Guy Salicco and his wife were sleeping in their Hawkesbury, Ont. home when their doorbell rang.
It was 2 a.m. on a cold, wet December night in 2009. Salicco said that when he opened the door, he came face-to-face with Marilyn Bergeron — a young woman who had disappeared from Quebec City the year before.
But he didn't know that at the time. He only realized who had shown up on his doorstep three months later, when he saw a picture of Bergeron online.
Now, 14 years and eight months after her disappearance, Bergeron's family is asking Ontario residents to come forward, as Salicco has, if they've seen Marilyn.
Her mother, Andrée Béchard, said that in the years since her disappearance, new information suggests their daughter may be somewhere in Ontario.
If anyone knows anything, "we're asking you to break your silence, to let go of your secret, to free us from fifteen years of suffering," Béchard said.
Appeared in distress
When Salicco opened the door that night, he said the woman in front of him was "cold, frail, wet" and barely dressed for the weather. All she had was a light jacket, a white T-shirt, jeans and high heels.
And she was crying. According to Salicco, she said she was looking for someone in Hawkesbury, and asked if she could come in and use the phone.
He let her in. They gave her a towel to dry herself off and warm up. Salicco said she tried to call someone, but whoever it was didn't answer. Bergeron then turned to them and asked if they knew where Chamberlain Street was.
He did. Salicco said it was only a few blocks over and offered to drive her.
"She didn't want to. She said it was only a few streets down the road, so she'll walk," he said.
By then, Salicco said she had calmed down and began apologizing profusely for disturbing them so late at night. He said she didn't seem drunk or under the influence of drugs.
About 10 or 15 minutes after first ringing their doorbell, he said she left on foot. He never got her name.
Salicco said neither he nor his wife thought to call the police at the time, since it just seemed like someone who was lost.
It wasn't until about three months later, in March, that he saw a picture of the missing Bergeron online.
"It was like, 'Oh my God — that's her!'"
She had been blonde, not brunette, but Salicco said he recognized her instantly. Bergeron had been blonde in the past, according to pictures shown by her family on Friday.
Salicco gave his statement to Quebec police in 2010, but the information was made public for the first time on Friday.
Béchard said she is "99.9 per cent sure" the woman Salicco met was Bergeron.
"I saw my daughter in every description he's made of this young lady," she said.
'Credible' tips from Hawkesbury
Bergeron, who was 24 at the time of her disappearance, was last seen by her family on Feb. 17, 2008. She left her home to go for a walk and never returned.
The police investigation determined that she went to an ATM and attempted to withdraw money, and later made a purchase at a Café Depot in Saint-Romuald, Que. She wasn't seen again.
In the days leading up to her disappearance, Bergeron had moved back to her family's home in Quebec City, after living in Montreal for about three years. She said she didn't feel safe in the city.
Her mother felt she was "carrying something heavy," saying her daughter would often burst into tears — and despite being asked multiple times, Marilyn wouldn't say what had happened.
Béchard said she's hoping Salicco's account convinces others, especially those in Ontario, to come forward.
The family's lawyer, Marc Bellemare, said about 20 credible tips place Bergeron in Hawkesbury around the same time as Salicco saw her, in 2009. They're hoping to receive more information from Ontario residents who might have seen her since.
Bellemare said it was "huge" that Bergeron was likely alive in December 2009, a year and a half after she disappeared.
Béchard said a new team with the Quebec City police took over the investigation two years ago, combing through the case from the very beginning. The family has also been in touch with police forces in Ontario.
With fresh eyes and new techniques, Béchard said she hopes they might finally have some answers.
"If she has a new life and wants to be left alone, we will respect that," she said.
But Béchard said they're also being realistic.
"We may have lost her. But if we lost her … we need to put an end to this nightmare."