years, the Bali fam­ily has waited for word on the where­abouts of Mekayla Bali.

The 17-year-old was last seen on April 12, 2016 at the York­ton bus de­pot at 1:45 p.m. Since then she has left no dig­i­tal or per­sonal foot­print, ef­fec­tively fall­ing off the face of the earth.

Mekayla is 5-foot-2, weighs 114 pounds, and has blond hair and blue eyes.

She wears her hair in dif­fer­ent styles, some­times chang­ing its colour.

She may also go by the name Mekayla Nieber­gall.

With the gen­eros­ity of the lo­cal com­mu­nity, the fam­ily has raised a $25,000 re­ward for the safe re­turn of Mekayla.

The lat­est fundraiser, called Glim­mer of Hope, was held Satur­day evening in York­ton. The event raised more than $6,300, which will go to­ward in­creas­ing the re­ward.

“From in­for­ma­tion I’ve re­ceived from Van­cou­ver po­lice, hu­man traf­fick­ing girls, if that’s the case, net their pimps $300,000 a year ... We have to look at rais­ing that re­ward,” Paula said.

Joshua and his nine-year-old sis­ter, Eliy­ora, are trau­ma­tized by the dis­ap­pear­ance of Mekayla with whom they were very close.

“We take them to a trauma ther­a­pist in Regina ev­ery cou­ple of weeks,” Paula said.

“They have a sense of fear that they could just go miss­ing one day. Even when they ’re in the back­yard, they say, ‘Mom, can you see me from there?’ ”

Paula ad­mits she’s ex­hausted. Night af­ter night, she imag­ines what might have hap­pened to her daugh­ter.

“All of those sce­nar­ios are ugly,” she said.

Paula con­tin­ues to be off work, but ex­pects to re­turn soon to her job as a pro­gram de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tant with Com­mu­nity Liv­ing Ser­vices De­liv­ery, a branch of the Min­istry of So­cial Ser­vices.

Most of her time off has been un­paid leave.

“It’s been a strug­gle, but my fam­ily has been just so won­der­ful,” Paula said.

She said her mother sold her house and put what would have been her re­tire­ment fund to­ward the costs of search­ing for Mekayla.

Paula es­ti­mates she’s spent $45,000 search­ing for her old­est daugh­ter.

“It takes a toll — emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally and fi­nan­cially,” she said.

Tips have led her to Van­cou­ver three times where she spent weeks search­ing and she’s looked in ev­ery ma­jor Saskatchewan city mul­ti­ple times.

“You can never over­turn ev­ery stone, but you never quit try­ing,” Paula said.

De­spite fol­low­ing up on more than 400 tips, there has been no trace of Mekayla. Paula is cling­ing to the hope some­one will see her daugh­ter and con­tact po­lice.

When Mekayla went miss­ing, Supt. Jen­nifer Ebert and Sgt. Rob Lau­rent were in charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and made the case a pri­or­ity.

But Paula said that sup­port changed af­ter the of­fi­cers left the York­ton de­tach­ment.

“The chang­ing of the guard hasn’t been what I wanted it to be,” Paula said. “I think you should ex­pect a min­i­mal stan­dard of ser­vice across the board and it doesn’t seem that way.

“We see huge vari­ances be­tween the way the RCMP han­dle the mat­ter as op­posed to city po­lice or some of the Amer­i­can polic­ing agen­cies we’ve been deal­ing with. As a par­ent of a miss­ing child, you want to have con­fi­dence that po­lice are pri­or­i­tiz­ing your child’s case.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ac­tive and the RCMP con­tin­ues to so­licit in­for­ma­tion from the pub­lic, said Cpl. Rob King with the Saskatchewan RCMP.

“It’s pos­si­ble peo­ple may know in­for­ma­tion and think we al­ready know it, but we don’t,” King said.

The RCMP set up a ded­i­cated email ac­count and toll-free phone line that Cana­di­ans can use to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about Mekayla’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about the Bali case is urged to call 1-844880-6518 or email RCMP.FBali.GRC@rcmp-grc.gc.ca or Crime Stop­pers at 1-800-222-8477.

“As in­for­ma­tion comes in, it’s acted upon,” King said.

He added: “The re­la­tion­ships that we have with the fam­i­lies are al­ways im­por­tant to us. We want to try and keep them as in­formed as pos­si­ble, but some­times you just can’t keep them as in­formed as you’d like to.”

MICHAEL BELL

Paula Bali says her other two chil­dren, 11-year-old Joshua and nine-year-old Eliy­ora, have been trau­ma­tized by the dis­ap­pear­ance of their older sis­ter Mekayla, who was last seen at 1:45 p.m. at the York­ton bus de­pot on April 12, 2016.

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