Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Police searching home in connection with long-term missing woman

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Police have discovered "significant" evidence inside a Point Douglas rooming house that is linked to a long-term Manitoba missing woman’s case, the Free Press has learned.

RCMP, Winnipeg police and forensic investigators have been working inside the home in the 100 block of Lorne Avenue since Tuesday evening. No official details have been released.

However, sources tell the Free Press the search involves newly discovered evidence as part of a "cold case" investigation surrounding a Winnipeg woman who vanished years ago.

A neighbor on the Point Douglas street told the Free Press they heard officers using a jackhammer inside the residence on Wednesday. A source confirmed today police are digging into the foundation as part of the probe.

As well, sources confirm a link to a recent homicide investigation in B.C.

Police discovered human remains on Monday on a remote island near Alert Bay, off the east coast of Vancouver Island. They were confirmed to be from Jennifer McPherson, who went missing from Hanson Island, B.C. last week.

Police have now charged McPherson’s husband, Traigo Ehkid Andretti, with second-degree murder.

Sources told the Free Press Andretti, 37, and McPherson, 41, previously lived in Winnipeg before moving west. The search of the Lorne Avenue home is directly connected to Andretti’s arrest this week, sources said.

Police said McPherson and Andretti had been living on Hanson Island as caretakers of a fishing resort called the Pacific Outback Resort, which used to be known as Double Bay Resort until it was sold in 2008.

A Pacific Outback spokeswoman told the Vancouver Province earlier this week McPherson and Andretti had served as caretakers for five years. Sources told the Free Press the couple moved from Winnipeg around that same time.

RCMP and Winnipeg police have teamed up for a joint task-force dubbed "Project Devote" in which they’ve identified 20 homicides and eight missing-person cases linked by one factor -- the individuals were all at a high risk of becoming victims of violent crime.

Each had substance- or alcohol-abuse issues, was transient, had mental-health issues, worked in the sex trade or hitchhiked. The slain and missing Manitobans range in age from 15 to 46.

The Manitoba integrated task force for slain and missing women was announced in August 2009 and has reviewed 84 investigations in which foul play was suspected. Project Devote has also reviewed 112 cases of slain and missing men. Criminal profilers at the RCMP's behavioural sciences branch in Ottawa and the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System centre have worked on the cases.

In the cases of 28 missing and slain women, the only link the task force has established is a risky lifestyle. And after going over thousands of contacts, tips, pieces of evidence and analyzing more than 140 DNA samples, there is nothing to indicate a serial killer is responsible, according to police.

Last year, Winnipeg police charged Shawn Lamb with three homicides of high-risk young women and are continuing their investigation to see if other cases could be linked to Lamb, a drifter from Ontario with more than 100 prior criminal convictions.

Lamb has told the Free Press and police homicide detectives he has information which could help them solve at least five other cold cases. He remains in custody without bail awaiting trial.

Sources told the Free Press today that this week’s search on Lorne Avenue is not connected in any way to Lamb’s case.

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