Sister seeks 'justice'
London Community News
By Paul Everest/London Community News/ Twitter: @PaulEverest1
Standing just metres from the spot where her sister was found murdered nearly 29 years ago, Tammy Dennett holds a gaggle of helium-filled balloons.
With contact information for herself and police attached to the strings of each balloon, Dennett is hoping the wind currents will help bring answers to her family about who killed 17-year-old Donna Jean Awcock.
On the evening of Oct. 12, 1983, Donna was babysitting at 86 Cheyenne Ave.
At 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, she went to the Mac’s Milk Store at the intersection of Cheyenne Avenue and Huron Street to buy cigarettes but did not return to the residence where she was babysitting or her home at 88 Cheyenne Ave.
Her parents called police the next morning to report her missing and family, friends and neighbours began to search the city.
Just before 6 p.m. on Oct. 14, two of the searchers, including a former boyfriend of Donna’s, found her down an embankment just west of the Fanshawe Conservation Area Dam, near the eastern end of what is today Kilally Road.
She had been killed by strangulation.
With a handful of friends dubbed “Donna’s Angels” close at hand, Dennett, who was 19 at the time of Donna’s death, worked on Friday afternoon (June 29) to prepare a small memorial to her sister on a narrow path overlooking the place where Donna’s body was discovered.
Along with the balloons, which she released with the hope that they would drift away to be found by someone with information that could bring her sister’s killer to justice, Dennett brought flowers and photographs of Donna.
“This consumes my life,” she said, adding she is still “devastated” by Donna’s death and “frustrated” that her sister’s killer is still free almost three decades later.
Dennett said she wanted to hold the small memorial and release the balloons to keep her sister’s story alive in the community in case someone might come forward with a tip that could break the case.
“I want her out there in the public eye,” she said. “I don’t want her forgotten.”
With a photograph of Donna and contact information for Crime Stoppers adhered to the window of her car, Dennett said her family won’t find peace until the case is solved and she hopes the public will help.
“Give my family closure, give Donna justice.”
Dennett said she still regularly keeps in touch with the OPP to see if there are any new developments in the search for a suspect.
Sgt. David Rektor, a spokesman for the OPP’s West Region, said the investigation into Donna’s murder is still open and police are offering a $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for her murder.
“The reward is to try to stimulate further information, tips and leads,” he said.
Rektor added, however, that there is nothing new to report about the investigation.
Police issued a description and sketch of a potential suspect in the case, a white man seen in the vicinity of Cheyenne Avenue when Donna disappeared.
He was described as white and in his late 20s or early 30s at the time of the killing.
He stood five-foot-six to five-foot-nine, weighed 150 pounds and had a thin, small build with short, neatly combed brown wavy hair.
The suspect was last seen wearing faded blue jeans and brown cowboy boots and was known to frequent hotels with pool tables.
He also drove an older model full-size car that was white or light in colour, possibly with a dark vinyl roof.
While Dennett said she’s sure the person who killed her sister is still alive, she’s uncertain whether he or she is still in London.
But Aaron Broughm, executive director of Search International 5, a private London-based organization focused on finding missing persons, said he has a feeling the suspect is still in the city.
Broughm organized a search of the site Friday where Donna’s body was found to coincide with Dennett’s memorial.
After placing a memorial cross in the ground where searchers discovered her body, Broughm and other volunteers combed the area with metal detectors and shovels in the hopes of finding anything that could offer a clue as to who was behind Donna’s murder.
He said Donna’s keys and the shoes she was wearing when she disappeared were never found.
Broughm said he lived in the same building where Donna was babysitting the night she disappeared and remembers a man fitting the OPP’s suspect description also living in the building at the time.
He said he has heard reports that the man still frequents a local bar in London.
On Thursday, Broughm met with the OPP to share information he could recall about the man, telling police he remembered the man had a thick French accent.
At this point, Dennett said her family is raising money through garage sales, benefit concerts and other fundraisers to hire a private investigator to look into the case.
Fighting back tears, she said she won’t give up until she and her family know who it was who took Donna from them.
“She was a beautiful person. She loved life, she loved children.”
Anyone with information about Donna’s murder is asked to call the OPP at 519-690-2354, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or email Dennett at email@example.com.