Jean Virginia Sampare was born on 10th September, 1953. She was born into a First Nations family of Gitxsan descent, and her birth location nor her parents names are public information. It is known that she was one of six children, and her siblings names are: Anne, Winnie, Sandra, Virginia and Rod, with Sandra being the youngest.
Jean attended school in Hazleton, British Columbia, Canada. When she was older, she worked at a cannery and a caretaker for her siblings. She lived with her parents in Gitsegukla. Rod described their parents as very strict, the children were not allowed to play after 9pm and their parents made them work incredibly hard. Jean was planning to move out with Rod the month she went missing.
Jean worked at the Royal Packing Company salmon canning plant in Claxton, and was described as a healthy, normal, 18-year old. Jean was described by her family and friends as a shy, quiet girl who would love to play nurse and sing teasing songs to her siblings. Jean would tell people about her plans, and it was out of character for her to just leave or go somewhere without telling anyone. Jean protected her siblings when their father drunk too much, and Rod said Jean was “strong, very strong”. Rod also went on to explain that Jean was very careful, and would never partake in any high-risk activities.
Shortly before Jean disappeared, her boyfriend who also worked at the canning plant, had also vanished. His remains were found after Jean had gone, and it was confirmed he had drowned in the river Skeena.
14th October, 1971. Rod’s wife, Violet, said that she saw Jean at Jean’s mother’s house. Violet said that Jean’s mother came home and went into the kitchen, and not long after Jean left the kitchen and looked as if she was crying. Violet said that Jean avoided eye contact with her, and when Violet asked what was wrong, Jean simply opened the door and walked out. Violet did try to stop her, but Jean’s mum stopped her and said “she’ll come back”. Violet said that this took place between 10:00pm and 11:00pm.
Alvin “Hyrams”, Jean’s cousin, was the last person to see her alive. He was walking with Jean alongside Highway 16 when Alvin left to get a jacket/get a bike, and then would rejoin her. He believed that Jean was going to a store that was close to a railroad overpass just outside of town. Violet then said that when Alvin returned to the highway, he heard a vehicle door closing, but Jean was nowhere to be found.
After Jean did not return home that night, her mother reported her missing to the Gitsegukla Indian Band office in Gitsegukla. Someone at the office mistakenly said that they had to wait a certain amount of time before reporting it to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). After talking to some of Jean’s sisters and friends, the Band reported it to the RCMP.
On the 16th October, the RCMP took a missing persons statement from Jean’s mother. They also checked with Jean’s sisters and friends to confirm that she had not made contact with anyone and was last seen by Alvin. The police never received any further leads or information that was released to the public.
For 8 days after she was reported missing the RCMP, and community members searched for Jean. The community insitied the search, and the police joined after. The search did stop for a few days due to snowfall, but Jean’s parents began searching once the snow had stopped and police followed suit. Nothing was found during these searches.
Rod said that a man named Kenny Rogers found footprints near the Gitsegukla river, with the implication that Jean fell into the river. He claims he saw this on the file the RCMP have on Jean, and when he asked for a copy of the folder, he was denied. The claim that Jean fell, or went, into the river has been dismissed by her family as they were never proven to be her footprints – or even footprints in general. Jean’s family also say that the idea she committed suicide is not possible, as she and her siblings were raised to not commit suicide. There was also no indication that she was suicidal.
The theory that Jean ran away is also dismissed, as she was not one to partake in high-risk behaviours and activities. Jean also did not take her jacket with her that night, even though it was quite cold, which indicates that she did not intend to stay out for very long. Her family say that it was also not in Jean’s nature to stop relationships so abruptly, and that she always told someone her plans.
Jean’s family and the RCMP have not ruled out foul play in her disappearance. They say that they have no evidence that she wanted to run away or commit suicide, and the sound of a vehicle door closing just before Alvin was expecting to rejoin Jean supports this theory.
In 1985, the RCMP told Rod that Jean’s case was closed, saying that a report from the Gitsegukla band Chief Councillor in 1971 had said that Jean had drowned – an assortation that was made with no evidence to support it. The case was reopened after the family complained.
In 2006, the RCMP took DNA from the family members, which they believed was due to the Robert Pickton investigation. It was never reported to the public if this made any leads in the case.
Jean’s brother, Rod, and her sister Winnie have talked to the media about their sisters disappearance. They talked at an inquiry on murdered and missing indigenous girls in September 2017.
As of 2021, Jean is still classified as missing. Will we ever know what happened to Jean?
True crime, missing, unsolved, indigenous, Canada