It’s been 27 years since cousins Shawn and Leslie Jones “took off” from Neyaashiinigmiing and never returned.
Now Shawn’s mother is hoping a $10,000 reward posted anonymously for information about their fate will finally answer the question: What happened to them?
Lynette Jones met this week with Nick Oldrieve, who co-founded a national volunteer-based investigative group, Please Bring Me Home. Its goal is to help bring closure to families of missing loved with the help of tips from people who may wish to remain anonymous. They investigate cases themselves and pass along information for police, all while vowing not to compromise anyone’s anonymity who requests it.
With the reward offered, Jones said she feels hopeful she may learn the fate of her son Shawn. “This is the most action out of the 27 years my son has been missing.”
“When my son was missing it wasn’t public. There were no posters. I was going around like a crazy woman for five years and nobody helped me,” she said.
“I’m just desperate to find my son. I know I’m not going to find him alive.”
She said she’s visited psychics and was told she would find her son in a field.
Shawn Jones was 14 when he left Neyaashiinigmiing with his cousin, Leslie Jones, 15. They’d known each other as younger boys at the First Nations community, where both lived. Leslie had recently returned from Winnipeg to live with his father and uncle, Lynette Jones said.
Neyaashiinigmiing police are supportive of her now but she said she felt that at the time there was little police concern and nothing was done to find the boys, she said. She reported her son missing but for a week was told not to worry.
The night Shawn left, she gave him $10 to attend a high school dance in Lion’s Head, where he’d just entered Grade 9. He got a ride there with someone but after the dance, Shawn and Leslie got into some trouble and “took off,” she said.
Shawn stole his grandmother’s car, took $500 for his hockey registration from a drawer while his mother slept, was in a crash with the car near Barrow Bay, broke into houses there and stole a canoe, Jones said.
Someone named Chuck phoned Lynette two days later to tell her both boys were in a Wiarton residence. She called Cape Croker police and three officers arrived there with warrants for their arrest. The boys fled out the rear and were next seen in Owen Sound, she said.
Leslie asked for money and got $5 from an uncle by the Tim Horton shop in downtown Owen Sound. Leslie told him they were sleeping in cars, Lynette understands.
They disappeared in October 1993, the year Shawn graduated from Grade 8. He couldn’t cook and didn’t know how to wash his own clothes, his mother said. He was tall and looked older than he was but he depended on her. They were close.
At 63, three of Jones’ four boys are gone. One son died by suicide in 2010 and she lost another to a fatal overdose last year. “I don’t know how to feel anymore. I’ve only got one son left.”
She said she doesn’t know what she would do without him, his three children and her two grandchildren from her son who died last year.
There were funerals and annual community ceremonies marking the passing of her two sons. But not knowing about Shawn eats at her.
“I’m getting old. You know what? I want to know where he is before I die.”
Oldrieve said new information has come forward.
“Family members of Leslie Jones have been saying, ‘Oh, Leslie’s alive. Leslie’s OK and he’s just doing his own thing’ . . . That is why with this reward we were explicit in saying whether they are alive or deceased, we need to verify where they are,” Oldrieve said.
He said he intends to share Shawn and Leslie’s story on Facebook sites, perhaps associated with First Nations in Winnipeg and farther west.
“If the argument is that Leslie is alive and he’s only hiding because he’s worried about a warrant that took place in 1993, that’s something that we can deal with, we can discuss and we can likely — just to verify that he’s OK — likely get rid of,” Oldrieve said.
Leslie was also reportedly seen on Wellesley Street in Toronto in 1996, according to information about the case on the Please Bring Me Home website.
Please Bring Me Home was founded a few years ago in Owen Sound and now has six active teams of volunteers working cold cases in six provinces. Many are retired police and related specialists.
Oldrieve said former city police officer Brian Follis, now a private investigator, is helping to find out what happened to Shawn and Leslie Jones.