'Poured our life into this investigation': Regina police, community members mark 18 years since Tamra Keepness' disappearance

For the past 18 years, community members have gathered on the anniversary of Tamra Keepness' disappearance to keep her memory alive.

Tamra was five years-old when she was reported missing from her home on Ottawa Street on July 6, 2004. The Regina Police Service (RPS) reported she was last seen on July 5.

Regina Police Service Deputy Chief Dean Rae said he remembers the day the young girl was reported missing.

“Pretty much the whole organization was tasked with doing some work in regards to the investigation,” Rae said.

“We were very busy for the first number of months tracking down many, many different types of tips and investigative information that was passed on to us.”

He said police received hundreds of thousands of tips within the year following her disappearance.

Although they’ve slowed, Rae said tips continue to come in about Tamra’s potential whereabouts.

“[This year] we had a tip that led us down into the States,” Rae said.

“We’re always hoping that we’re going to get that one piece of information that’s going to give us some lead where we can follow up and hopefully locate Tamra.”

Rae said the police service has a strong connection with Tamra’s family and they’re updated regularly about any potential leads that are received.

Erica Beaudin, the executive director of Regina/Treaty Status Indian Services (RTSIS), has been closely connected with Tamra’s family since she went missing.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Beaudin said the anniversary of her disappearance serves as a day to remember Tamra, as well as the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people.

An annual barbecue is held at Regina’s Pepsi Park on the day of Tamra’s disappearance, and Beaudin said it helps remind the family they are not alone.

“There are other people who miss her, who wonder where she is, who support them as a family in bringing her home,” Beaudin said.

However Beaudin said the family feels re-traumatized every time a social media post or message about Tamra comes through, or they are approached about her disappearance.

“All of us, as citizens and as people who know and love this little girl that we have not met, we feel as though we are part of her family. We feel as though we have that connection with her. But the reality is that they are her family,” Beaudin said.

“We continue to ask any person who has any tips, any leads, to please contact the police service as opposed to the family or [RTSIS] or the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.”

Deputy Chief Rae said this case holds a special place with him, the rest of the police service and the community as a whole because it’s something everyone can relate to.

“It’s a little girl. It tugged at our heart strings,” Rae said.

“We poured our life into this investigation to try to find out where Tamra went. I would say we all can relate to it. I can remember exactly where I was when I heard about it and I would think many people could.”

A $50,000 reward is in place for anyone who can help solve this case, which remains open. Anyone with information is asked to contact Regina police or Crime Stoppers.