Let me set the stage for you. Today we’re travelling to the southern part of New Brunswick, a small Canadian province that hugs the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. A place where you can take a deep breath and instantly relax as you inhale the salt air. A place where you can glimpse the aurora borealis at the right time of the year. A place surrounded by friendly people…most of the time. Specifically, we’re travelling to the city of Moncton and the village of Dorchester, and the stretch of road and waterways between the two. You may have heard of these two places before in a two-part series in season 1 of this podcast. However, today’s story remains unresolved, and even though the community, family, and law enforcement believe they know what happened, no one has yet been charged, indicted or convicted. I want to remind people that the opinions I might allude to in this episode and the opinions of anyone I interview are just that, opinions. It’s up to you to decide your own opinion. Anyone that we may refer to has been named or listed by media in the past. They should be considered innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law. But, maybe you, the listeners, hold the key in making sure this person gets the chance to potentially be proven otherwise in court.
Today’s story is about a young woman, Jessica Lynn Estabrooks. You see, Jessica and I have something in common, we’re from the same small village. Did I know her? Not really; I’ve seen her in the town, of course, I knew of her, and we rode the same yellow school bus to and from school during high school. She was a couple of years older than me, and at that age, you’re really years apart. But what happened to Jessica affected a whole community in more ways than one. Despite the maximum-security prison that sat upon the highest hill, a community felt connected and safe. Of course, the events affected Jessica’s family and closest friends the most; how could it not?
Let me tell you a little bit about Jessica. She was a quiet, reserved, down-to-earth petite 5’3″ 20-year-old pretty young woman with blue eyes and shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She found her joy with her family, including her 3 siblings, at home and the animals at the farm in the small and quaint village of Dorchester, NB. Jessica won first prize in the children’s showmanship when she was nine during the Goat Show at the Old Home Week, a nine-day carnival event in Woodstock, NB, with multi-agricultural events well as pageants. Although she did not enter any pageant during this event, she eventually would in her hometown when she was a young teen. Jessica was well-liked within her community. She was respectful, a well-behaved teen, and a neighbourhood favourite as a babysitter. Jessica was a good student and did very well in school. After finishing grade 8 at the small local Dorchester Elementary school, a school that went from Kindergarten to grade 8, she started high school at Tantramar Regional High School in the town of Sackville, just a 15-minute drive from Dorchester, home to Mount Allison University. And even though the high school was relatively small, maybe 4-500 students, it still was much bigger than her elementary one. Jessica was involved at school; she was studious and involved in extracurricular activities. When she was 14, in the 9th grade, she met Shane Linthorne. A boy just a year older than her. Shane was described as quiet, funny, and reserved in school, if not a little emotionless. Following his parent’s divorce, Shane continued to live with his mother in the town of Sackville, whereas his brother and father eventually moved to Ontario, two provinces away. It wouldn’t be until Jessica was 18 years old that the two would start dating.
Jessica and Shane’s relationship became serious, and although Jessica’s father didn’t quite like him, he thought that he made his daughter happy.
They decided to move in together early to mid-1995. They moved to the neighbouring city of Moncton, NB, a 30–40-minute drive from Jessica’s hometown of Dorchester, depending on which way you went. And even though the Greater Moncton Area is relatively a small city of about 114,000 people, it was significantly larger than the small village with a population of about 1100 that Jessica was comfortable with. But Shane promised her and her parents that he would take care of her when they moved to Moncton. Jessica didn’t quite feel comfortable in the city, especially on her own. She didn’t usually venture out on her own. If she did end up being on her own, she was generally cautious about where she would go or what she would do.
Shane and Jessica moved into an apartment at 39 Waverley Avenue, a small raised 2 story apartment building, the middle of a set of 3 identical buildings. Shane started working at Domino’s Pizza on Mountain Road, where his brother had previously worked, just a quick 11-minute walk from their apartment. Jessica, for her part, babysat and worked part-time making dough at Domino’s as well.
