Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Landfill search yields no trace of slaying victim

Police seek tips to find Nepinak's remains

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A Winnipeg police team spent seven days searching at the Brady Road Landfill but found no trace of the remains of slaying victim Tanya Nepinak.

Officers worked through the Thanksgiving long weekend before ending the search Tuesday afternoon.

"This is a very complex investigation and we were faced with a very complex search," WPS spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said Thursday. "Unfortunately, the results of that search are not what we all hoped."

Nepinak, 31, was last seen Sept. 13, 2011. At the end June, police charged Shawn Cameron Lamb, 52, with Nepinak's death and that of two other women who went missing but whose bodies were subsequently found.

Sources have told the Free Press Lamb confessed to killing all three women.

He is alleged to have disposed of their bodies in the same fashion -- by wrapping them in plastic and placing them in or near a Dumpster in the city's West End.

The bodies of Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith were found at Dumpsters but it's believed Nepinak's body was taken to the landfill by a private waste-hauler truck.

Police originally believed they would be able to pinpoint where Nepinak's remains were placed at the landfill.

However, by mid-September, investigators realized their initial information was vague and possibly incorrect. While they still believed Nepinak's remains would be in the landfill, the site was too large for a meaningful search.

Police agreed to conduct a scaled-down search, however, based on the advice of aboriginal elders who said they had a sense of where her remains could be found following a spiritual ceremony.

That site was far off the original location and police said the chances were extremely unlikely the remains could be found but they would search the site out of respect for the family and the aboriginal community.

"We were open and upfront from the get-go that the chances were incredibly slim but despite that, when we receive this type of information, we have to be open-minded," Michalyshen said.

The search began Oct. 3, with a team of six forensic identification officers working 10-hour days. Using rakes, the officers clawed through debris pulled out of the ground by a backhoe.

A safety officer was on-site to monitor for potential hazards. Two supervisors, who designed the search, were also on-site. The original plan was to stay for three to five days.

"There was nothing, really nothing fancy about what we were doing," Michalyshen said of the search technique.

Weather conditions were less than ideal, with blowing snow, rain and hail, but Michalyshen said while that made the work uncomfortable, it was not a factor in not locating Nepinak's remains.

Michalyshen said while the landfill search is over, police remain open to any tips that could pinpoint the location of Nepinak's remains, adding officers could return to the landfill if future information is considered credible.

Michalyshen said he could not provide a cost estimate for the search at this time, adding none of the officers involved worked overtime. They would have been paid their salaries regardless. Additional costs were incurred for the use of equipment.

The landfill has been searched for human remains once before but this was the first time police looked for a body believed to have been buried for several months.

Michalyshen said investigators learned a great deal about searching a landfill that will prove valuable if the need arises again.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2012 B4

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