Top News

20 years on, Diana Boland hopes to be reunited with her missing sons


Diana Boland knows the exact moment her heart broke.

It’s not just a figure of speech, she insists. A broken heart is real, and she knows this for sure.

“I felt it,” she says. “I actually felt my heart crack.”

It happened 20 years ago to this day, and though the pain is no longer as intense as it was, Boland’s heart hasn’t healed. It won’t until her three sons, Adam, Trevor and Mitchell O’Brien, come home to her.

She believes, beyond a doubt, that it will happen, and she’s waiting patiently for the day it does.

Boland’s three sons — ages 14, 11 and four — were allegedly abducted by their father, Gary O’Brien, on Nov. 9, 1996. She hasn’t heard from them since, and has spent a lot of time thinking about possible reasons why they haven’t contacted her.

O’Brien was an introvert and very resourceful, she says; if he had taken the boys to some sort of religious commune, she wouldn’t be surprised. She also believes her children were brainwashed, even before they disappeared.

“I’d always give Adam some coin and I’d say, ‘Don’t use this money, keep it and if you ever need to call me or if your dad takes you somewhere other than where he’s supposed to, use it to call me.”

Boland speaks about her sons in the present tense, picturing their grown-up personalities based on those of their childhood. Adam, the oldest, was the protector of the others, very bright and sensitive and in tune with the feelings of others.

“He’s 34 years old now. I’m almost certain he must have children,” Boland says. “I’m sure I’m a grandma.”

Trevor, the middle child, was the comedian and a little more rambunctious.

“I picture him as my party boy, a kind of playboy, loving to party and women and all that,” Boland says with a chuckle. “The complete opposite of Adam.”

Mitchell, Boland says with regret, is more difficult to imagine as an adult, since he was only a preschooler the last time she saw him and his personality was yet to really develop.

Boland, who has a close relationship with a number of national missing children organizations, says she loves when they do computerized age enhancements of the boys’ photos, which she hangs on her wall. She’s confident they’re true to life, and she recognizes similarities with other family members in them.

“The first time they did them, it really looped me completely. Now when they do it, I love it. I always look forward to it.”

Twenty years seems like a lifetime ago for Boland, though she remembers it like yesterday. It was a Saturday, the day on which O’Brien, her ex-husband, had visitation with Adam, Trevor and Mitchell. O’Brien picked the boys up at Boland’s apartment, and called her that night. The boys’ weren’t coming home, he told her. Police found the former family home rigged with two 400-pound propane tanks.

The engine assembly of O’Brien’s 1989 Ford Tempo was found in the ocean off Red Head Cliff, near Flatrock, almost a year later. Boland says she believes, given O’Brien’s personality, the propane tanks and sending the car over the cliff were done to mislead police.

Boland is convinced there are people who know what happened to her sons and where they are now.

“I’ll go to my grave with that,” she says emphatically.

Adam, Trevor, Mitchell and O’Brien are listed on the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s Missing Persons website, which says the police investigation into their disappearance has crossed borders and has involved a number of investigated leads. Boland doesn’t have much contact with investigators these days, she says, adding she understands they wouldn’t contact her without a credible tip in an effort to shield her from false hope. She’d appreciate the contact all the same.

Police say the most recent tip on the case was received this past May, and the followup was concluded in July, with investigators meeting with family members twice in that time frame.

“The RNC will continue to pursue any tip received in relation to these missing persons, however, since their disappearance we have not received any credible information leading to their whereabouts,” police said in an emailed statement to The Telegram.

Boland has a large family and group of friends around her, and spends her free time volunteering at the Gathering Place in St. John’s, which brings her joy.

Through the missing children organizations, she has connected with other parents searching for their missing kids, and finds it extra helpful.

“That’s the biggest key, for me,” she explains. “They are really the only people who know what’s going through your mind. Other people can empathize, but no one really knows what you’re going through unless they’ve been through it themselves.”

Christy Dzikowicz is the director of missingkids.ca, a program of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, and knows Boland well. What Boland is going through, Dzikowicz says, is typical of what many searching parents across the country experience, including holding out hope after all these years.

“You could talk about chances (of the boys coming back) and say it’s one in 100 or one in 1,000 or one in 1,000,000, but unless someone tells her otherwise, that chance is there and I think everyone in her situation would feel the same. I think it’s important as a community that we support Diana. If the boys are out there, we cannot give up hope. Diana needs to know we have never forgotten her boys, they are important, and I think that means so much to her.”