On Christmas day 1995, Shane proposed to Jessica using his mother’s ring that she gave to him for this purpose that he had resized for Jessica; a diamond cluster ring on a gold band. She said yes. Her life was headed exactly where she wanted it to go, getting married and starting a family of her own. Or so she thought.
Within a few months, she found her wedding dress, and her dad bought it for her. The planning had begun.
At the end of July or the beginning of August 1996, Jessica and Shane met with Jessica’s dad Mark for dinner at the Hong Kong Kitchen in Sackville. Nothing seemed off during the evening. Jessica told her dad that she wasn’t babysitting anymore and was looking for a job. Shane and Jessica dropped off her dad at home after their meal, and they said their goodbyes. And even though Mark didn’t know it, this would be the last time that he would see his daughter. Shane and Jessica then drove to Dorchester to drop in on Jessica’s mom & siblings for a quick visit.
By mid-August, hoping to make more money for their future, Jessica got a job working at Burger King, a 4-minute walk down the street from the Domino’s where Shane worked as a manager and delivery person. She was excited to be working there. She got her one and only uniform and started her training. She was working a 4-hour shift a day during her training.
On Wednesday, August 21st, Jessica and Shane drove from their Moncton apartment to Jessica’s mom’s place in the village of Dorchester for a visit. Jessica and her mom were extremely close, they would talk on the phone regularly, and Jessica would often visit. The stay that day was pleasant, and Jessica was her usual self; nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and yet, in two days, she would vanish.
Friday, August 23rd, 1996, started like any other day in the lives of Jessica and Shane and those close to them. Both Shane and Jessica were starting their shifts later that day. Jessica left her apartment for her 4-hour shift in her Burger King uniform that began at 3:30 pm. Shane would be working the late shift at Domino’s pizza, running deliveries, and finishing work at around 3:00 am.
It was 7:30 pm, and her shift was finished. Even though the day had been overcast, it was still a nice warm august day. She left the Burger King and walked down Mountain Road to the Domino’s pizza, where her fiancé was working, to talk to him before going home. They spoke for about 10 minutes or so, and then Jessica left to walk home. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with their conversation that day.
Jessica left Domino’s, walked down Killam drive, and turned on one side street, making her way home to her apartment on Waverley. She unlocked her double locks on the apartment door. She changed out of her Burger King uniform, folded it and placed it on the kitchen table, put on jeans and a white tank top and settled in for the evening. During the evening, she made something to eat, then later poured herself a glass of soda or pop and popped in Backdraft into the VCR, an action/thriller movie released in 1991 starring Kurt Russell and William Baldwin. The time that she started watching this movie is unknown, but it was turned off after about 5 minutes.
No one saw Jessica leave her apartment that evening. No one.
The next day, at around 11:30 am, Shane called Jessica’s mom and left a message on her voicemail saying that he didn’t know where Jessica was and to call him back. Jessica’s mom heard the message 50 minutes later and called Shane back. She told him that she hadn’t heard from her daughter and didn’t know where she was. After ending the call, her mom felt more and more uncomfortable with the situation as the minutes passed, so she got in her car and drove to Jessica and Shane’s apartment. It wasn’t like Jessica to just leave, especially anywhere on her own. Shane told her that he got home at around 4:00 am and all the apartment lights and TV were off. He then told her and later law enforcement that only one of the deadbolt locks on the door was engaged. He figured she was asleep in their bedroom. He then said he watched TV until about 5:30 am and then decided to go to bed. He said that he noticed that she wasn’t in bed at that time and thought maybe she went home to her mother’s place. He then stressed again that when he arrived home, only 1 of the two deadbolts was engaged, which would mean that if Jessica left, she had only intended to go for a short time. Those who knew Jessica found it hard to believe that she would leave her apartment in the evening or night by herself, especially as apprehensive and nervous as she was living in the city, especially given the recent unusual wave of violence in the area. Her parents were convinced that she would have only left the apartment with someone that she personally knew. Was it odd that he waited until 11:30 am to call anyone? By early accounts, it seemed as though he indicated he slept until late morning and then called Jessica’s mom. But, knowing how uneasy she was to venture out on her own, and by his own admission that if she was to leave and go somewhere, like the store, she would have left him a note, how would he be able to sleep and then only call her mom 6 hours later?
