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Newfoundland Woman’s Estranged Spouse Charged with Murder Seven Years After Her Death

Police have charged the estranged husband of a woman from Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula with first-degree murder in a case that stretches back seven years.

Jennifer Hillier-Penney disappeared on Nov. 30, 2016, in St. Anthony, N.L., and the RCMP said Saturday they are still searching for her remains.

However, RCMP Insp. Tracy Edwards said that investigators have collected enough evidence to lay charges against Dean Penney, in what she alleged to be a case of gender-based violence.

“It’s certainly difficult news to learn that Jennifer’s estranged husband is charged with her murder,” the inspector said. “Sadly, our investigation determined that Jennifer’s murder is yet another death due to intimate partner violence in our province.”

The report into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia concluded earlier this year that gender-based, intimate partner and family violence is an “epidemic” in Canada, and it called for improved funding of agencies devoted to intervention and prevention.

“We acknowledge that seven years is a very long time to go without answers,” Edwards said during the news conference in St. John’s. “These investigations take time, cannot be rushed and must be pursued with diligence and commitment to investigative excellence.”

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She told reporters that the 50-year-old accused was arrested in Deer Lake, N.L., on Friday in the middle of the day. He was expected to make a brief appearance in provincial court Saturday, with further trial dates to be set for Corner Brook provincial court, she said.

Jennifer’s brother, Glen Hillier, said his younger sister had left work at a local hospital on the evening of her disappearance. She was staying at her estranged husband’s home to be with her younger daughter, while Dean Penney was away duck hunting at his cabin, Hillier said.

He said his 38-year-old sister had separated from Penney, and she usually lived with her father in the nearby town of Saint Lunaire-Griquet.

Hillier-Penney’s two daughters and six siblings have waited a long time to hear the news of the charges, he said.

“I’m happy someone has been charged … It’s been hard to be patient,” Hillier said in a telephone interview.

“With Jennifer missing, we didn’t have anything. We didn’t know where she was, what happened,” he added. “It’s been a roller coaster of emotions. One day I’d be driving somewhere and I’d break down and cry, and my girlfriend would say, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I’d say, ‘Jennifer just crossed my mind.'”

The 49-year-old said his greatest hope is that police will find his sister’s body.

“That would be the best Christmas gift I ever received. Without her body, we don’t have closure,” he said.

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