BEHIND THE CRIMES: Digital tools keep heat on Melanie Ethier case gone cold

News Oct 01, 2020 by Kristyn Anthony MuskokaRegion.com

A lot can change in 24 years.

But what remains a constant in Celine Ethier’s life is that she is no closer to any answers surrounding the disappearance of her daughter Melanie than she was the night the 15-year-old went missing in 1996.

However, the invention of digital and social tools not available when Melanie vanished from New Liskeard, Ont., has revealed new information and brought a flood of tips to the case, now more than two decades old.

Ontario Provincial Police and three rookie podcasters are taking advantage of online resources to revisit the case that has shrouded a small northern Ontario town in a cloak of mystery.

Melanie Ethier was a 15-year-old student at École Secondaire Catholique Sainte-Marie. Sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Sept. 29, 1996, she left the Pine Avenue residence of a friend, to walk alone the one kilometre home.

No one has heard from her since.

NEW TECHNOLOGY KEEPS THE HEAT ON AN OLD CASE

The night Melanie disappeared, she had been with friends watching movies they reportedly rented from a local video store.

Today, Melanie’s case is gaining reach on new platforms, documented in a nine-minute OPP video, through a self-described spirit guide YouTuber and on Shedding Light, a podcast developed by three northern Ontario mothers.

“Somebody knows something and that’s what we’re aiming for,” said Angela, co-host of Shedding Light, who asked her last name not be used.

“The right person has the right information and has been hanging onto it for too long,” she said.

With her sister Susie and family friend Candy, the trio released Shedding Light’s first episode in July. They chose Melanie’s case because of a personal connection to the community and because it’s “fascinating,” said Angela.

Women talking around a table Since the launch of their podcast, Shedding Light, Candy (left), Susie and Angela have released information regarding Melanie's case previously unknown to the public. OCT 2020

In the podcast, Candy recalls growing up in a nearby community constantly barraged with billboards and missing person posters bearing Melanie’s face, many of which remain today.

Through interviews with multiple people connected to the case — Melanie’s friends, other New Liskeard residents, former OPP detectives — Shedding Light has been able to make public information not previously known.

“As far as we understand, there’s been lots of talk in town started,” Angela said, adding listeners of the podcast continue to grow each week. 

Theories Melanie was the victim of mistaken identity or racially motivated violence, coupled with the fact that in the same year she went missing a second teen vanished and someone was murdered in the area, have renewed interest in the case.

Melanie was reportedly one of just a few Black girls at the time in New Liskeard.

In Let’s Work Together to Find Melanie Ethier, a Facebook group created by her mother Celine with close to 7,000 followers, people began sharing videos in September from Michael Jolicoeur, a man claiming to be in touch with the spirit world.

Just 48 hours after videos from Jolicoeur’s YouTube account — where he discusses Melanie’s disappearance  were posted to the group, close to 400 comments accompanied.

Engagement on the page has never been that high.

INFORMATION IS POWER

OPP have remained tight-lipped over the last 24 years, releasing next to no information about the circumstances surrounding the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 1996.

Foul play has long been suspected.

When police don’t arm the public with information, Angela said people come up with all kinds of ideas about what happened.

Years after Melanie’s disappearance, OPP said a friend with her the evening of Sept. 28 left the Pine Avenue residence an hour before Melanie did, and was startled by a car she considered so suspicious she ran home.

OPP also later said a witness placed Melanie on the Armstrong Street bridge around the time she left the house on Pine Avenue, heading west.

DIGITALLY DOCUMENTING A DISAPPEARANCE

In January 2020, OPP launched a video series on YouTube documenting historic and unsolved cases, following the success of a similar digital series on serial killers.

OPP Det. Insp. Rob Matthews is assigned to Melanie’s case and confirmed new tips have come in as a result. “It has been beneficial,” he said of the series.

While he could not speak to specific evidence, he did point out that digital tools in use by the OPP and others, can bring both pros and cons to an investigation.

Enhanced technologies keep the case in the public eye but if too much information goes public, he said, it can be difficult for police to verify evidence.

Holding back key pieces of the story is how police authenticate information, Matthews explained.

“We have to have evidence,” he said. “Real evidence.”

Man talking OPP Detective Inspector Rob Matthews points to the 2009 solved homicide of Kathy Wilson, a case closed after nearly 40 years, to highlight the importance of keeping old cases like Melanie's in the public eye. OCT 2020 - OPP screenshot

Matthews said he “would like nothing more than to go into great detail” about the information police have received the past 24 years but maintaining the integrity of the investigation is paramount.