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection sees new cases every day, Dzikowicz says, though the majority of children are found. The organization currently has a couple hundred longterm cases.

Part of the organization’s goal is to keep attention on stories like Diana’s.

“All it takes is for the right person at the right time to see it, and feel like ‘I need to share this information, I can’t keep holding it in,’” Dzikowicz says.

Nam Kwon Kang, visitor from Korea, also disappeared from St. John's in November 1996

Boland’s sons and their father weren’t the only ones who went missing in November 1996: just a week prior to their disappearance, 27-year-old Nam Kwon Kang, a visitor from Korea, disappeared from St. John’s. A paratrooper, martial arts expert and experienced rock climber, Kang had been climbing in the Signal Hill and Kelly Island areas. but never returned to his friend’s apartment to collect his things and was never seen again.

Boland’s heart is broken, but it tells her that her boys will one day come home.

“I feel it. I could sit down and wither away thinking about it, but it won’t bring me any closer. I’m waiting for my miracle and when it’s my time, I’m ready to jump up and get back in mom mode and grandma mode.”

Boland is begging anyone with any information about her sons’ disappearance or their whereabouts to contact the RNC, even anonymously. Tips can be provided by calling police at 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or www.crimestoppers.com. She also has a message for Adam, Trevor and Mitchell, should they read this article.

“Mom has never stopped looking for you and praying for you,” she says. “Please, please get the courage to break free and pick up the phone. I’m sure we can work everything out. Let’s start again. Come back to me, just come back to me.”

•••

Active missing person cases

Apart from Adam, Trevor and Mitchell O’Brien, their father Gary O’Brien, and Nam Kwon Kang, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary currently has more active missing person cases listed on its website.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the RNC at 729-8000.

Name: Daniel MacKenzie — Age at time of disappearance: 23 Missing from: Border of Labrador and Schefferville, Que, July 31, 1981. MacKenzie was in a taxi with his wife and friends when he got out and rand into the woods. He is described as 5’9”, 175 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Name: Nicholas Leonard — Age at time of disappearance: 28 Missing from: Wabush, Sept. 3, 1990 Leonard failed to return from a trip to a cabin, and was last seen rowing a homemade kayak towards the north end of Lower Loon Lake. Described as 5’7”, 141 pounds, brown hair and brown eyes.

Name: Jessica Heppner — Age at time of disappearance: 21 Missing from: St. John’s, May 29, 2015 Heppner is from Ontario and was staying at the Sheraton Hotel but did not return to take her belongings. She is described as 5’9”. 160 pounds, blonde hair and green eyes.

Name: Joshua Miller — Age at time of disappearance: 20 Missing from: St. John’s, Feb. 10, 2013 Miller was last seen in the downtown area. He is described as 6’1”, 185 pounds, sandy coloured hair and blue eyes. He was wearing jeans and a black t-shirt.

Name: Aaron Dragonetti — Age at time of disappearance: 32 years Missing from: St. John’s, Nov. 21, 2014 Dragonetti was last seen in the area of Southside Road. He is described as 5’10”, 180s pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Name: Pamela Asprey  — Age at time of disappearance: 20 Missing from: St. John’s, Nov 12, 1984 Asprey was last seen getting into a vehicle being driven by a man with a large build wearing a baseball cap near the War Memorial.

Name: Sharon Drover — Age at time of disappearance: 17 Missing from: St. John’s, Dec. 29, 1978 Sharon finished a shift at McDonald’s on Kenmount Road and was intending to hitchhike home to Livingstone Street but was never seen again. Twenty years after she disappeared, two men reported having picked up a hitchhiker whom they believed was Sharon on Kenmount Road and dropped her off on Long’s Hill. They said they last saw her running south on Long’s Hill, after having a heated conversation with people outside her apartment.

Name: Henrietta Millek — Age at time of disappearance: 25 Missing from: St. John’s, Dec. 10, 1982 It is believed Millek was at the Key Club and had trouble with at least two men in the bar, leaving against her will. Her keys and purse were found at the club.

Name: Daniel Pickett — Age at time of disappearance: 25 Missing from: St. John’s, Oct. 25, 2006 Pickett was a fisherman working on a vessel that was tied up at Fort Amherst. He was last seen near George Street around 11 pm and never returned to his vessel. He is described to be 5’7” and 150 pounds with blonde hair and blue eyes.

