Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

House yields woman's remains

Discovery made after city case linked to B.C. homicide

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She was last seen out for a stroll in downtown Winnipeg in 2006.

Family and friends have spent more than six years wondering whether Myrna Letandre would ever walk back into their lives.

Those hopes were dashed this week with a stunning discovery inside a Point Douglas rooming house that has brought a mixture of grief and relief to those closest to her.

Police said Friday human remains found at 97 Lorne Ave. Thursday have been identified as Letandre, who was 37 years old when she was reported missing in the fall of 2006.

"For the family, now we can place her to rest. Appropriate rest," a solemn Barry Anderson told the Free Press.

He said it came as a shock to hear the mystery surrounding his cousin had been solved. "We're just trying to get as much information now as we can," he said.

Another cousin, Sidney Letandre, said he always figured the cousin he grew up with and treated like a sister didn't disappear on purpose.

'It's bittersweet. At least now we know we can take her home and let her rest' -- Sidney Letandre, cousin of Myrna Letandre

"It's bittersweet. At least now we know we can take her home and let her rest," Letandre said.

RCMP and Winnipeg police teamed up to form the Project Devote task force in 2009 and have identified 20 homicides and eight missing-persons cases linked by one factor -- the individuals had all a high risk of becoming victims of violent crime. Letandre was one of those eight missing persons.

This is the first of those 28 Devote cases to be resolved.

"One case means the world to a lot of people," Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak told the Free Press Friday. He applauded the task force for keeping the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in the loop about this week's developments. "We'd like to see a continued diligent effort," he said.

Police said a formal arrest had yet to be made in Letandre's slaying. That could soon change considering the unique way officers learned about Letandre's location.

RCMP Cpl. Miles Hiebert confirmed Friday investigators were led to the Lorne Avenue residence by "very valuable" information they received earlier this week from a separate criminal investigation in British Columbia. Police wouldn't provide further details, but sources have told the Free Press Letandre's case is linked to a B.C. homicide.

Police discovered scattered human remains Monday on a remote island near Alert Bay, off the east coast of Vancouver Island. They have been confirmed as the remains of Jennifer McPherson, a former Winnipegger, who was reported missing from Hanson Island, B.C., on April 29.

Police charged McPherson's husband, Traigo Ehkid Andretti, with second-degree murder. He remains in custody and is allegedly the link between the B.C. and Manitoba cases.

Sources told the Free Press Andretti, 37, and McPherson, 41, previously lived at the Lorne Avenue home before moving west five years ago. Family members of McPherson say she met Andretti through the Plenty Of Fish dating website shortly before leaving Manitoba.

The Free Press has learned Andretti had contact with Letandre while they were living in Winnipeg. One source described it as an informal relationship. RCMP said Friday they believe Letandre may have briefly lived at the same Lorne Avenue home, although they wouldn't disclose whether it was with Andretti.

Letandre's two cousins said Friday they didn't recognize Andretti's name.

Andretti has a form of autism and has been a cause of concern for police and justice officials after he failed to take prescribed medication. He has a criminal history in Manitoba and B.C., including a violent attack against McPherson in 2008 that netted him probation.

Police in B.C. confirmed this week Andretti and McPherson were living on Hanson Island as caretakers for the past five years of a remote fishing resort called the Pacific Outback Resort, which is where the slaying occurred.

Letandre was reported missing on Oct. 26, 2006, after last being seen near Memorial Boulevard. Loved ones believed at the time she might have gone to Alberta or British Columbia to visit friends. But it's likely she never made it out of the city.

Neighbours on Lorne Avenue reported hearing a jackhammer inside the home Wednesday. A source confirmed police dug into the home's foundation. They have also removed several boxes.

Hiebert wouldn't say Friday where Letandre's remains were found or when police believe she was killed.

Letandre was originally from the Fairford First Nation in the Interlake. Her cousin, Anderson, is a band councillor.

He said Letandre was a quiet, trusting woman who had suffered a serious accident as a child, which led to a permanent disability that required the use of a cane and leg braces.

Nepinak said both his organization and RCMP victim services have offered therapy and counselling to those effected by Letandre's death.

"I know the community is going to go through a difficult time," he said.

www.mikeoncrime.com


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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 A3

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