'Taken away again in the blink of an eye': Police mistake dredges up pain in case of missing Cambridge woman

·3 min read

Waterloo region police issued an apology Monday, March 29, to the family of Kathleen Kraehling after “prematurely” calling them to say she had been found in Hamilton almost 10 years after going missing.

The ordeal started on March 25 when police received a call from a Hamilton hospital saying they admitted a female matching the description of a missing person from the area, according to police spokesperson Cherri Greeno.

Cambridge officers went to the hospital, interviewed the female, and, after investigating, determined that she was not Kathleen Kraehling.

On March 26, Hamilton police contacted the Cambridge division divulging the same information as the hospital. Cambridge officers, Greeno said, reached out to the family “before conducting proper followup.”

“On behalf of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, we truly apologize for any trauma or false hope this may have caused the family," said Greeno. "We have reached out to apologize and offer our support to the family, as well as to reassure them that the investigation into her case remains active and ongoing."

For the family, the weekend was a roller-coaster of emotions.

John Kraehling, Kathleen’s brother, got the call to come and identify the person in the hospital and confirm whether it was his sister or not.

When he arrived at a time confirmed with police, hospital administrators wouldn’t let him in the hospital. Hamilton is currently in the grey lockdown zone.

“I got shut out basically when I got to the door,” said Kraehling, thinking maybe his sister didn’t want to see family.

When he was turned away, he called Cambridge police, who in turn had a Hamilton officer come to the hospital, Kraehling said. That officer had no luck getting him in. The next day, police called and told him the woman wasn’t his sister. Kathleen would be 57 now.

Had Kraehling been reunited with his sister, it would been the first time they’d been together since a couple days before she was last seen at her Lena Crescent home on July 11, 2011. Kraehling said he just found out this year Kathleen went to see a friend the night before she went missing. He said when he saw her he found nothing out of the ordinary, though she did suffer from mental health conditions and required medication.

For Caitlin Baines, Kathleen’s 25-year-old daughter, they’ve been estranged longer. Saying Kathleen had been in and out of her life, Baines noted her mother always ended up reaching out.

They spoke a year before Kathleen went missing and her mother said she couldn’t see her because things were “not going good” with her mental health. Baines figured she would contact her when ready but that call never came.

With no prior leads in Kathleen’s disappearance — police checked a wooded area behind her Lena Crescent home in 2017 that was overlooked in the initial investigation — the glimmer of hope given to them was snatched away just as quickly as it came.

“You get hope for a moment and then it’s just a false hope,” Baines said from her Toronto home.

“It’s like bringing the trauma all over again, honestly. You kind of learn how to live your life like this … and then something like this happens and you get so excited and happy. Then it’s taken away again in the blink of an eye because of irresponsibility. I don’t know why we would have been messaged at all without a proper investigation.”

Baines believes her mother is still out there, somewhere.

“I think hope’s the only thing we have to hold onto,” she said.

“I’d rather just know. Whatever the outcome maybe I would rather just have that closure because it’s impossible to heal from this the way it is.”

Kraehling also feels his sister is still alive.

“I haven’t had any bad dreams about it or anything … she’s out there.”

Bill Doucet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times