Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fontaine rushed to hospital before her disappearance

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Tina Fontaine's photographs sit on top of her casket surrounded by  flowers and items in the colour purple, her favourite colour. She had been caught in a net of drugs, alcohol and violence before she disappeared.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Tina Fontaine's photographs sit on top of her casket surrounded by flowers and items in the colour purple, her favourite colour. She had been caught in a net of drugs, alcohol and violence before she disappeared.

Tina Fontaine's final days were spent in a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol and violence, which included being rushed to a Winnipeg hospital after being found unconscious in the West End, the Free Press has learned.

Yet Fontaine, 15, apparently checked herself out and disappeared earlier this month, somehow slipping back into the abyss before authorities could determine what happened and get her the help she needed.

Fontaine wasn't seen or heard from again. Her body was found stuffed inside a bag, floating in the Red River Aug. 17. Police are continuing to hunt for her killer.

Sources have revealed new details about the circumstances leading up to Fontaine last being seen Aug. 8 and being reported missing one day later. It's a potentially key piece of the puzzle now forming part of the homicide investigation.

Fontaine, who had been placed in a group home by Child and Family Services, was found by a passerby on Ellice Avenue in a troubled state.

She was passed out, and sources say some of her clothing appeared to have been removed. A possible sexual assault was feared, especially since it was well-known Fontaine was working in the sex trade in order to earn money.

Two sources who spoke to the Free Press couldn't pinpoint the exact day Fontaine was found and taken to Children's Hospital, only that they believed it was around the Aug. 9, the date police were contacted about her going missing.

'Tell mama and papa (what she called her great-aunt and her husband) I love them, I miss them but I'm not ready to go home yet'

-- one of Tina Fontaine's final text messages

But they confirm Fontaine's CFS worker was notified and went to the hospital. Doctors also conducted an examination to determine if there had been a sexual assault.

"Her pants were found halfway down," a source said.

It's not clear if a file was also opened regarding the incident that led to her going to hospital and whether any forensic evidence was obtained.

Police and CFS refuse to comment on any specific aspects of the investigation.

And the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority can't disclose any details about patients under privacy legislation.

How Fontaine managed to leave the hospital without being signed out by a parent or guardian is now under investigation.

The province's children's advocate reviews all cases of a child dying while in care, although the findings are not automatically publicized. They will be forwarded to the chief medical examiner's office, which has the authority to call an inquest.

An internal child welfare review of the case is also underway.

Fontaine's great aunt, Thelma Favel, told the Free Press Thursday she was never advised Fontaine had been located and rushed to hospital.

"If I knew that, I would have been at the hospital right away," she said. "This is the first I'm hearing about it."

Favel and her husband had been raising Fontaine on Sagkeeng since the teen was a child.

She last saw Fontaine on Canada Day, when the teen left their home in Sagkeeng and went to Winnipeg to visit her biological mother for what was expected to be a week. Favel said she had approved the trip.

Fontaine would periodically check in via text message but was clearly in trouble. She was reported missing in early July, only to be found a short time later and put into a CFS foster-home placement.

"I know she was drinking, doing drugs, working on the streets," said Favel.

At one point, Fontaine claimed she had been beaten up by her mother and even texted pictures of her face, she said.

One of Fontaine's final texts to her sister, sent around the time she was reported missing earlier this month, included a message for Favel and her husband.

"Tell mama and papa (what she called Favel and her husband) I love them, I miss them but I'm not ready to go home yet," Favel said Fontaine wrote.

A source familiar with Fontaine's CFS file told the Free Press this week she struggled with how she was perceived in Sagkeeng following the brutal slaying of her father on Halloween day in 2011.

Eugene Fontaine was attacked by two men he'd spent hours with doing cocaine, snorting crushed-up painkillers and sharing 93 beers.

His two killers pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May and are set to be sentenced later this fall.

Family members have previously said Fontaine was never the same after his death. Her ashes will be interred with her father next month..

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2014 A3

History

Updated on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 6:28 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

8:29 AM: Corrects typo

11:57 AM: Corrects that Tina Fontaine's ashes will be interred with her father next month

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