A recent search has uncovered "areas of interest" in the Luke Joly-Durocher case and private investigators are already working to further develop these leads through forensic examination.
Brett Robinson is the lead for Please Bring Me Home in examining the disappearance of Temiscaming, Que., native Luke Joly-Durocher from North Bay in 2011 and feels strongly the case is one tip away from breaking.
"This is a very solvable case," says Robinson, who works on a volunteer basis for the organization, is a licensed private investigator and holds a Master's degree in Profiling and Behaviour Analysis. "This case can be solved. I've worked unsolvable cases before with almost zero evidence and this is the exact opposite. It's more sorting through everything that people have told us."
Based in Owen Sound, Please Bring Me Home is a not-for-profit entity bolstered by volunteers who donate their knowledge, time, experience and equipment. The organization has access to search and rescue experts, forensic anthropologists, law enforcement veterans, private investigators, underwater ROV experts, ground-penetrating radar experts, criminologists, and human detection dogs.
Robinson says a search using cadaver dogs can lead to the location of human remains in rough terrain, underwater — even years after the fact — and are a useful tool in augmenting the scope and reach of any missing person or cold case investigation.
"What we did definitely advanced the case along a number of avenues," he says. "We produced some actual evidence. Cadaver dog hits are a form of evidence."
The recent multi-jurisdictional search using BlackTracks K9 cadaver dogs covered multiple locations in both North Bay and Temiscaming, including several spots along the nearby Ottawa River. Dog searches can also help rule out areas of interest gleaned through investigative techniques or received through tips. Those tips often come as a result of and in response to the in-depth coverage of the Joly-Durocher case from the team at the Shedding Light Podcast, who have a working partnership with Please Bring Me Home.
The members of these organizations continue the search for Luke with the blessing of his mother, Monique, while his father, Rob works in concert with a separate investigative team. Clothing belonging to Luke was provided by Monique to help the handlers guide the dogs.
"We do approach it scientifically," observes Robinson about the searches, "and try to disprove hypotheses. We try to knock out location after location and when we can't knock it out it means it's worthwhile to continue to explore."
The basic expenses to transport the highly-trained dogs from Guelph, Ont., were covered by a fundraiser but the father and son team of Tom and David Abraham from BlackTracks K9 — like the others on the team trying to solve the case — donated much of their time and energy for the cause.
As always, the findings from the search team have been shared with the relevant authorities, including the North Bay Police Service.
Robinson has spent months sorting through tips and chasing down leads from Luke's family, Shedding Light and the Missing: Luke Joly Facebook group. The comprehensive spreadsheet of tips compiled by Shedding Light and shared with Luke’s parents and NBPS last fall gave Robinson a solid base. A recent tip shared by Shedding Light led to the search of a residence in Temiscaming in June and it was one of the many properties the team visited again with the dogs.
The search drew plenty of attention from the locals as the team traversed the winding hills of Temiscaming. The helpful residents gladly left their homes with their pets so the dogs could enter and go to work, searching for clues from 11 years ago. The cadaver dogs detected several areas of interest of potential human remains, both in Temiscaming and North Bay. To maintain the integrity of the active investigation, none of the exact locations of the searches will be divulged at this time.
Robinson acknowledges it is near impossible for all of the findings in both cities to be accurate but by furthering the investigation, some will be ruled out. Depending on the police response to the results of the search, besides the forensic sweep of at least one location where the dogs showed interest, Robinson says the organization has plans for a grid search in a location that would also involve the return of the cadaver dogs and their handlers.
All it takes to give Luke's family the peace they seek is to contact the investigation team or the police, Robinson says. "Ideally we have the one person come forward who can tell us exactly what happened. And, we know those people are out there."
Robinson, while pleased with the progress, admits there is more to be done. "Most of our evidence typically leads to an elimination of an area."
Luke's mother and sister, Priscillia have stated they will never stop searching for answers, hoping to find the lead that will bring peace to Luke and assuage some of the grief felt by his family.
"We're not giving up," said Priscillia in March while solemnly marking 11 years since Luke disappeared after a night out in North Bay. "We appreciate the support from our community, I can't even express the gratitude. I hope it brings Luke home."
Although it is still painful to accept, there is little doubt in Monique's mind that her son met with foul play. She has expressed previously that recovering Luke's remains — whether that leads to criminal charges against those responsible or not — is the focus.
A reward of $50,000 remains in place for anyone with information on Luke’s whereabouts. At this point, "it's not the police that are going to find Luke, it's the people," says Monique. "People have to keep on talking. We have to put on some pressure. Not to say who did it but just to find my son. I just want to know where he is."
"There are a lot of people out there who know what happened to Luke," Robinson says. "It would be fantastic if one of them would come forward and discuss this with us and tell us what happened that day."
If you have anything to share about Luke’s story please visit Please Bring Me Home — anonymous tips can be submitted via the website. Their anonymous tip line is 226-702-2728. If you have any information you would like to share with the North Bay Police Service they can be reached at 705-497-5555. You can also contact Crime Stoppers anonymously.