Where are you, Zack?
Family of missing Yarmouth man still seeking answers
It started out as two-and-a-half hours. It stretched into two-and-ahalf days. Then two-and-a-half weeks went by. Followed by two-and-a-half months. Now, two-and-a-half agonizing years later, the Yarmouth County family of Zack Lefave has the same question in July 2023 that they did in January 2021: Where is Zack?
Not a day goes by that they don't wonder.
“He basically just disappeared without a trace,” says Zack's mother Lorna Lefave when asked what the family knows for certain.
Her son went missing within the first hour of the New Year on Jan. 1, 2021.
There were some short calls on his cell phone. An eyewitness places him on Highway 334 in Plymouth at around 12:15 a.m. after leaving a party. Some of his clothing was later found.
But in the past two-and-a-half years rumours have outnumbered facts. Speculation overrides certainty.
And Zack's family continues to experience a range of emotions that comes with not knowing where he is or what happened to him. These emotions include heartbreak, anguish, anger, confusion, fear, sadness, and anxiety. And the list goes on.
There is also their huge sense of loss felt daily.
“Just every little thing that happens, you think, oh, I want to tell Zack,” his mother says. But she can't.
She watches as her son's friends continue to live their lives and reach new milestones and she can't help but wonder, what would Zack be doing now? What new things would life have in store for him?
OVER TWO YEARS AGO
Zack was just a couple of days shy of his 21st birthday when he went missing.
In those first few days ground search and rescue teams, the RCMP, family members and community members scoured roadsides, woods, fields and properties looking for him.
People held vigil, praying for his safe return.
When the official search ended, the community didn't give up and kept looking for him – coordinating searches in new areas, while still covering previous ground.
In the present, efforts continue weekly, and often daily, by family and friends to keep Zack's name and his face in the public's mind through posts on social media – sharing how much they miss him and begging anyone with answers to come forward.
His mother answers difficult questions about her son.
Do you think, she is asked, that
Zack died early on at the time he went missing?
Yes, she says.
By foul play?
Yes, she believes.
“Whether it be an accident or whatever, I think there was something that took place and I think after maybe they didn't know what to do,” she says about whoever was responsible.
When no one had heard from Zack on Jan. 1, 2021, and he hadn’t shown up for work, his family knew something was wrong. His mother knew her son wouldn’t have just purposely run off, even if he was in an intoxicated or impaired state.
He wouldn’t have neglected his responsibilities.
He wouldn’t have purposely caused worry to his family.
She says since her son’s disappearance people have messaged their family and others with information, rumours and/or speculation about what happened to him.
She refers to the ongoing missing person investigation.
“I feel that if they would have the time and the resources to look into the information we gave them, I think this would have been solved a long time ago because they have a lot of information that we think is credible,” Zack’s mother says.
Or is it?
“Maybe we’re looking at it from a different point of view than the police,” she says. “We don’t know.”
As the years drag on,
RCMP resources have become a concern for the family, who wonder if they’ll ever have answers about what happened to Zack.
Lorna says they don’t blame the RCMP investigators themselves. Rather, the family says overall the RCMP needs more resources, more funding, and more members.
The Southwest Nova Major Crime Unit has been leading this investigation, but Lorna and Zack’s stepfather Darren Fitzgerald say they’ve been told by RCMP members and investigators that they don’t have enough resources to devote as much time as the family would want to see paid to the case.
Major crimes has a very overloaded plate that includes investigations into homicides, missing persons, serious assaults, and other major crimes – some recent, some dated, and some very dated.
“Not to discredit the RCMP, those who we’ve dealt with have been amazing,” Zack’s mother says. “But they’re limited with the resources. They can only do so much and there’s a lot of cases.
“There’s not enough people and to me, it’s not fair. The RCMP are supposed to be here for the people. When they limit what they can do because of lack of resources, it makes you mad,” she says. “These are our loved ones.”
Says the mother, her voice quietly dropping, “Sometimes we feel like we’ve got to solve it ourselves.”
The family says it will be advocating for more resources for the RCMP and hopes the public will do the same.
A NEW SEARCH
Coincidentally on the day Zack’s parents sat down for this latest interview with Saltwire, there was a new search for evidence in this case happening where it all began – in Plymouth, Yarmouth County.
The major crime unit utilized an RCMP cadaver dog from the British Columbia RCMP during the July 19 search. The unit was in the province assisting another police agency in another dated missing person’s investigation.
“The search – carried out by Southwest Nova RCMP Major Crime Unit, British Columbia and Nova Scotia RCMP Police Dog Services, and the Yarmouth RCMP – was completed in an area near the last known sighting of Zack Lefave,” says RCMP Corporal Guillaume Tremblay.
The dogs, he says, have the ability to detect human remains.
“We hope to conduct similar searches in the future,” Cpl. Tremblay says. “The Southwest Nova RCMP Major Crime Unit continues to investigate and follow up on all credible information and tips received from the public with respect to missing person investigations.”
He says the RCMP has also submitted a request to have the Zack Lefave case added to the province’s Rewards for Major Unsolved Cases program.
Through that program, anyone who shares information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or people responsible for a crime could receive up to $150,000. There are 116 active and cold cases in the program. Five cash awards have been paid out since the program began in 2006.
Cpl. Tremblay says the decision to add the Lefave case lies with the province.
Early on during’s Zack’s disappearance, some businesses he was employed with contributed to a $30,000 reward for information in the case.
HOLDING OUT HOPE
Zack’s family continues to cling to the hope that one day they will have answers about what happened to him.
And that they will be able to bring him back home.
Days are difficult to get through. An experience like this forever changes you, says Zack’s stepfather.
“I was always social, was everywhere. Now we’re happier just to stay home,” he says.
It’s their memories they cling to most, while not being able to let go of the sadness that Zack is no longer a part of their lives.
“It’s a big world out there and it continues to carry on. Our life seems like it’s in slow motion, or put on pause,” says his mother.
“We see the world and life in a different way. Nothing is or will be the same.”
Again, in those moments when she wants so desperately to tell her son things in person – to embrace him – she says it’s absolutely heartbreaking to not be able to.
“He is loved and missed by his family,” she says, describing her son as an energetic person.
“He was always on the go doing something, whether it be fishing, hunting, or taking a drive on his four-wheeler. He loved to be outside. He loved animals. Loved to cook,” she says, adding he was very protective of his family and had as much love for them as they have for him.
“He had a smile that would light up any room,” his mom says.
“He was a very caring young man taken from us way too soon. Time doesn’t heal things. No one should lose a child this way.”