Any historic investigation, he said, is challenging.

Matthews does hold hope the case can be solved, citing the 40-year-old disappearance of 12-year-old Kathy Wilson whose killer was charged and convicted in 2009.

New detectives have been assigned through the years and Melanie’s disappearance is now part of the OPP’s new major case management system, which Matthews heads up.

In 2007, the OPP took over Temiskaming police after some local municipalities amalgamated. Tips communicated to New Liskeard police before then may not have reached the OPP, said Const. Jennifer Smith, of the Temiskaming detachment.

“The status of the investigation is still open and it’s going to stay that way until we figure out what happened to her,” Smith said.

Some aren’t comfortable speaking to police, she added, so if Shedding Light can generate new tips that is helpful.

Angela, Susie and Candy have also set up a tip line, fielding information from across the country. “We’re just three moms so people feel comfortable reaching out,” Angela said, adding everything they receive is passed onto the OPP.

This year Melanie, Celine’s Christmas baby born Dec. 25, would have turned 40.

“The whole town needs closure,” Angela said. “The whole town has suffered for 24 years — not just Celine and her other daughter Jessie — thinking that you have a monster walking among you.

“Somebody is holding onto the answers so tightly.”

Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Melanie Ethier is asked to contact the director of the Criminal Investigation Branch of the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or 705-329-6111 or their nearest police authority.

You may anonymously report to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

BEHIND THE CRIMES: Digital tools keep heat on Melanie Ethier case gone cold

'Somebody knows something and that’s what we’re aiming for'

News Oct 01, 2020 by Kristyn Anthony MuskokaRegion.com

A lot can change in 24 years.

But what remains a constant in Celine Ethier’s life is that she is no closer to any answers surrounding the disappearance of her daughter Melanie than she was the night the 15-year-old went missing in 1996.

However, the invention of digital and social tools not available when Melanie vanished from New Liskeard, Ont., has revealed new information and brought a flood of tips to the case, now more than two decades old.

Ontario Provincial Police and three rookie podcasters are taking advantage of online resources to revisit the case that has shrouded a small northern Ontario town in a cloak of mystery.

Related Content

Melanie Ethier was a 15-year-old student at École Secondaire Catholique Sainte-Marie. Sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Sept. 29, 1996, she left the Pine Avenue residence of a friend, to walk alone the one kilometre home.

No one has heard from her since.

NEW TECHNOLOGY KEEPS THE HEAT ON AN OLD CASE

The night Melanie disappeared, she had been with friends watching movies they reportedly rented from a local video store.

Today, Melanie’s case is gaining reach on new platforms, documented in a nine-minute OPP video, through a self-described spirit guide YouTuber and on Shedding Light, a podcast developed by three northern Ontario mothers.

“Somebody knows something and that’s what we’re aiming for,” said Angela, co-host of Shedding Light, who asked her last name not be used.

“The right person has the right information and has been hanging onto it for too long,” she said.

With her sister Susie and family friend Candy, the trio released Shedding Light’s first episode in July. They chose Melanie’s case because of a personal connection to the community and because it’s “fascinating,” said Angela.

Women talking around a table Since the launch of their podcast, Shedding Light, Candy (left), Susie and Angela have released information regarding Melanie's case previously unknown to the public. OCT 2020

In the podcast, Candy recalls growing up in a nearby community constantly barraged with billboards and missing person posters bearing Melanie’s face, many of which remain today.

Through interviews with multiple people connected to the case — Melanie’s friends, other New Liskeard residents, former OPP detectives — Shedding Light has been able to make public information not previously known.

“As far as we understand, there’s been lots of talk in town started,” Angela said, adding listeners of the podcast continue to grow each week. 

Theories Melanie was the victim of mistaken identity or racially motivated violence, coupled with the fact that in the same year she went missing a second teen vanished and someone was murdered in the area, have renewed interest in the case.

Melanie was reportedly one of just a few Black girls at the time in New Liskeard.

In Let’s Work Together to Find Melanie Ethier, a Facebook group created by her mother Celine with close to 7,000 followers, people began sharing videos in September from Michael Jolicoeur, a man claiming to be in touch with the spirit world.

Just 48 hours after videos from Jolicoeur’s YouTube account — where he discusses Melanie’s disappearance  were posted to the group, close to 400 comments accompanied.

Engagement on the page has never been that high.

