Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Cops to probe alleged killer’s background

Project Devote progress queried

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A JOINT police task force will dig into alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb’s past as part of an investigation into 28 cases of missing and slain Manitobans.

On Friday, Winnipeg police released an update on the RCMP-Winnipeg Police Service task force, dubbed Project Devote, following a request for more information from council’s protection and community services committee. The report said the recent arrest of accused serial killer Shawn Lamb has focused further attention on the investigations of the unsolved slain and missing women.

The report said although Lamb is in custody, officers assigned to Project Devote will help other units look into his past. However, the report notes the three slayings Lamb is charged with are not "among the investigations reviewed or considered by the investigators of Project Devote."

Lamb, a drifter and career criminal, was charged in June with three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Lorna Blacksmith, 18, Tanya Nepinak, 31, and Carolyn Sinclair, 25.

Police did not comment further on the new report on Friday.

"Although Shawn Lamb has been charged for these murders and has been remanded into custody, there continues to be an ongoing investigation," the report states. "The Winnipeg police homicide unit, with assistance from investigators assigned to Project Devote and the Winnipeg police historical case unit are in the midst of investigating the past activities of Shawn Lamb."

The report is the second recent update police have provided on the task force. In July, Winnipeg police and RCMP announced they were investigating 20 homicides and eight missing-person cases involving exploited and at-risk individuals. Police have said the individuals had some common factors such as substance-abuse issues, being transient, mental-health problems, working in the sex trade, or hitchhiking.

Since the task force was initially struck in May 2011, little information has been released about whether there are links between any of the missing or slain individuals. The report said there is no physical evidence to indicate one person is responsible for more than one of these homicides, though there is a "continuous assessment" to determine if linkages exist.

The report said police have developed strategies and deployed resources to focus attention on missing and slain women and people who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

To date, no arrests have been made.

Police will brief council’s protection and community services committee on Project Devote at a meeting Thursday.

Protection and community services chairwoman Coun. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said the report shows Winnipeg police have a clear list of 28 victims and how they’re working with other levels of government to solve these cases. Havixbeck said she would still like to have a discussion about the task force’s progress in more detail next week.

Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) said he doesn’t understand why the deaths of Nepinak, Sinclair and Blacksmith are not part of Project Devote’s investigation. The bodies of Sinclair and Blacksmith were found in Smith’s West End ward, and Nepinak was last seen around Sherbrook Street and Ellice Avenue.

Police plan to search the Brady Road landfill for Nepinak’s body.

Smith said the killings are an ongoing concern in his neighbourhood, and he wants police to explain why they are not included in the project’s scope.

"They should’ve made some progress into looking into Shawn Lamb. He’s the only concrete information they’ve given us," Smith said on Friday. "I want them to elaborate on exactly what they’ve done and what the outcome’s been."

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