HAVERHILL — Linda Morrissette has never given up hope that even the smallest trace of her sister will be found.
She believes that Helena Fells of Dracut committed suicide in 2006 by jumping into the Merrimack River in Lowell.
Morrissette, 61, of Lowell said she won't rest until the mystery of her sister's disappearance is solved.
Several past searches failed to find any trace of Fells, and now Morrissette has asked Rocky Morrison and his Clean River Project team to conduct another search of the river.
This time the search will focus between Groveland and West Newbury, where earlier this year a woman's shoe containing a bone that may be human was found.
"If anybody can find my sister, it will be him," Morrissette said of Morrison, whose group has removed hundreds of tires and other debris from the river in Haverhill and the region. "Not having anything to bury, not even a bone, leaves me to wonder. I need closure and I need to bring her home."
She said her sister would have turned 54 on Oct. 21.
On Nov. 28, 2006, Fells' abandoned car was found near an auto parts store in Lowell, close to the Merrimack River. Finding it led Morrissette to believe her sister may have jumped into the river — where the deep and fast-moving current at that time might have swept her away.
"Police brought a cadaver dog, which went from her car to the river, then stopped," she said.
Two years ago, Morrison's group, along with a state police dive team and a search team from Maine, scoured the banks of the river between Lowell and Lawrence looking for traces of Fells.
"We found a lot of animal bones, including dog and deer bones, but nothing else," Morrison said. "There isn't a day goes by that we don't think about this."
A search of the river last fall between Methuen and Haverhill also failed to turn up any evidence.
This summer, while Morrison and his team were removing tons of debris from Haverhill's stretch of the river, they also searched for human remains, just as they have done during other cleanups.
"All we found were animal bones, which we gave to the harbormaster," Morrison said.
Clean River plans to do the search Oct. 12 and 13.
"Our members know how to search and where to look, such as in stumps, in washed-out riverbank cavities stuffed with debris and under piles of sticks, brush and debris," Morrison said.
Morrissette has followed up on any new reports that might shed light on her sister's disappearance, including the discovery of the shoe and bone in West Newbury earlier this year.
"I'm still waiting for test results," Morrissette said. "I had asked to see the shoe, or even a photograph of it, as I would recognize my sister's shoe. But they won't show it to me," she said of state police investigators.
She said her sister had attempted suicide in 2005, at a time when she was distraught and devastated at the loss of their mother, who had died that year of ovarian cancer.
"After our father died the following year, it was just too much for Helena," she said.
In the months leading up to her disappearance, Fells became more withdrawn, had stopped eating and had stopped going to work, her sister said.
"She told people at her workplace that she was dying and needed a leave of absence," Morrissette said.
On Thanksgiving Day 2006, Fells told her best friend that she did not want to live anymore and was contemplating suicide, her sister said.
A few days later she locked herself inside her apartment.
Morrissette convinced Dracut police to go to there to check on her sister. Fells disappeared several days later.
Morrissette said there was only one search conducted by rescue divers on the day she found her sister's abandoned car.
"I feel like she was just thrown to the curb," Morrissette said.
A subsequent search by boat failed to find her sister.
"I know she may have committed suicide, but she's still a person," Morrissette said.