Reported sightings of missing teen in Penticton raise false hope

Despite unsubstantiated lead, mother thankful to community for supporting her family in their search

Mekayla Bali has been missing from Yorkton, SK. for nearly four years, since the age of 16. Above is an an age-enhanced photo, courtesy of NCMEC, showing what Mekayla Bali may look like at aprox. 18 years old. (Submitted)

For a mother who continues to search for her missing daughter almost four years after her disappearance, news that she might be in Penticton came as a welcome surprise.

Although the lead didn’t pan out, Paula Bali thanked the community for banding together and supporting her family in their search for Mekayla Bali.

Just before the new year, Bali started receiving numerous emails from individuals reporting a possible sighting of Mekayla panhandling in Penticton. The now 20-year-old has been missing from Yorkton, SK. since the age of 16.

READ MORE: Missing teens found after spending night outside near Whitewater Ski Resort

When the numerous emails started to pour in, Bali immediately reached out to Penticton RCMP to inquire about the possible sighting.

“I think what’s really difficult with Mekayla’s case is, people are so willing to help, and want to help find her. And they report potential sightings which is incredible, and amazing, and awesome,” said Bali.

“But sometimes it gets a little bit – it almost gets a little bit out of hand,” she added. “But we appreciate all of the support.”

In discussions with RCMP, Bali found out that RCMP were aware of the particular individual panhandling, and they confirmed it was not Mekayla.

“That’s difficult – we don’t know what happened to Mekayla,” said Bali. “So could she be panhandling? It’s a possibility, I don’t know why she wouldn’t reach out to someone she knew.”

“Very quiet, a really good kid, not into anything. No problems, no troubles, no abuse, no drugs, no nothing,” said her mother, describing Mekayla’s personality. “So for her to just absolutely vanish is very perplexing.”

Since her disappearance in April 2016, Mekayla’s mother has flown to Vancouver three times looking for her daughter, because of tips – unsuccessful every time. Each time, she has located a girl who looks like Mekayla, but isn’t. The situation in Penticton, she believes, is probably similar.

This, she said, is the pros and cons of social media. The cons, being negative comments, as well as individuals who have never met Mekayla but claim to know all. The pros being those people who want nothing more than to reunite mother and daughter, and this, Bali is so appreciative of.

“Penticton has really picked up Mekayla’s picture, and are sharing her information, and I totally appreciate that,” said Bali.

“I would have been so happy if it had been her.”

Come April, it will be four years since Mekayla disappeared, and even after all this time, Bali says she hasn’t received any information that can confirm she is anywhere.

That being said, her outreach for information has spread internationally, through the help of several organizations, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“It’s quite boggling,” said Bali.

Four years later, she’s not giving up. Bali explained that she continues to spread Mekayla’s image around, in the event someone does see her. However, she added that part of her doesn’t think Mekayla is visible or ‘floating around’.

“I think something else has probably happened, but (we) don’t know at this point,” she said.

In this day and age, Bali said she finds it hard to believe someone can just vanish, with no explanations. She referenced a few days ago when she chatted with someone in her home about a product and it next appeared as advertising on her phone.

From zero contact with family or friends, and no use of any payment cards, Mekayla’s disappearance has perplexed many, including investigators.

“To think that Mekayla has absolutely disappeared; and this was a kid who was very active on her social media,” Bali said.

“Whatever situation she’s in, she’s obviously not in control of it, and that’s a scary thought.”

That being said, Bali said she tries her best to avoid these negative thoughts, and remain positive and proactive in their search.

Last year, an anonymous donor doubled Mekayla Bali’s reward fund to $50,000. Paula announced on Facebook Tuesday that with a heavy heart, the donor requested his $25,000 be given back. She expressed her gratitude for the generosity and willingness of the individual to try and help their family find a resolution, but she added she was saddened by the outcome. Not that the money had to be given back, but that Mekayla remains missing and despite the increase in funds, no new information led to her whereabouts.

The mother thanked everyone who has donated to the cause, and quoted Corette King in saying, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

To follow the search, join the official Facebook page Let’s Bring Mekayla Bali Home.

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To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

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