 

 

It’s not just a figure of speech, she insists. A broken heart is real, and she knows this for sure.

“I felt it,” she says. “I actually felt my heart crack.”

It happened 20 years ago to this day, and though the pain is no longer as intense as it was, Boland’s heart hasn’t healed. It won’t until her three sons, Adam, Trevor and Mitchell O’Brien, come home to her.

She believes, beyond a doubt, that it will happen, and she’s waiting patiently for the day it does.

Boland’s three sons — ages 14, 11 and four — were allegedly abducted by their father, Gary O’Brien, on Nov. 9, 1996. She hasn’t heard from them since, and has spent a lot of time thinking about possible reasons why they haven’t contacted her.

O’Brien was an introvert and very resourceful, she says; if he had taken the boys to some sort of religious commune, she wouldn’t be surprised. She also believes her children were brainwashed, even before they disappeared.

“I’d always give Adam some coin and I’d say, ‘Don’t use this money, keep it and if you ever need to call me or if your dad takes you somewhere other than where he’s supposed to, use it to call me.”

Boland speaks about her sons in the present tense, picturing their grown-up personalities based on those of their childhood. Adam, the oldest, was the protector of the others, very bright and sensitive and in tune with the feelings of others.

“He’s 34 years old now. I’m almost certain he must have children,” Boland says. “I’m sure I’m a grandma.”

Trevor, the middle child, was the comedian and a little more rambunctious.

“I picture him as my party boy, a kind of playboy, loving to party and women and all that,” Boland says with a chuckle. “The complete opposite of Adam.”

Mitchell, Boland says with regret, is more difficult to imagine as an adult, since he was only a preschooler the last time she saw him and his personality was yet to really develop.

Boland, who has a close relationship with a number of national missing children organizations, says she loves when they do computerized age enhancements of the boys’ photos, which she hangs on her wall. She’s confident they’re true to life, and she recognizes similarities with other family members in them.

“The first time they did them, it really looped me completely. Now when they do it, I love it. I always look forward to it.”

Twenty years seems like a lifetime ago for Boland, though she remembers it like yesterday. It was a Saturday, the day on which O’Brien, her ex-husband, had visitation with Adam, Trevor and Mitchell. O’Brien picked the boys up at Boland’s apartment, and called her that night. The boys’ weren’t coming home, he told her. Police found the former family home rigged with two 400-pound propane tanks.

The engine assembly of O’Brien’s 1989 Ford Tempo was found in the ocean off Red Head Cliff, near Flatrock, almost a year later. Boland says she believes, given O’Brien’s personality, the propane tanks and sending the car over the cliff were done to mislead police.

Boland is convinced there are people who know what happened to her sons and where they are now.

“I’ll go to my grave with that,” she says emphatically.

Adam, Trevor, Mitchell and O’Brien are listed on the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s Missing Persons website, which says the police investigation into their disappearance has crossed borders and has involved a number of investigated leads. Boland doesn’t have much contact with investigators these days, she says, adding she understands they wouldn’t contact her without a credible tip in an effort to shield her from false hope. She’d appreciate the contact all the same.

Police say the most recent tip on the case was received this past May, and the followup was concluded in July, with investigators meeting with family members twice in that time frame.

“The RNC will continue to pursue any tip received in relation to these missing persons, however, since their disappearance we have not received any credible information leading to their whereabouts,” police said in an emailed statement to The Telegram.

Boland has a large family and group of friends around her, and spends her free time volunteering at the Gathering Place in St. John’s, which brings her joy.

Through the missing children organizations, she has connected with other parents searching for their missing kids, and finds it extra helpful.

“That’s the biggest key, for me,” she explains. “They are really the only people who know what’s going through your mind. Other people can empathize, but no one really knows what you’re going through unless they’ve been through it themselves.”

Christy Dzikowicz is the director of missingkids.ca, a program of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, and knows Boland well. What Boland is going through, Dzikowicz says, is typical of what many searching parents across the country experience, including holding out hope after all these years.

“You could talk about chances (of the boys coming back) and say it’s one in 100 or one in 1,000 or one in 1,000,000, but unless someone tells her otherwise, that chance is there and I think everyone in her situation would feel the same. I think it’s important as a community that we support Diana. If the boys are out there, we cannot give up hope. Diana needs to know we have never forgotten her boys, they are important, and I think that means so much to her.”

