Wednesday marks one year since a Yorkton, Sask. teenager went missing.
Mekayla Bali, 17, was last seen at a bus depot in Yorkton, Sask. on April 12, 2016. Staff at the depot said she did not buy a ticket.
Police said on that day, Mekayla left Sacred Heart High School shortly after arriving, then briefly stopped at a pawn and bargain shop and at a bank.
She then went to Tim Hortons before returning to her high school before noon. Bali left Sacred Heart High School and went to the bus terminal where she bought lunch at a restaurant. She was seen leaving the depot around 1:45 p.m. CT.
Mekayla’s mother, Paula Bali, last saw Mekayla, who was 16 at the time, when Paula dropped her off at school at April 12, 2016. She says the morning was a regular one and there was no cash or makeup missing from the house.
On July 20, 2016 the Missing Children Society of Canada said a child search alert for Bali had been activated in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Paula has travelled to Vancouver multiple times to follow up on tips and leads she has received. However, she says there isn’t more additional news about Mekayla’s whereabouts. She also said Mekyala’s disappearance is out of character.
“I think that’s the most difficult thing is trying to cope with the loss of someone,” Paula said earlier Wednesday.
“We hope she’s not lost forever; we just need to find her. Her siblings have struggled very must with trying to understand what has happened to Mekayla and I have to admit I struggle with that as well. So there’s been a lot of stress and strain. It’s been extraordinarily difficult.”
RCMP and Mekayla’s family held a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Insp. Jennifer Ebert, with the RCMP “F” Division South District, said they have received over 200 tips but do not know Mekayla’s whereabouts past 1:45 p.m. at the bus depot.
“We have been unable to confirm any sighting of Mekayla past 1:45 of April 12, 2016,” Ebert said.
Ebert said police believe Mekayla is still alive.
“However it is very disturbing that there has been no sighting of Mekayla within a year that we’ve been able to confirm,” Ebert said.
Mekayla has not been active on social media and there is no other digital footprint since April 12 of last year.
RCMP have not been able to identify the unknown man who may have been with Bali at the STC bus depot.
Police describe the man as between 40 and 50 years old, 5’10” to 6’2”, with dark hair and a tattoo below his left elbow of a cross with flames around it.
Paula and Mekayla’s brother, Joshua, spoke at the conference.
“I miss Mekayla and cry for her every night. I don’t understand what happened to Mekayla. I just want her to come home,” Joshua said.
Paula spoke about Mekayla’s interests, including books and baking, while asking for people with information to step forward.
“Mekayla was an emotionally stable teenager and had career aspirations to be a kindergarten teacher.”
She added she will continue to advocate for the provincial and federal government to give more attention to missing children.
“When I ask you to think, pause, be vigilant, this for her but this is for all children,” Paula said.
“I think the answers are not far from home. Whether it’s in the City of Yorkton or this province, someone knows something,” Paula said earlier Wednesday.
“People don’t just vanish.”
Mekayla is described as Caucasian, 5’2”, 125 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. She also goes by the name Mekayla Niebergall.
She is known to change her appearance. Police say her reddish hair can be dyed blond or other colours. Bali is also known to wear her hair down, pulled back, straight or wavy.
Bali sometimes wears dark rimmed glasses and a teal/mint-coloured infinity scarf.
The family is continuing to offer a $25,000 reward for the safe return of the teen.
“As I said before, my treasure is lost. I will devote myself to finding you,” Paula said.
“This anniversary is not the time to slow down the search. We will never stop the search. I will find you no matter what.”