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RCMP believe Alberta toddler Jeffrey Dupres, missing for 43 years, is still alive

Click to play video: 'RCMP believe Slave Lake toddler Jeffrey Dupres, missing for 43 years, is still alive'
RCMP believe Slave Lake toddler Jeffrey Dupres, missing for 43 years, is still alive
The mother of Jeffrey Dupres, who vanished without a trace in Slave Lake, Alta. when he was just three, said she has renewed hope of getting some answers after media reports into her son's cold case. Sarah Ryan reports – Mar 1, 2023

The Alberta mother of a little boy who vanished without a trace nearly 43 years ago says she has renewed hope of getting some answers after media reports into her son’s case.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Denise McKee said.

McKee had previously told Global News she was frustrated with the Alberta RCMP’s handling of the file.

According to RCMP, Jeffrey Dupres vanished on April 24, 1980 in the town of Slave Lake, about 200 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Jeffrey was three when he was playing in his front yard, and got permission from his mom to go see a friend next door.

He was last seen wearing a long-sleeve beige shirt with brown trim, rust-coloured pants and dark brown orthopedic shoes.

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Jeffrey Dupres at age three, before going missing.
Jeffrey Dupres at age three, before going missing. Courtesy: Denise McKee

The then 26-year-old mother went downstairs in the family’s home to flip the laundry into the dryer when a knock at the door got her attention — it was the neighbour child Jeffrey was supposed to be playing with. He was looking for his friend.

The mother started looking for her son everywhere, checking with neighbours, and then she called the RCMP.

On Wednesday, the RCMP said on that day — April 24, 1980 — the detachment was dealing with a wildfire forcing evacuations of the northern Alberta town when McKee contacted them.

“The officer on duty responded and began making inquiries in the neighbourhood, checking Mrs. Dupree’s residence, her yard and any areas where Jeffrey had last been seen,” said Chief Supt. Gary Graham.

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Graham is the officer in charge of eastern Alberta for the RCMP.

He said over the next week, the community of Slave Lake was searched five times — on foot and by air.

“Every residence, every building. Every vehicle that we could find, that entire town was scrutinized and reviewed.”

Over the decades, a number of tips came in — but never what investigators needed to crack the case of the missing toddler.

“Nothing substantial and nothing that would give us hope that we could bring the investigation to a resolution,” Graham said.

Jeffrey’s mom has long felt she was the primary suspect after being questioned and even asked to take a polygraph test.

Denise McKee poses with a photo of her missing son Jeffrey Dupres, who vanished from Slave Lake, Alta. on April 24, 1980.
Denise McKee poses with a photo of her missing son Jeffrey Dupres, who vanished from Slave Lake, Alta. on April 24, 1980. Courtesy: Anna J. James

Decades later, RCMP confirmed she passed the test and was ruled out as a suspect back in 1980 — but she was never told.

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“The RCMP have not done as good a job as would be expected in communicating key components of the investigation to the family,” Graham said.

“Of course, we would apologize that she’s had to deal with that for the last 40 years.”

McKee said she accepts the apology — but it’s really action she wants, progress in the case.

“I want to be enthusiastic. I want to believe. I want to, but I’ve been there, done that, many times.”

Over the years, the family kept their search going. A reporter, Anna J. James, who once covered Jeffrey’s case in the media and has since become a private investigator offered to take on the file.

A GoFundMe has been started to help pay for things like posters and billboard ads, and James is hopeful volunteers with different skillsets will step forward to lend their time and expertise to the case.

There’s a $5,000 reward being offered for information that leads to Jeffrey’s whereabouts. There’s also a Facebook page called What Happened to Jeffrey Dupres?

Over the decades, age-progression images were made in hopes of finding Jeffrey. James just had a new one done, trying to imagine what Jeffrey would look like today at 45.

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It was also recently sent to the media by the Slave Lake RCMP.

Click to play video: 'Mom desperate for answers about toddler’s disappearance, 43 years ago'
Mom desperate for answers about toddler’s disappearance, 43 years ago

On Wednesday, RCMP said they’re now reviewing Jeffrey’s file — something that’s appreciated by his mom.

“Well, it’s certainly more hope. I haven’t had any hope for a really long time,” McKee said.

One thing the RCMP wants to make clear: investigators believe her child, who would now be middle-aged, is still alive.

“Investigators over the past 40 years have always maintained the Jeffrey would be alive.”

Jeffrey Dupres the year he went missing next to an age progression photo released by Slave Lake RCMP. Slave Lake RCMP

Why? Two reasons stick out.

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  1. RCMP say they have not come across a report of a deceased person or somebody without a background.
  2. Multiple witnesses back in 1980 said they saw Jeffrey being led by a woman into a newer blue Chevy or GMC truck. There was a man behind the wheel.

“To this date, we have been unable to locate that vehicle or these two people,” Graham said.

Jeffrey would be 45. RCMP said he might not know who he really is, but he wouldn’t have any baby photos.

He may also have glasses or walk with a limp, police said.

“You’ve probably moved around a lot in your early life. Maybe you even feel like you’re different than the rest of your family,” Graham said.

Regardless of what happened to her little boy, as she approaches 70 years of age, McKee just wants some answers so her family can have closure.

“I want to know,” she said. “I want to know for sure.”

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