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Unimaginable tragedy worsens

Body in river was mother of two dead tots

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Kelli Parisi and her daughters Erika and Makayla visit a memorial for Anna and Nicholas Gibson, who were drowned in their Winnipeg home last Wednesday. The body of their mother, Lisa Gibson, was recovered from the Assiniboine River on Saturday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Kelli Parisi and her daughters Erika and Makayla visit a memorial for Anna and Nicholas Gibson, who were drowned in their Winnipeg home last Wednesday. The body of their mother, Lisa Gibson, was recovered from the Assiniboine River on Saturday. Photo Store

UNTIL Wednesday, Lisa Gibson’s public presence was a smiling picture on her Facebook account, writing about her young daughter, Anna, or her infant son, Nicholas.

"Man, I love this kid," Gibson wrote about two-year-old Anna.

All that’s left of the 32-year-old mother, Anna, and three-month-old brother Nicholas, are memories and many questions.

Their deaths and the tragic events of the case are part of a police investigation.

Winnipeg police confirmed Sunday the body pulled from the Red River in Stephen Juba Park Saturday was Gibson, who had been missing since Wednesday morning.

Police said Gibson was a "person of interest" after she disappeared from her Coleridge Park Drive home Wednesday morning, leaving her children for dead in a bathtub.

Police did not release the cause of Gibson’s death Sunday.

‘How can you forget what happened here? I have no idea how the family moves on from this… This is going to go on for years. Things have changed here’

— Westwood resident

The discovery of her body was the expected conclusion to the gut-wrenching saga — police held out little hope Gibson was still alive during the three-day search — and another piece to a heartbreaking case that hung over the city. "This type of tragedy will affect people in different ways," Const. Eric Hofley told members of the media after confirming the body as Gibson Sunday.

Police said the homicide unit will continue to investigate the case even though Gibson’s body was found.

She was the last person known to be with the children and all that is left are a multitude of questions surrounding the case.

Brian Gibson, husband and father, was at work when emergency units responded to a cryptic 911 call from his family’s home.

Sources told the Free Press a woman said the home’s address and to "send police" before hanging up Lisa Gibson was recently diagnosed and treated for postpartum mental illness. It’s not known whether the diagnosis was for postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, though it’s believed Gibson suffered the latter.

Confusion over the two diagnoses prompted Hofley to forward a portion of an email from an unidentified psychotherapist to media outlets Sunday, explaining the differences between the two conditions and how unlikely postpartum depression would be a factor in the Gibson case.

A spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says officials have begun the process of reviewing the care Gibson received in the health system. This review is standard practice in such cases, the spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, as the investigation moves into the next phases at the police and medical level, residents of the neighbourhood where the deaths took place will try to shift back to normalcy.

The makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, letters and flowers at the corner of Coleridge Park Drive, Bedson Street and Assiniboine Avenue — right next to the Gibson home — received several visitors again Sunday, many of them mothers with young children.

Kelli Parisi took her 12-year-old twin daughters, Erika and Makayla, to pay their respects to the Gibson children. She wondered how the community would be able to find some relief from the tragedy.

"I don’t know if you can ever get over this," said Parisi.

"I get it, I’m a mom, it’s hard. Obviously I didn’t have what she was going through, and having twins was hard enough... it’s very sad. I feel so bad for the family. My heart breaks, it truly does.

"It’s surreal and it impacts everyone. You feel like you’re in a movie. This just doesn’t happen here."

It took Kimberley Bray several days to process the events of Wednesday. She was at a loss for words after visiting the growing memorial with her seven-year-old daughter, Kaley Mae.

"I couldn’t read about it. I wasn’t ready (to come here).

"Today I was ready. It took me that long," Bray said, fighting back tears.

Walking her dog past the memorial, a neighbour talked about the serenity of the street. It’s a quiet slice of suburbia, well off the beaten path of the city’s major arteries.

But there’s a different feeling in the area now, she said, staring at the Gibson home from across the street.

It’s like there’s a fog of sadness over the neighbourhood.

"How can you forget what happened here? I have no idea how the family moves on from this," she said, not wanting to give her name.

"The husband must be beside himself. I don’t know if he’s even been home yet. How can he move on from what happened? How can you walk in this house again?

"This is going to go on for years. Things have changed here."

 

elizabeth.fraser@freepress.mb.ca adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 29, 2013 A3

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