Shortly after arriving at the apartment on Waverley Avenue, Jessica’s mom, who bore a striking resemblance to her daughter, started knocking on neighbours’ doors, desperately trying to find answers, asking whoever she could speak to if they had seen her daughter. No one could really say that they had. By 3:15 pm, Jessica’s mom called the Moncton police and filed a missing person’s report. Constables Walter Pynn and Roy Geldart responded. They started canvassing the neighbours and the local stores. Still having no confirmed sightings of Jessica and no answers by the next day, Sunday, August 25th, Jessica’s family members started putting up missing person posters within the neighbourhood and within the city. Sgts Lorette and Kenney joined the investigation and began interviewing neighbours and family members, including Shane.
Her mom had gone through her daughter’s belongings and identified items of clothing missing, which is what she would have been wearing. She was wearing blue jeans, a white tank top, possibly a blue cropped sweater, and white and purple Nikes and a leather patch purse. These were the items of clothing missing from her apartment. Her work shoes and uniform were found in her apartment. Police, of course, bagged her work clothing that she had been wearing that day, for evidence, along with some other items in the apartment. There was no evidence of forced entry, no evidence of a struggle within the apartment and nothing was stolen. The articles of clothing, namely the burger king uniform as it was known that she wore it that day, was used for its scent for search & rescue dogs to try and track her last steps. The search & rescue dogs did a grid search of the apartment area but found no trail. If any other search with the dogs was completed, other than the grid around her apartment, it was not published in any local media or divulged by the police. In this case, the search & rescue dogs did not assist in locating her. Since a trail could not be found, we may be able to conclude that she either left in a car or she didn’t leave the apartment alive.
By Monday, the 26th, the police started viewing her disappearance as more than just a simple missing person situation, something her family had known and felt since first finding out she was missing. They started appealing to the public through the local media for anyone to come forward who may have seen her, issuing a description of her appearance, age, and clothing she would have been wearing. They needed to trace her last steps. The Moncton police were conducting interviews with several different eyewitnesses that had possibly seen Jessica leading up to the time she disappeared. Another investigator was added to her case. By early accounts, proof of life could not be confirmed; there didn’t seem to be any bank account activity, nor any contact with friends or family since Friday the 23rd. She did not have a passport; she was not an experienced traveller, and regardless of this, she would not have left anywhere on her own or with anyone without telling her family. But did they speak to all those they should have spoken to at that time?
Nearly a week would go by, and still, the police had no trace of Jessica’s whereabouts. They were able to confirm that she left the Domino’s pizza at around 7:40 to 7:45 pm, and that was it; they were still fielding calls and interviewing people to see if they could confirm whether she actually ever made it home.
September would come and go, and still, police didn’t seem any closer to finding out what happened to Jessica, although at this point, foul play into her disappearance was suspected. Her family was trying to maintain hope that she would be found alive and returned home but were beginning to fear the worst. They diligently worked at ensuring that her face and story stayed in the media throughout September, on the news or in the papers; they didn’t want her to be forgotten. They had no answers and no idea what could have happened to her.
Her family was diligent in stating that they believed that Jessica would not have left her apartment that day without someone that she either knew or was familiar enough with that she would be comfortable with. There was no evidence of a forced or rushed exit from the apartment. They were baffled as to why, as assumed at the time, or what could have caused her to leave her apartment after getting home while Shane, her fiancé, was at work because it wasn’t typical for her.
The Moncton police were vigorously interviewing friends and family members to build their knowledge on who Jessica was, what was going on in her life, and general background information. But there was nothing in the young woman’s life, present or past, that helped the police move the investigation forward. They asked for Jessica’s family to provide her dental records to have on file.
Mark, Jessica’s dad, heartbroken, feeling desperate for answers, and riddled with guilt for his own feeling of not visiting her enough, would roam and search the streets of Moncton for any clues or signs of his daughter, either by car or on foot. He just didn’t think she was abducted and held anywhere; he felt like someone did something to her and that someone was known to her and trusted.
