Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Man found, mystery remains

Leaves family scratching heads after 2009 disappearance

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CORINNE Staple feels overwhelmed.

Her brother, Brent Staple, reported missing nearly four years ago, was found safe and sound, Winnipeg police said Thursday.

But there’s been no teary, heartfelt reunion — at least not yet.

And no explanation for where Brent has been all these years, why he left or answers to his sister’s suspicions that he had a secret life that was the key to his disappearance.

Brent Alexander Staple was 33 when he was last seen June 28, 2009, leaving his apartment block in the first 100 block of University Crescent in the company of an older man with a limp.

For years, Staple said she believed the next time she heard something, it would be devastating.

"You’re prepared for someone to come to the door and say he’s deceased. What happened was the missing person unit called and they came to my work to see me, the detective and a sergeant," she said.

That was Wednesday.

Since then, the only contact with her brother has been through a phone call, a voice on the other end of the line she never expected to hear again.

To say the last 24 hours have been stressful for the Staple family — her parents, older brother and herself — would be an understatement.

"I’m still figuring how I’m feeling. I don’t know right now. There are so many emotions," Staple said Thursday.

She’s spoken to her family and they’re relieved but just as puzzled as she is. "We’re just trying to sit with it, process it."

Fifteen minutes after the call from police, the officers were at her workplace and that’s when Staple found out her brother was alive.

"They said, "We’ve found him. He’s alive and he wants to contact you.’ " Then she waited, for hours, by the phone.

"Two in the morning is when my brother called," she said.

Staple didn’t say how long the call lasted but from her account, it was short. She found herself reassuring him, not the other way around.

"I told him it doesn’t matter why he left. What matters is he’s safe and he’s happy. He just said that he’s sorry he hurt us so much."

Staple said she wants to see her brother face to face but there’s no plan for a reunion, just yet.

"I told him I want to see him but I wasn’t going to push him. I told him I’d wait for him."

As for where her brother is, Staple said she only knows one thing for sure: He isn’t in Winnipeg.

She said she believes he’s out of province and the mystery is overshadowed by the sense of relief.

"Those details don’t matter. They don’t change what’s happened in the last four years. I know he’s alive. He was on the phone with me and that’s all that matters."

In 2012, Winnipeg police issued a press release about unresolved missing persons cases and included Staple. That led to a story in the Free Press in which his sister recounted the details of his disappearance and her discovery the pipefitter had many secrets on his computer that none of his family or friends know about.

"He never told anyone he was gay, but I saw that he was on a lot of intimate chat sites with men. I don’t understand why he didn’t tell me. I have friends in the community and I would have been supportive, but I don’t think the rest of the family would have been supportive and I think that’s why he kept it quiet," Staple said in December.

For years, Staple wondered about the older man with the limp, seen on surveillance footage with her brother leaving his apartment building.

Staple said at the time she believed the secret life her brother led was what ultimately brought the older man into his life, maybe someone he met online. It’s not something they talked about in their first call.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2013 B1

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