Hillier-Penney case: Husband charged with murder

Police in Newfoundland and Labrador have made an arrest in a high profile missing persons case.

RCMP officers have charged Dean Penney with first-degree murder in connection with the disappearance of his estranged wife, Jennifer Hillier-Penney.

Hillier-Penney was last seen near Penney’s house in St. Anthony, N.L. on Nov. 30, 2016. Her disappearance shocked the small community and her family has pleaded for years to find answers.

“Seven years of investigative diligence have brought us to this point,” said RCMP Insp. Tracy Edwards. “From the beginning, our goal has been to get answers for Jennifer’s loved ones and to bring anyone responsible for her disappearance to justice.”

Penney was arrested Friday in Deer Lake, N.L. a town on the west coast of the province.

Police wouldn’t say what information led to his arrest — explaining investigators do not want to jeopardize the upcoming criminal trial.

Several members of Hillier-Penney’s family met with police in St. John’s, N.L. on Saturday afternoon, all of whom declined to speak with reporters.

“We acknowledge that seven years is a very long time to go without answers,” Edwards said, adding investigators first had to rule out “all reasonable explanations” for Hillier-Penney’s disappearance.

“This has never been a cold case,” she said. “Our investigators have worked diligently over the last seven years.”

Hillier-Penney had separated from her husband before she went missing, but went over to his house on Nov. 30, 2016 to spend time with her daughter.

Her sister dropped her off that night, and never saw Hillier-Penney again.

The town of approximately 2,200 pushed for answers for years — and marked Hillier-Penney’s disappearance every year with a march through town.

Some members of Hillier-Penney’s family were vocal and critical about the RCMP’s investigative work, telling reporters in the province that police should have taken the case more seriously from the beginning.

“Given the amount of time this investigation has taken, there’s been some emotional up and downs with Jennifer’s family, obviously,” Edwards said on Saturday.

“Our investigators have worked very hard to maintain a good relationship with the family. That remains true today.”

The RCMP’s work on this case isn’t finished, Edwards said, as police are still searching for Hillier-Penney’s body as well as any additional evidence.

Dean Penney appeared in a courtroom via telephone on Saturday.

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