Her fiancé had a few conversations with the media, telling them that Jessica was a homebody and wouldn’t leave or go anywhere without him, and if she did have to go somewhere on her own, she would leave him a note, which she didn’t in this case and that he found it strange. Then why wasn’t he concerned enough to raise the bell when he allegedly noticed that she was not home at 5:30 am? He also told the media that he would try to speculate what could make her leave the apartment that day, and the only thing he could think about was that she would get annoyed about the noise in the building and then visit him at the pizzeria. But, we know that she did not return to the Domino’s after leaving there at 7:45 pm.
Her fiancé continued to work following her going missing. When asked about this by the media, he told them he had to pay rent, so he kept the apartment in case she returned.
In the meantime, Jessica’s family and friends would offer a $5000 reward for any information that would lead to her location, which was being administered through Crime Stoppers. This brought in a few more tips for the police to investigate, but none of those tips produced new leads in the investigation.
The end of September was nearing, and the police still were not able to confirm if Jessica made it home that night, sure there was the evidence of her uniform at home, folded neatly on the kitchen table, her work shoes, and the items of clothing from her closet missing. Still, no eye witness or video surveillance confirmed that it was her that brought those into the apartment. Law enforcement would once again ask for assistance from the public, for anyone who was driving, jogging, or walking between Mountain Road and Waverley Avenue between 7:30pm and 8:00pm on the night that Jessica disappeared to come forward, to try and see if they could remember any car or lurking person in the area.
There seemed to be an issue with the walking route that Jessica would have taken from the Domino’s on Mountain Road to their apartment. Her fiancé giving a slightly different route than the ones her neighbours had previously seen her take. The neighbours had previously seen her walk south down Killam drive from Mountain road to Waverly, then north on Waverly to the apartment.
Law enforcement was reaching a new level of desperation in the case, indicating that they would even consider psychics’ help if they thought they could help.
Needing to try every avenue possible to locate her daughter, this is something that Jessica’s mom tried to pursue, not an uncommon reaction for many people. Unfortunately, the psychic contacted advised that she wasn’t able to help.
A reward fund was set up at the Bank of Nova Scotia, Jessica’s mom’s place of employment, allowing any surrounding communities to contribute if they wished to help the family. Any person could contribute to the fund at any Bank of Nova Scotia branch, no matter the town or city.
Many people within the surrounding communities showed support for Jessica’s family, but there were instances where some relationships with acquaintances became distant for one reason or another. One such relationship was with Jessica’s fiancé, Shane. The last encounter with him taking place in September when Mark, Jessica’s dad, asked Shane for Jessica’s sweet-16 ring back, something her parents wanted to remember her by.
October started, and the reward amount presumably grew, but the leads into Jessica’s disappearance dwindled. Someone did come forward and confirmed that they saw Jessica walking on south Killam drive towards home after leaving the Domino’s pizza on Mountain Road at around 8pm. However, still, there were no eyewitnesses of her leaving her apartment after returning home.
The weather was really cooling, and the tides coming up from the Bay of Fundy into the Petitcodiac River continued to be unusually high that year. Of course, the Petitcodiac River is known for its tidal bore that comes in twice a day; it brings surfers and tourists alike. And not too far away, at the mouth of the Petitcodiac is a location where the tides rise so high and so fast the when the tide is out, it’s like walking on the ocean floor.
Several towns and city-run along the Petitcodiac River, mostly starting with Moncton’s cousin city, Riverview, Moncton/Dieppe, and running down the eastern side of the river are smaller townships, like Saint Anselme, Fox Creek, Dover, and if you continue on rural route 925, Boudreau village and Beaumont. One of two scenic routes from Moncton to Dorchester.