INFORMATION IS POWER

OPP have remained tight-lipped over the last 24 years, releasing next to no information about the circumstances surrounding the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 1996.

Foul play has long been suspected.

When police don’t arm the public with information, Angela said people come up with all kinds of ideas about what happened.

Years after Melanie’s disappearance, OPP said a friend with her the evening of Sept. 28 left the Pine Avenue residence an hour before Melanie did, and was startled by a car she considered so suspicious she ran home.

OPP also later said a witness placed Melanie on the Armstrong Street bridge around the time she left the house on Pine Avenue, heading west.

DIGITALLY DOCUMENTING A DISAPPEARANCE

In January 2020, OPP launched a video series on YouTube documenting historic and unsolved cases, following the success of a similar digital series on serial killers.

OPP Det. Insp. Rob Matthews is assigned to Melanie’s case and confirmed new tips have come in as a result. “It has been beneficial,” he said of the series.

While he could not speak to specific evidence, he did point out that digital tools in use by the OPP and others, can bring both pros and cons to an investigation.

Enhanced technologies keep the case in the public eye but if too much information goes public, he said, it can be difficult for police to verify evidence.

Holding back key pieces of the story is how police authenticate information, Matthews explained.

“We have to have evidence,” he said. “Real evidence.”

Man talking OPP Detective Inspector Rob Matthews points to the 2009 solved homicide of Kathy Wilson, a case closed after nearly 40 years, to highlight the importance of keeping old cases like Melanie's in the public eye. OCT 2020 - OPP screenshot

Matthews said he “would like nothing more than to go into great detail” about the information police have received the past 24 years but maintaining the integrity of the investigation is paramount.

Any historic investigation, he said, is challenging.

Matthews does hold hope the case can be solved, citing the 40-year-old disappearance of 12-year-old Kathy Wilson whose killer was charged and convicted in 2009.

New detectives have been assigned through the years and Melanie’s disappearance is now part of the OPP’s new major case management system, which Matthews heads up.

In 2007, the OPP took over Temiskaming police after some local municipalities amalgamated. Tips communicated to New Liskeard police before then may not have reached the OPP, said Const. Jennifer Smith, of the Temiskaming detachment.

“The status of the investigation is still open and it’s going to stay that way until we figure out what happened to her,” Smith said.

Some aren’t comfortable speaking to police, she added, so if Shedding Light can generate new tips that is helpful.

Angela, Susie and Candy have also set up a tip line, fielding information from across the country. “We’re just three moms so people feel comfortable reaching out,” Angela said, adding everything they receive is passed onto the OPP.

This year Melanie, Celine’s Christmas baby born Dec. 25, would have turned 40.

“The whole town needs closure,” Angela said. “The whole town has suffered for 24 years — not just Celine and her other daughter Jessie — thinking that you have a monster walking among you.

“Somebody is holding onto the answers so tightly.”

Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Melanie Ethier is asked to contact the director of the Criminal Investigation Branch of the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or 705-329-6111 or their nearest police authority.

You may anonymously report to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

BEHIND THE CRIMES: Digital tools keep heat on Melanie Ethier case gone cold

'Somebody knows something and that’s what we’re aiming for'

News Oct 01, 2020 by Kristyn Anthony MuskokaRegion.com

A lot can change in 24 years.

But what remains a constant in Celine Ethier’s life is that she is no closer to any answers surrounding the disappearance of her daughter Melanie than she was the night the 15-year-old went missing in 1996.

However, the invention of digital and social tools not available when Melanie vanished from New Liskeard, Ont., has revealed new information and brought a flood of tips to the case, now more than two decades old.

Ontario Provincial Police and three rookie podcasters are taking advantage of online resources to revisit the case that has shrouded a small northern Ontario town in a cloak of mystery.

Related Content

Melanie Ethier was a 15-year-old student at École Secondaire Catholique Sainte-Marie. Sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Sept. 29, 1996, she left the Pine Avenue residence of a friend, to walk alone the one kilometre home.

No one has heard from her since.

NEW TECHNOLOGY KEEPS THE HEAT ON AN OLD CASE

The night Melanie disappeared, she had been with friends watching movies they reportedly rented from a local video store.

Today, Melanie’s case is gaining reach on new platforms, documented in a nine-minute OPP video, through a self-described spirit guide YouTuber and on Shedding Light, a podcast developed by three northern Ontario mothers.

“Somebody knows something and that’s what we’re aiming for,” said Angela, co-host of Shedding Light, who asked her last name not be used.

“The right person has the right information and has been hanging onto it for too long,” she said.

