'The worst horror of my life': Families with missing loved ones react to recent discovery of human remains

When Carson Poitras saw a news story on social media saying that human remains were found near Prince Albert, Sask., he says he thought, "Yes, we found her. They found our daughter."

But when he called police he was told the remains are not believed to be those of his stepdaughter, Happy Charles. 

"It was so close to the Prince Albert area where our daughter was last seen. We had our hopes up that we could finally get some closure," Poitras said.

The RCMP announced Friday evening they had found human remains, two days after the discovery was made during a police ground search in a rural area near Prince Albert. 

Happy Charles, 42, has been missing since early April 2017. 

Submitted by David Light/Prince Albert Police Service/Prince Albert Police Service

Poitras and his wife Regina, Happy Charles's mother, said their family should have been told whether the remains belonged to their daughter before the news release was sent out. 

"It's very hard because I have to tell the girls," said Regina Poitras, referring to Charles's daughters. 

"They're always messaging me like, 'Who was it that they found? Was it mom?"

The Poitras family is one of several who endure an emotional roller coaster each time human remains are found in Prince Albert and other parts of Saskatchewan. 

Brenda Chretien's son Dylan Chretien, 30, has been missing since Oct. 27 of this year. Police found his blue Toyota Tundra on Nov. 1 in the Nordale neighbourhood and said in a news release that they suspect foul play. 

Chretien said police told her last week that they could not confirm the deceased's identity until an autopsy is completed this week. 

Submitted by Prince Albert Police Service

"I'm sitting here in immense pain, waiting like the other families with bated breath, dreading the news if the remains are that of my son," she wrote in a message to CBC. 

"All I can say is I'm going through the worst horror of my life, I can't even begin to explain the torture and pain of the unknown." 

David Light, whose 31-year-old twin brother Donald is missing from Prince Albert, said his family received a call to let them know the remains found last week were not believed to be Donald's.

He said the officers also told his father they could not confirm the identity until the autopsy is completed.

"They just prepped us because they knew that they were going to release the information and it was possible that tons of people would call us thinking that they had found Donald," said Light. 

He said he has no way of knowing if his brother's disappearance is suspicious or not. 

Supplied by Prince Albert Police Service

Donald's cellphone was last registered by a telecommunications network near the river where he regularly went for walks. 

"The night that he went missing I do recall not being able to sleep that night for no apparent reason," said Light.

"I try not to believe that that's a bad sign, I just hope it's [more of a] coincidence."

'Advance notification may not be possible'

RCMP spokesperson Rob King said making contact with families can take time because officers sometimes have to wait until a crime scene has been processed. 

"There can also be a number of current and historical missing persons investigations ongoing across the province and from various municipal police jurisdictions, so advance notification may not be possible in all cases," King said. 

"We always endeavour to determine identity and liaise with the family as soon as we can."

If police feel they know the identity of the remains, they may notify the family, but caution that it cannot be confirmed until the autopsy is completed.