Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Missing teen slain

DNA tests identify body parts found in river

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POLICE yesterday put a face to a grisly murder mystery, crushing a family's hopes for a happy reunion with their missing teenage daughter.

DNA results of a severed arm and a leg found separately along the shore of the Red River in June confirmed a match with Felicia Solomon, 16, who disappeared from her inner-city home in March.

The teen, originally from Norway House, hadn't been seen since the evening of Monday, March 24.

Felicia, described in May by grandmother Darlene Osborne as "very friendly and full of energy," was last seen in the area of Sargent Avenue and Toronto Street.

Police hope identifying the victim at a news conference this morning will help their homicide probe by prompting people to come forward with information about Felicia.

When the limbs were initially found, police ruled out accidental causes such as dismemberment by a boat's propellor. Police believe both limbs were cut, perhaps by a hand saw or chain-saw. The arm was cut off just below the shoulder and the leg was cut above the knee joint and below the hip joint.

It's believed the body parts had been in the river for about a month, given the state of decomposition.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the homicide unit at 986-6508.

News of Felicia's death send shockwaves through her family and native community last night.

"We are aware of the news," said Norway House Chief Ron Evans. "We were hoping for a good result in this, so this is the last thing we wanted to hear. We had desperately hoped she would turn up in another city."

Police were still trying to notify all family members, including Felicia's mother, Matilda, who had made a tearful plea for her daughter's return earlier this year.

"Felicia, if you are listening... we miss you and are very worried about you. Please come home or phone home. We love you and we would like to know where you are," she had said, holding a picture of her daughter.

At her home last night, Matilda Solomon declined to comment.

Felicia, a student at R.B. Russell High School, had moved south to Winnipeg with her family six years ago.

Band councillor Mike Muswagon, who organized a press conference at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs headquarters in late May to publicize Felicia's disappearance, said the news hit hard.

'Tragic news'

"It completely shot through me. It's tragic news for everyone," he said. "I thought maybe she was just a kid who needed to run away for a while. Everyone was hoping she would turn up in Saskatchewan or B.C. and we could bring her home.

"I had a bad feeling when they found those body parts. I just hoped they weren't hers. I just hope they find whoever is responsible."

The case is unique in Manitoba as it's the first homicide investigation where the only evidence is unidentified human body parts found in the Red River.

The right arm, including the hand, was found during the second week in June by a passerby under the north end of the Disraeli Bridge.

A severed right femur or thigh bone was found less than a week later in the Red near the Alexander Docks.

At the time, the province's chief medical examiner, Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra had asked Winnipeggers to watch for more body parts that may have washed up along the banks of the Red, but none were found.

There had been suspicion that it was Felicia early on, but those fears were confirmed by the DNA results.

Identifying a killer now could prove extremely difficult, considering the time that has elapsed since Felicia went missing.

Although she went missing in late March, her disappearance wasn't reported to police until about two weeks later. In May, police asked for the public's assistance in locating her, and then the family went to the media on their own.

The day she went missing, Felicia saw a school counsellor in the morning and then went home for lunch, but wasn't in class in the afternoon.

Police have said she may have been involved with gang members.

-- With files from Mike McIntyre and Bruce Owen
jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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