The Disappearance of Christina Calayca

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EARLY LIFE:

Christina Calayca was born on December 19, 1986 to Elizabeth Rutledge and Mario Calayca. According to those who knew her, she was bubbly and hard-working, and was a natural leader. She consistently put others before herself, was devoted to her family, and had an incredibly contagious laugh and smile.

Christina resided in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood, and after graduating from George Brown College with an Early Childhood Education certificate obtained a job at St. Bernadette’s Day Care, located beside D’Arcy McGee Catholic School. She was also a leader in Youth for Christ and volunteered with an affiliated youth ministry.

At the time of her disappearance, Christina wanted to travel to the Philippines to conduct missionary work, after which she was planning to return to school and attend teacher’s college.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

On August 5, 2007, Christina embarked on a camping trip to Rainbow Falls Provincial Park with her cousin, Faith Castulo, and two friends from her church group, Edward “Eddy” Migue and Joe Benedict. The location is approximately 200km east of Thunder Bay and 7km east of Schreiber, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior.

It was a spur of the moment trip, with the group wanting to celebrate the Civic Holiday long weekend. They’d initially planned to attend a youth conference in Montreal, but found a hotel to be too expensive. Christina also felt staying with a friend would have been too much of an imposition.

The four friends left Toronto at around 10:00am and arrived at the park two hours later. Initially booked to stay at campsite 72, they ended up switching to campsite 88, which was in a much more private location along Whitehead Lake. After setting up camp and preparing food, they spent the remainder of the day relaxing.

At 6:30pm, the group decided to take a short nap. However, they failed to set an alarm and didn’t wake up until 10:30pm that evening.

DISAPPEARANCE:

After waking from their nap, the friends lit a bonfire and stayed up talking until around 4:00am. Approximately two-and-a-half hours later, Christina asked Eddy to head to the bathroom with her at the nearby comfort station. It was at this point that one of them suggested going for a jog, a decision that later surprised Christina’s family, as she’d suffered an inflamed callus years prior.

The two split up, with Christina opting to run the trails and Eddy heading toward Highway 17, a section of the Trans-Canada Highway that connects Thunder Bay and Sault St. Marie, Ontario. He claimed he’d planned to run toward the Rossport Campground, located in the park’s western section, but only made it to a picnic area, where he carved the initials “FCJE” on a rock.

Eddy returned to the campsite about an hour later to find Faith and Joe still asleep. Christina wasn’t there, but as the pair hadn’t set a firm meet up time, he wasn’t too worried. While waiting for his friends to wake up, he went to search for an axe to use to whittle down some oversized logs, but was unable to locate one.

Faith and Joe awoke around 9:30am. Despite it having been three hours since anyone had seen Christina, they weren’t worried, with Faith suggesting she’d likely wandered off somewhere to do some thinking. Joe then went to take a shower, while Faith and Eddy started preparing breakfast.

The trio grew worried for their friend around 11:00am. Eddy and Joe drove up the road Christina had ran, along with the Lake Superior and Rainbow Falls trails. They returned around 1:45pm, and before continuing their search wrote a note for Christina, in case she came back while they were gone.

On their way out of the park, the group stopped at the entrance to inquire about trail maps. They also informed the attendant that Christina was missing and were told to file a report with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). The attendant themselves began making calls, while park personnel began an immediate search of the trails and beaches.

In all, it took seven and a half hours for Christina’s friends to report her missing. It wasn’t until around 4:00pm that day that Elizabeth was informed of her daughter’s disappearance.

SEARCH:

The OPP Northwest Region Emergency Response Team responded to the location with four units, two fixed-wing aircraft, a float plane, marine units and three helicopters. Over the course of the next 17 days, around 100 police officers, divers and specially-trained civilians searched the area with GPS, underwater radar and infrared cameras, and while items were found, they couldn’t positively be linked to Christina. The search ended up being one of the longest in the region’s history, and was followed by smaller ones, all of which failed to uncover any evidence as to Christina’s whereabouts.