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection sees new cases every day, Dzikowicz says, though the majority of children are found. The organization currently has a couple hundred longterm cases.

Part of the organization’s goal is to keep attention on stories like Diana’s.

“All it takes is for the right person at the right time to see it, and feel like ‘I need to share this information, I can’t keep holding it in,’” Dzikowicz says.

Nam Kwon Kang, visitor from Korea, also disappeared from St. John's in November 1996

Boland’s sons and their father weren’t the only ones who went missing in November 1996: just a week prior to their disappearance, 27-year-old Nam Kwon Kang, a visitor from Korea, disappeared from St. John’s. A paratrooper, martial arts expert and experienced rock climber, Kang had been climbing in the Signal Hill and Kelly Island areas. but never returned to his friend’s apartment to collect his things and was never seen again.

Boland’s heart is broken, but it tells her that her boys will one day come home.

“I feel it. I could sit down and wither away thinking about it, but it won’t bring me any closer. I’m waiting for my miracle and when it’s my time, I’m ready to jump up and get back in mom mode and grandma mode.”

Boland is begging anyone with any information about her sons’ disappearance or their whereabouts to contact the RNC, even anonymously. Tips can be provided by calling police at 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or www.crimestoppers.com. She also has a message for Adam, Trevor and Mitchell, should they read this article.

“Mom has never stopped looking for you and praying for you,” she says. “Please, please get the courage to break free and pick up the phone. I’m sure we can work everything out. Let’s start again. Come back to me, just come back to me.”

•••

Active missing person cases

Apart from Adam, Trevor and Mitchell O’Brien, their father Gary O’Brien, and Nam Kwon Kang, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary currently has more active missing person cases listed on its website.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the RNC at 729-8000.

Name: Daniel MacKenzie — Age at time of disappearance: 23 Missing from: Border of Labrador and Schefferville, Que, July 31, 1981. MacKenzie was in a taxi with his wife and friends when he got out and rand into the woods. He is described as 5’9”, 175 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Name: Nicholas Leonard — Age at time of disappearance: 28 Missing from: Wabush, Sept. 3, 1990 Leonard failed to return from a trip to a cabin, and was last seen rowing a homemade kayak towards the north end of Lower Loon Lake. Described as 5’7”, 141 pounds, brown hair and brown eyes.

Name: Jessica Heppner — Age at time of disappearance: 21 Missing from: St. John’s, May 29, 2015 Heppner is from Ontario and was staying at the Sheraton Hotel but did not return to take her belongings. She is described as 5’9”. 160 pounds, blonde hair and green eyes.

Name: Joshua Miller — Age at time of disappearance: 20 Missing from: St. John’s, Feb. 10, 2013 Miller was last seen in the downtown area. He is described as 6’1”, 185 pounds, sandy coloured hair and blue eyes. He was wearing jeans and a black t-shirt.

Name: Aaron Dragonetti — Age at time of disappearance: 32 years Missing from: St. John’s, Nov. 21, 2014 Dragonetti was last seen in the area of Southside Road. He is described as 5’10”, 180s pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Name: Pamela Asprey  — Age at time of disappearance: 20 Missing from: St. John’s, Nov 12, 1984 Asprey was last seen getting into a vehicle being driven by a man with a large build wearing a baseball cap near the War Memorial.

Name: Sharon Drover — Age at time of disappearance: 17 Missing from: St. John’s, Dec. 29, 1978 Sharon finished a shift at McDonald’s on Kenmount Road and was intending to hitchhike home to Livingstone Street but was never seen again. Twenty years after she disappeared, two men reported having picked up a hitchhiker whom they believed was Sharon on Kenmount Road and dropped her off on Long’s Hill. They said they last saw her running south on Long’s Hill, after having a heated conversation with people outside her apartment.

Name: Henrietta Millek — Age at time of disappearance: 25 Missing from: St. John’s, Dec. 10, 1982 It is believed Millek was at the Key Club and had trouble with at least two men in the bar, leaving against her will. Her keys and purse were found at the club.

Name: Daniel Pickett — Age at time of disappearance: 25 Missing from: St. John’s, Oct. 25, 2006 Pickett was a fisherman working on a vessel that was tied up at Fort Amherst. He was last seen near George Street around 11 pm and never returned to his vessel. He is described to be 5’7” and 150 pounds with blonde hair and blue eyes.

 

 

Recent Stories