Official investigation started 5 years after she went missing
It’s been more than 25 years since Loretta Frank disappeared at the age of 19.
Her family and friends call her Lora, says Terri Brown, chief of the Tahltan First Nation, speaking on the phone from Telegraph Creek, B.C.
Brown is a friend of the Frank family and says she remembers Lora and thinks about her, many people do. “I’m very troubled because she was the sweetest little girl. It’s almost unbelievable.”
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Looking back, Brown says the story of Lora’s disappearance is all too common. “Knowing what I know about missing and murdered aboriginal women, it wasn’t taken seriously.”
The youngest of five children, Lora grew up in Lower Post, B.C., near the Yukon border.
Before she went missing, she was living with one of her brothers and his spouse at the time, Patricia McIntosh, in Watson Lake, Yukon.
No mental health support
“Lora had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and social services had sort of brought her to us and kind of dropped her at our door with no support at all,” McIntosh says. “I just feel like Lora fell between the cracks and nobody even paid any attention.”
At the time, a rotating slate of psychiatrists visited Watson Lake every six months, McIntosh says. With a different doctor each time, it was always back to square one. After a year, Lora moved to Whitehorse into an assisted living situation. She got a job, but wasn’t happy.
“She came home for Thanksgiving and… wanted to move back,” says Watson. “It was such a hard thing. We didn’t feel it was best for any of us, especially with the lack of support services for her in Watson Lake.”
Lora returned to Whitehorse and soon after, disappeared. It was sometime late in 1988, or early 1989.
Her family heard she’d started dating a guy from Haines, Alaska, McIntosh says. Friends said maybe they’d gone to Alaska.
“Then suddenly there was no more hearing from Lora. We didn’t hear anything from her. She was gone.”
5 years before investigation
Police were informed right away that Lora was missing, says McIntosh. She says she herself spoke to police.
“They kind of shuffled it off and said ‘Oh yeah, she’s runaway’ and stuff like that,” she says. “We did go to the authorities and we sort of got a blank wall there.”
The official police investigation into Lora’s disappearance didn’t begin for another five years.
‘We always hope Lora will come back.’– Patricia McIntosh
“The date reported to police was 1993,” says RCMP Cpl. Calista MacLeod.
MacLeod wasn’t the investigator at the time, but says police files indicate that’s when the family reported Lora missing.
“Her family thought she was travelling and didn’t report it right away.”
Terri Brown disagrees, and insists the family spoke to authorities soon after Lora’s disappearance. They also looked for Lora themselves.
“It was without a doubt that she was missing,” says Brown, adding the family was frustrated and is still hurt about how police responded at the time.
The five-year lag before an official investigation, she says, speaks to an overall theme of how missing and murdered First Nations women are treated.
“It’s so common,” she says. “We know that now looking back.”
Case remains open
MacLeod says the investigation into Lora’s case continues.
“We never close missing person files; they’re always open.”
Last year the RCMP included Lora’s photo in a social media campaign of missing people. MacLeod says it generated interest in the case.
Meanwhile, Lora’s family is still waiting for closure.
McIntosh says she hasn’t lived with Lora’s brother for 20 years, but she remains close to many members of the family.
“We always hope Lora will come back. There’s always the hope.”
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