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Jennifer Hillier-Penney.Supplied

Marina Goodyear glared at her father as he trudged in shackles toward the prisoner’s box in a courtroom in Corner Brook, N.L., earlier this month.

After seven years of hounding police about her mother’s suspicious disappearance, deemed foul play, the RCMP had charged her father, Dean Penney, with first-degree murder.

Mr. Penney, 50, was arrested Dec. 15 at the Deer Lake Regional Airport while returning home from a work rotation out West. The remains of his estranged wife, Jennifer Hillier-Penney, have never been found, though police have focused a new search in an area of the ocean with divers and boats.

Mr. Penney’s next court appearance in Corner Brook Provincial Court is scheduled for Wednesday. The charge has not yet been tested in court.

Ms. Goodyear, 28, will be there, her gaze again fixed on her father from a front-row bench.

“This is what I have to do now,” said Ms. Goodyear during an interview with The Globe and Mail from her home in the Corner Brook area. “I’m doing this for my mom. I have to show up at court and stare him down and hear how this is going to be played out.”

The RCMP have alleged that Ms. Hillier-Penney’s death was a case of intimate partner violence. Mr. Penney’s lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan, did not respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Goodyear said her mother was last seen at the family home in St. Anthony, located on the northern tip of Newfoundland about 475 kilometres from Corner Brook, on Nov. 30, 2016. Ms. Hillier-Penney, a 38-year-old hospital administration worker, had recently separated from her husband and moved in with her father, she added.

That night, Ms. Goodyear said Ms. Hillier-Penney was at the family home to care for their other daughter, who was 15 at the time, while Mr. Penney was at his duck-hunting cabin.

The teenaged daughter awoke the next morning to her mother’s alarm going off, Ms. Goodyear said she learned. She also heard that her mother’s car was still in the driveway, but Ms. Hillier-Penney was nowhere to be found. Ms. Goodyear was 21 at the time and living in Clarenville, a 10-hour drive from St. Anthony.

That morning, Ms. Goodyear said Mr. Penney called her. She recalled that he asked, “When’s the last time you talked to your mother?”

By noon that day, Ms. Goodyear said she saw that the local newspaper had posted a story about her mother going missing and knew something bad had happened. She left work and drove through the night, arriving in St. Anthony before dawn the next day to a town consumed in panic.

Ms. Goodyear said that two weeks earlier, Ms. Hillier-Penney had removed her estranged husband’s name from her life-insurance policy, replacing it with the names of her daughters.

Ms. Hillier-Penney was quiet and shy with a devilish grin. She loved to cook hearty Italian meals with seafood and throw dinner parties for visiting colleagues from the hospital. Only 17 years older than her first born, she and Ms. Goodyear looked like sisters. They had the same creamy skin and green eyes, and were close like two siblings who had grown up together.

Over the years, there were many searches performed by townspeople and the police “aimlessly wandering into the wilderness,” said Ms. Goodyear.

Suspicion about who killed Ms. Hillier-Penney led to fractures within the family. Ms. Goodyear stopped speaking to her father and paternal grandparents. Eventually, she said, she cut off communication with her younger sister, who remained in contact with their father.

It was agonizing going home for Ms. Goodyear. People talked about the case behind closed doors, but for the most part kept their opinions to themselves. Many looked at her with pity in their eyes.

“Their hearts were broken for me,” she said. “They knew I was going through something horrible that nobody down there has ever gone through.”

Before his arrest, the last time Ms. Goodyear saw her father was several years ago, while visiting St. Anthony.

Seeing him at court in orange prison garb was shocking. The formerly beefy fisherman looked gaunt, his eyes hollowed out and his cheeks sunken – like he was “a shell of a man,” said Ms. Goodyear.

He met her eyes as he shuffled into the courtroom. He took in his former in-laws and set his gaze back on Ms. Goodyear. She stared back, her nails pressed into the wooden bench so hard they cracked.

“It was the hardest thing I ever did to not speak. I just breathed. I was just deep breathing,” she said.

“I don’t care what I need to do to keep my cool, but I’m not ever going to be asked to leave court because of my emotions or outbursts. I’m doing this for my mom.”

In a press release, RCMP Inspector Tracy Edwards addressed the length of time that has passed since Ms. Hillier-Penney’s suspicious disappearance seven years ago. She said the investigation was “complex” and began with ruling out all possible explanations for the disappearance and “then moving to identifying the person criminally responsible.”

“These investigations take time, cannot be rushed and must be pursued with diligence and a commitment to investigative excellence,” said Insp. Edwards.

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