On Monday, October 21st, 1996, in Beaumont township, about 37 kilometres from Jessica and her fiancé’s apartment on Waverly Avenue, and a stone throw away from Dorchester, Jessica’s hometown, Brian King, a government worker, started cutting the grass on the provincial land. Just before 11 am he started cutting the grass along the tops of the dikes along the Petitcodiac about 3 km south of the historic Ste Anne’s church, close to the tip of the land where the Petitcodiac and the Memramcook river join when he found partial human remains, a skull and lower jaw, on the banks of the river.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Major Crime Unit was called to investigate. These remains were found outside of the Moncton territory and within the areas where the RCMP had investigative jurisdiction. The skull and lower jaw dental records were compared to Jessica’s, as she was the latest person to be reported missing within the general area. These partial remains were confirmed to be Jessica’s, and the family was notified by 9:30 pm that same day. The family finally getting the news they had been dreading since she went missing.
Initial inspection of the remains did not point to any obvious sign of a specific cause of death. The investigation into Jessica’s disappearance and death became a joint investigation between the RCMP and the Moncton police, with the RCMP now leading the investigation. It didn’t appear as though law enforcement waited for a medical examiner before removing the remains. The remains were removed to confirm identity and would later be sent in for further forensic examination.
The RCMP, with the assistance of the Moncton police, continued their search along the banks of the Petitcodiac to see if they could find any more remains; however, none were found. Further searches along the river bank would be organized on land and by air. A helicopter flew in from Fredericton, a city, 2 hours to the north, to help in the search.
Another formal search was scheduled on Saturday, October 26th and Sunday, October 27th. The RCMP and a ground search and rescue team carried out an extensive search of the Petitcodiac River’s eastern and western shores, looking for any additional remains. There were about 30 searchers in total that scanned the muddy banks for 4-8 km (3-5 miles) and 4 km (3 miles) along the banks of the Memramcook river. The search lasted for as long as it could last while they had daylight, which would have been until about 5-6 pm.
Greg Johnson, a search coordinator for the tri-county search and rescue, said that no additional body parts were found, but that they did find some “smaller items,” which he didn’t describe further, which had been passed onto the RCMP to verify if they were relevant to Jessica’s case or not.
A volunteer search and rescue team would remain on standby if the RCMP needed them in the case.
A closed memorial service was held for Jessica in the small village of Dorchester on Sunday, October 27th, 6 days after part of her remains were found. The memorial took place at the small white, ageing wooden siding, now closed, United Church. There were over 200 people in attendance. In place of a casket, in front of the altar, stood the photo of a smiling, very young woman, with a twinkle in her and a promise of a fulfilling future in her heart. Two ministers led the service. Part of the eulogy was given by her former church minister David Eagles, who was quoted as saying, “We are awash in grief and yet through our vale of tears we seek an answer. A sign of the times? Are our streets o longer safe to walk? Jessica’s death was caused by the evil that stalks this world.” But he also cautioned those in attendance not to continue to point fingers at an increasingly violent society but to instead look internally. Saying that every member of the community shares a personal responsibility in our society. “We must all accept a personal commitment to become more involved.” He then recommended participation in organizations and institutions seeking to do good. He mentioned Child Find in particular because of the support they provided to Jessica’s family during the whole ordeal.
A second search of the Riverbanks would take place a little less than a week later, this time concentrating on the area where Jessica’s skull and lower jaw were found, in addition to a section of the banks of the Memramcook River which had not been previously searched.
Unfortunately, because 10 billion tons of water surge the Petitcodiac River from the Bay of Fundy twice a day, the water directions and tides cannot be easily, if at all, calculated to determine where Jessica’s remains could have entered. Law enforcement believes that the unusually high tides they were experiencing at the time were responsible for bringing her remains onto the banks of the river. No other body parts, clothing, her purse, or her engagement ring were ever found. It wasn’t found in any pawn shop either.
Jessica’s skull, lower jaw, and other small evidence items were sent to the centre of forensic sciences in Toronto for further analysis. At the same time, the RCMP started re-interviewing friends, family, and acquaintances. Having two police forces, each handle parts of the investigation is never easy. Still, it was especially more difficult at the time as the RCMP and the local police force had separate systems.
