Two years of torment waiting for answers on missing daughter
Mother says ‘cruelty of the unresolved’ worst aspect of disappearance of teen
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.”
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.