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Almost one year later, still no sign of missing woman Alyssa Turnbull

Alyssa Turnbull, 26, was reported missing in April 2020. Almost a year later, her family continues to hold onto hope and seek answers as to what happened.

THUNDER BAY — The family of a woman who was last seen in Nipigon say they just want closure after she was reported missing almost a year ago and have received no answers.

Since then, police have received numerous tips, conducted massive searches in the small community roughly 100 kilometres east of Thunder Bay and are also offering a $50,000 reward in an effort to locate 26-year-old Alyssa Turnbull.

Turnbull’s mother, Debra Otway, said the last year has been a nightmare in an interview with TBT News on Monday.

“Every time the season changes, it’s another season without her,” Otway said on Monday, March 29.

Despite a year passing since Turnbull disappeared, Otway said they aren’t any closer to locating her.

“It’s been a year now since the last time I spoke to my daughter. It’s been awful for the whole family,” she said. 

Turnbull was last seen between March 23 and March 25 while she was living in Nipigon.

Otway said she last spoke to her daughter a year ago over text message about the COVID-19 pandemic.

When text messages to her daughter stopped going through, Otway said she started to get worried.

“I got her younger brother and sister to start texting her because if she is not going to talk to me she is definitely going to talk to them and she wasn’t answering them,” she said.

Shortly after that, Otway said she received a call from a friend who was living in Nipigon at the time.

“He had called me and said something is wrong,” Otway said, adding she immediately called OPP to report her daughter as missing after the phone call.

Although she tries to remain hopeful, Otway says she tries not to think about what might have happened to her daughter.

“I still have two young children to raise here and I will probably lose my mind if I do think about that so I just focus on my friends and family that have been really supportive and awesome,” she said.

Otway says searching for her daughter is both emotionally and physically exhausting.

“It’s such a big country that we live in,” she said. “It seems like you’re looking for a needle in 10 million haystacks, it’s very frustrating.”

When it comes time to wrapping her searches, Otway says it never gets easier.

“Driving back this way to Thunder Bay is probably the hardest part for me because we are leaving without my daughter and that breaks my heart,” she said.

And whenever there's a snowfall, it becomes even more challenging to conduct searches.

“It’s hard to grieve because I just don’t know anything,” she said. 

Growing up, Otway said her daughter was a heartfelt person who loved to make people laugh. She grew up in the Thunder Bay area and was loved the outdoors.

“She was my twin daughter from the day she was born,” she said. “To be able to bring her home is my only wish and we just wish somebody would come forward and even just tell us where to start looking.”

More than anything, Otway says she misses her daughter.

“I just want her home,” she said. “Any parent that has a missing child no matter what they have been told, you always think they are going to show up one day and that’s really hard to have that in the mind.”

Turnbull’s first cousin, August Otway, said she had a sisterly relationship with Turnbull.

“We would talk about anything,” she said. “It’s hard not having her here.”

August said she was contacted by her aunt while she was living in southern Ontario who informed her Turnbull hadn’t been heard from in weeks.

“I don’t know if it would be easier to know exactly what happened I just know it would be easier if we bring her home so we can finally move on to heal from this,” she said.

Turnbull’s younger step-sister, Kirsten Wawia hopes someone will come forward and provide police with information about what happened to her older sister.

“We just want to bring her home,” Wawia said.

Another challenge the family has dealt with has been seeing rumours on social media about Turnbull’s disappearance. Otway said she’s been devastated by some things she’s read online.

"[It] can be pretty hurtful in the things that they make up and say, they are not true and it’s hard when it comes through," Otway said. "Only the police know what happened and the people who did it know what happened."

Otway said she hopes with more renewed calls for information, someone who has not yet spoken to police will come forward.

“I think there are a lot of people out there who know something who haven’t come forward, I really do,” Otway said. “I just pray that they’ll have a heart and send us in the right direction to look for her.” 

“Knowing that your child is alone in the cold somewhere is haunting and horrifying every day.”

Turnbull is described as standing five-foot-three, weighing about 100 pounds, with shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes. She may have changed her hair colour to purple or red.

Any person with information regarding this investigation should immediately contact the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122 or their local police service.

Karen Edwards

About the Author: Karen Edwards

Karen Edwards reports on court and crime under the Local Journalism initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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