The analysis determined that foul play was involved in Jessica’s death. The RCMP would not, and still have not, divulged what evidence led to this conclusion. The RCMP would announce to the family and then the media that Jessica’s cause of death was murder.
At this point, the investigation appeared to hit a bit of a wall. The RCMP told the media at the time that they were doing the best they could with the information they had but that it was paramount that if members of the public had information that they should come forward. They also voiced that it’s a lot more work in an investigation when another police force comes into the investigation, like what happened in this case, as they had separate systems and people needed to be re-interviewed.
And yet, the person arguably the closest to Jessica, her fiancé at the time of her disappearance and death, Shane, had not yet been re-interviewed. One can only wonder the reason, more on this a little later. Local media reached out to him around this time to ask how he was managing, and he stated, “I’m not giving up hope that they are not going to find a person. I hope they do find a suspect.” Then he went on to say that the mystery surrounding Jessica’s disappearance and death “baffles the mind.”
At this point, Shane and Jessica’s family were no longer in contact or on speaking terms. Whether her family no longer believed or trusted him was not explicitly said, but actions speak louder than words. He told the local media, “I’m not part of the family. They don’t keep in touch with me.” When asked why he thought Jessica’s mom stopped talking to him, he said, “Got me. She has gotten bitter with everybody. She won’t talk to me at all.”
Another eight months would go by, with little to no new information and seemingly no additional official interviews with Shane, Jessica’s fiancé. By this time, he was still working at Domino’s, living in the same apartment, and had a new girlfriend.
By July 23rd, 1997, almost a year after Jessica’s murder, the RCMP announced to the public that they had a suspect, which they did not name. Cpl. Jim McAnany, from the RMCP, indicated that there have been many suspects during the 11 months since Jessica’s death and that some have been eliminated. Still, someone had not and that there would be an arrest made eventually, but he couldn’t say when. He elaborated that the forensics part of the investigation is essential in linking the suspect to the crime scene and that as a result of the intense investigation and some unique forensic techniques, they were able to link the suspect to how Jessica died.
Local media ran another story on Jessica on the one-year anniversary of her disappearance. Media once again reached out to Shane. Shane’s comments to the press at this time were a little odd, if not off. When asked, Shane indicated that the RCMP still hadn’t interviewed him but that he thought he was probably a suspect because “that’s how it goes.” He went on to tell them that it would be impossible for him to commit the crime and that he wished they would find the guy, then pondered why it was taking so long. After being prodded a little further, he divulged that he had taken out a life insurance policy in the amount of $30,000 on Jessica between the time they were engaged and her death. He then told them, “I never even got it. The cops told them not to.” And a little later, “Like I said, if I was going to do it, I would do it for a million bucks sort of thing, I’m not going to do it for that.” And that he didn’t think it was a crime for a young couple to take out life insurance policies before they got married and that he had two life insurance policies on himself. He said that overall, people didn’t really “bug” him about the murder and that he was just trying to get on with his life. He was quoted as saying, “you can’t really dwell on the past.”…This was less than a year later.
The RCMP specified that they were expecting a huge breakthrough in the case soon and that an arrest or arrests were imminent.
On September 10th, 1997, the RCMP made an arrest. The person was cautioned and questioned for 3-4 hours, held overnight, but ultimately was released. Although the RCMP never released the name of the individual that they arrested and subsequently released, it became known by local reporters. They reported that this individual was, in fact, Shane, Jessica’s fiancé.
He waived his right to an attorney after being cautioned, so no lawyer was present during the hours-long interview. So, why was he let go after law enforcement went through the process of applying for and being granted a warrant for his arrest? Even a few days later, when Shane was being represented by a lawyer, that lawyer told the media that he believed that Shane would be re-arrested & charged for Jessica’s murder soon. Ultimately Shane wasn’t re-arrested, in fact, no one has been, and the case remains open. So, what exactly happened during the 11 months between the time when Jessica’s partial remains were found and the initial arrest and release of her fiancé? Remember, Shane had told a reporter at the telegraph journal around mid-1997 that the RCMP had not interviewed him once since her partial remains were found.