Many questions remain 

By Don Sellar

PORT HOPE – Police engaged in a search-and-rescue exercise finally found Madison “Madi” Chard’s body last spring near a well-traveled forest trail beside the Ganaraska River.

The young woman, who had a bold tree-of-life tattoo on her left hand and a reputation as a fun-loving hippie, had been missing for a month.

A full year later, Chard’s suspicious end is unexplained. Police refuse to divulge what investigators and the coroner’s office have learned about how she died.

The prolonged silence casts doubt on an early police theory that no foul play was involved.

Police floated the idea of death by misadventure two days after an autopsy was done on Chard’s body at the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto. That was months before additional forensic work would be completed.

“This file is classified as an active death investigation,” Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Robert Simpson now says. “As the file is ongoing, I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the case.”

Collaborating with Port Hope police, the OPP decline to discuss any coroner’s findings. The cause of death – drug overdose, misadventure, homicide — remains unstated. 

The OPP won’t say publicly whether it has identified persons of interest or suspects in the case.

Five days after the grim discovery on the river’s east side, a police news release asked the public for help with the investigation.

But it pointedly noted “foul play is not suspected at this time.”

Yet one day before Madison Chard’s remains were found, Port Hope police Insp. Katie Andrews had hinted at a criminal angle.

“We have had information that Madi may be the victim of human trafficking” she told local media.

That comment triggered some lurid tabloid coverage in Toronto. Andrews speculated Chard might then be in Oshawa, Toronto or Montreal.

When the body was found, though, the story soon subsided.

Mark Chard, a popular local firefighter, is Madison’s father. On May 19, he marked the first anniversary of her body’s discovery by posting an alarming timeline on his Facebook page:

“!!!!!!!URGENT HELP NEEDED!!!!!!!,” it began.

Chard then described some of what he knows about his daughter’s disappearance. (A police detective vetted his post.)

On April 19, 2022, Madi Chard left the family home in Port Hope and was seen on John Street. Later, a security camera caught a glimpse of her entering a brick home at 142 Walton St.

“From what we can see from her phone, she made a small purchase of cocaine from Stephen or Nadine Dean,” Chard writes. “She then left that residence walking with Fraser Einarsson. They walked to the Pharmasave (drug store) area and parted ways.”

Einarsson was on his way to see a friend, identified as Carly McGee.

Madison was thought to be on her way home, texting with her mother, Lori. Abruptly, the phone stopped sending and receiving messages. “That was the last contact we had with her,” Mark Chard writes.

After two days of mounting worry, the Chards reported their daughter missing. Police “managed to ping her phone in Port Hope, Cobourg and Baltimore before it went silent.”

Three days after Madison vanished, Carly McGee told the Chards she had Madison’s phone.  Someone identified as Dustin Wesenberg had left it at her house.

McGee returned it to Chard two days later. But the SIM card and case were gone.

What ensued, Chard writes, were a series of “wild goose chases of possible sightings,” as well as that human trafficking theory and suggestions Madison was “on a bender and didn’t want to be found, etc.”

When her body was discovered, Chard says the coroner “determined” she had likely been dead “for close to the 30 days she was missing.” To him, that implied her body had lain undiscovered by the river all that time.

The distraught father couldn’t believe what he’d been told.

That’s because the area “would have been swarming with fishermen a few days after she went missing,” he writes. Walkers, many with their dogs off-leash, use the path.

Coyotes, foxes and other wildlife roam the wooded area. A beaver dam straddles one arm of the river.

Writes Chard: “But there were no signs of animal contact on her (body). No person reported a smell or that their dog was attracted to a certain area.”

In other words, Madison likely didn’t die where she was found.

Who moved the body?

Chard stresses he isn’t accusing anyone of anything and won’t discuss any reaction to his post thus far. He simply puts possible informants in touch with police.

Asked for comment on the Facebook item, the OPP’s Sgt. Simpson said:

“Investigators on this file are still seeking witnesses and the co-operation from existing witnesses. The OPP will not be commenting on any social media posts.”