Just before 8 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 10, 2009, David Fortin asked his mother, Caroline Lachance, to drive him to school. After she said she couldn’t, the teen didn’t insist. Instead, he put on his warm red winter jacket and walked away from his home in Alma, 230 kilometres north of Quebec City, towards the bus stop that would bring him to school. He was never seen again.
“I heard the door close and I saw he left,” Lachance said in a recent interview. “I noticed he was leaving five or 10 minutes earlier than usual, but I never thought it was the last time I’d see my son.”
Next Sunday will mark exactly 10 years since the brown eyed, brown haired 14-year-old, who would today be 24, disappeared without a trace.
Lachance and the boy’s father, Eric Fortin, have never stopped looking for their oldest son. His mother remains convinced that he fled the relentless bullying she said he suffered at school.
“Beginning in elementary school he was a victim of bullying,” she said. “David didn’t talk, he didn’t even talk any more about what he was living at school.”
“I knew it wasn’t going very well at school, but I never imagined I wouldn’t see him again, it was far from my thoughts.”
An investigation was launched quickly, as soon as it became apparent that the teen hadn’t gotten on the bus or gone to school. As of today, it remains open and active, according to a provincial police spokeswoman.
“There is still information coming in and we verify that information,” Sgt. Melanie Dumaresq said. “Even if it resembles information we’ve already received.”
Dumaresq said the file is reviewed from time to time in order to see if there’s anything new to try, such as a new technology or technique that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
But Claude Brodeur, an ex-investigator who spent 35 years on the force, said that after 10 years the best hope for solving the case is a tip from the public.
Since the disappearance, police have received thousands of tips and sightings, many of which proved to be false.
But Fortin’s mother said several people gave the same story: that David was seen heading southwest, through the towns of Metabetchouan and Lac-Bouchette, perhaps heading toward the sparsely-populated Mekinac region north of Trois-Rivieres, which is halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.
While it’s impossible to verify the accounts, Lachance believes the description given by the witnesses match her son’s appearance. With no clear objective, she believes her son may have headed that way on a whim, “without knowing where to go.”
Lachance said the years since her son’s disappearance have been marked by emotional turbulence. Each new tip would bring an “explosion of joy,” followed by crushing disappointment when it led nowhere.
In June 2012, Lachance organized a party for her son’s 18th birthday, believing that he’d contact her once he reached adulthood and could no longer be sent to a group home.
“That’s why we thought, ‘if he’s hiding somewhere, maybe he’ll come back,“’ she said. But it was not to be.
And four years after that, the Missing Children’s Network circulated an age-adjusted portrait, guessing what he could look like as a young man. Again, nothing.
Despite the repeated dashed hopes, Lachance says nothing is worse than not knowing what happened to her son.
The only thing she’s doing for the 10-year anniversary of her son’s disappearance is asking the public to circulate his photo one more time.
“We’re not going to mark the event because for us, to mark something, it means it’s joyful,” she said. “What we want is that the planet knows that David hasn’t been found,” she said.