With her sister Susie and family friend Candy, the trio released Shedding Light’s first episode in July. They chose Melanie’s case because of a personal connection to the community and because it’s “fascinating,” said Angela.

Women talking around a table Since the launch of their podcast, Shedding Light, Candy (left), Susie and Angela have released information regarding Melanie's case previously unknown to the public. OCT 2020

In the podcast, Candy recalls growing up in a nearby community constantly barraged with billboards and missing person posters bearing Melanie’s face, many of which remain today.

Through interviews with multiple people connected to the case — Melanie’s friends, other New Liskeard residents, former OPP detectives — Shedding Light has been able to make public information not previously known.

“As far as we understand, there’s been lots of talk in town started,” Angela said, adding listeners of the podcast continue to grow each week. 

Theories Melanie was the victim of mistaken identity or racially motivated violence, coupled with the fact that in the same year she went missing a second teen vanished and someone was murdered in the area, have renewed interest in the case.

Melanie was reportedly one of just a few Black girls at the time in New Liskeard.

In Let’s Work Together to Find Melanie Ethier, a Facebook group created by her mother Celine with close to 7,000 followers, people began sharing videos in September from Michael Jolicoeur, a man claiming to be in touch with the spirit world.

Just 48 hours after videos from Jolicoeur’s YouTube account — where he discusses Melanie’s disappearance  were posted to the group, close to 400 comments accompanied.

Engagement on the page has never been that high.

INFORMATION IS POWER

OPP have remained tight-lipped over the last 24 years, releasing next to no information about the circumstances surrounding the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 1996.

Foul play has long been suspected.

When police don’t arm the public with information, Angela said people come up with all kinds of ideas about what happened.

Years after Melanie’s disappearance, OPP said a friend with her the evening of Sept. 28 left the Pine Avenue residence an hour before Melanie did, and was startled by a car she considered so suspicious she ran home.

OPP also later said a witness placed Melanie on the Armstrong Street bridge around the time she left the house on Pine Avenue, heading west.

DIGITALLY DOCUMENTING A DISAPPEARANCE

In January 2020, OPP launched a video series on YouTube documenting historic and unsolved cases, following the success of a similar digital series on serial killers.

OPP Det. Insp. Rob Matthews is assigned to Melanie’s case and confirmed new tips have come in as a result. “It has been beneficial,” he said of the series.

While he could not speak to specific evidence, he did point out that digital tools in use by the OPP and others, can bring both pros and cons to an investigation.

Enhanced technologies keep the case in the public eye but if too much information goes public, he said, it can be difficult for police to verify evidence.

Holding back key pieces of the story is how police authenticate information, Matthews explained.

“We have to have evidence,” he said. “Real evidence.”

Man talking OPP Detective Inspector Rob Matthews points to the 2009 solved homicide of Kathy Wilson, a case closed after nearly 40 years, to highlight the importance of keeping old cases like Melanie's in the public eye. OCT 2020 - OPP screenshot

Matthews said he “would like nothing more than to go into great detail” about the information police have received the past 24 years but maintaining the integrity of the investigation is paramount.

Any historic investigation, he said, is challenging.

Matthews does hold hope the case can be solved, citing the 40-year-old disappearance of 12-year-old Kathy Wilson whose killer was charged and convicted in 2009.

New detectives have been assigned through the years and Melanie’s disappearance is now part of the OPP’s new major case management system, which Matthews heads up.

In 2007, the OPP took over Temiskaming police after some local municipalities amalgamated. Tips communicated to New Liskeard police before then may not have reached the OPP, said Const. Jennifer Smith, of the Temiskaming detachment.

“The status of the investigation is still open and it’s going to stay that way until we figure out what happened to her,” Smith said.

Some aren’t comfortable speaking to police, she added, so if Shedding Light can generate new tips that is helpful.

Angela, Susie and Candy have also set up a tip line, fielding information from across the country. “We’re just three moms so people feel comfortable reaching out,” Angela said, adding everything they receive is passed onto the OPP.

This year Melanie, Celine’s Christmas baby born Dec. 25, would have turned 40.

“The whole town needs closure,” Angela said. “The whole town has suffered for 24 years — not just Celine and her other daughter Jessie — thinking that you have a monster walking among you.

“Somebody is holding onto the answers so tightly.”

Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Melanie Ethier is asked to contact the director of the Criminal Investigation Branch of the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or 705-329-6111 or their nearest police authority.

You may anonymously report to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.