Throughout the initial police search, Christina’s extended family camped out near Thunder Bay, as they themselves were not allowed to participate. After the official search was called off, Elizabeth took it upon herself to raise funds for private searches. Six cadaver dogs were brought to the park over a year later, in November 2008, which detected the scent of human remains at the bottom of the river. However, the water was too deep and flowing too fast for the hit to be investigated further.

To gauge Christina’s last known movements, investigators interviewed Eddy, Faith and Joe three different times. Nothing of value was gained from these talks, and neither of the three have been named suspects in the case.

The month she went missing, Christina’s family held a vigil at the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Scarborough, Ontario. Others have been held over the years, including a mass at D’Arcy McGee Catholic School on August 6, 2008.

The family set up a Facebook group – The Official Find Christina Calayca Group – but it has not been active since 2011. There was also a website created to raise awareness about the case, but it has since been shutdown.

A resident of Schreiber named Paul Gauthier came forward to say he thought he’d seen Christina run through the Rossport Campground on the day she went missing, just 3km west of where Eddy last saw her. He’d been drinking coffee outside his RV around 9:00am that morning when he saw an Asian woman coming down from the highway. Police interviewed him a number of times, but the sighting went nowhere.

In 2009, Toronto’s Filipino community released A Day Goes By: Tribute to Christina, a 12-song album of original songs. All proceeds were donated to a renewed search of Rainbow Falls Provincial Park.

At present, the OPP maintains the investigation into Christina’s disappearance remains open. The government of Ontario is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.

THEORIES:

1) The most likely cause of Christina’s disappearance relates to misadventure. Those who searched for her believe she likely got lost in the dense brush and became disoriented, which would also explain why no trace of her has ever been found.

However, this theory has its protractors, who say it’s strange the search didn’t locate any sign of her. They also say it would have been difficult for her get lost on the trails, given they’re well-marked. There’s also those who question why she would have ventured into the woods by herself, given her lack of experience with the terrain.

2) It was the initial belief of OPP investigators that Christina was the victim of a bear or wolf attack, given the location in which she went missing. An expert with the Ministry of National Resources was brought in to consult on the case and it was determined the likelihood of an attack was unlikely, as the search failed to turn up any blood or pieces of ripped clothing.

3) A third theory in the case is that Christina met with foul play in the woods. Some believe her friends may have had something to do with her disappearance, given the amount of time it took for them to report her missing. However, neither of the three have been named suspects in the case, and Elizabeth doesn’t believe they had anything to do with it.

There’s also the possibility that Christina came across someone with nefarious intentions while on her run. Her family believes she may have been abducted and taken from the park, given its proximity to the Trans-Canada Highway and the fact the location was busy due to the long weekend.

It should be noted the OPP does not believe foul play is involved in Christina’s disappearance. As well, area residents don’t believe someone from the nearby towns would be involved in such a crime.

AFTERMATH:

The search for Christina took a heavy toll on Elizabeth. Since her daughter’s disappearance, she has struggled with numbness in her legs and body, high cholesterol and an overactive thyroid. She also missed her brother’s funeral in the Philippines.

Eddy has shared he has a lot of regrets about that day, saying he shouldn’t have let her run off alone, given their lack of knowledge of the area.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Christina Calayca went missing from Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Killraine Township, Ontario, Canada on August 6, 2007. She was 20 years old, and was last seen wearing a striped purple t-shirt, a blue hoodie, size 36 black pants and white running shoes. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’2″ and weighed 126 pounds. She has wavy black hair and brown eyes.

Currently, the case is classified as a missing person investigation. If alive, she would be 35 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Nipigon division of the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-877-934-6363 or 1-705-330-4144. Tips can also be called into the OPP’s Criminal Investigation Branch at 1-888-310-1122 or 1-705-329-6111, or anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Image Credit: The True Crime Files

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