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Search for body at dump cut back

Nepinak may be buried in numerous locations

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Several new possible locations where Tanya Jane Nepinak's remains could be buried at the Brady Road Landfill have wrecked any chance for a successful search.

Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill said recent information indicates it's possible Nepinak's remains could have ended up buried in three or more locations throughout the massive landfill site, instead of just one.

He said with so many possibilities, it's now impossible to conduct a meaningful search with any expectation of success.

"Now we have no specific point to start," McCaskill told reporters Wednesday during a news briefing. "It's not what we want to say."

It was two months ago when McCaskill stunned the community with news that police believed Nepinak, 31, was slain on Sept. 13, 2011 and her body placed in a Dumpster, which was later emptied at the landfill. While searches of landfills for human remains have only a slight chance of success, McCaskill said they would proceed and were finalizing the details.

But between Aug. 8 and Sept. 19, police learned the GPS data from the waste truck that transported the Dumpster believed to contain Nepinak's remains was routinely expunged in January, robbing police of the exact location at the landfill where the body was placed.

Then doubts arose about the date when the waste truck picked up the Dumpster containing her remains. If the Dumpster was picked up Sept. 17, the body would be likely buried in the original location police suspected. But it's possible the pickup wasn't made until the following week, and the remains would have been placed in a completely different area.

It's also possible the driver of the waste truck did not empty his load into the designated zone for commercial waste but into the zone for residential waste -- a much larger area also far from the original suspected site.

"We're told that there's almost a half a million tonnes of refuse (that) goes there yearly, and so you start looking at the magnitude of what there is... and now we have no specific point to start, and that's the difficulty with this whole thing," said McCaskill.

He said police will search one small area of the landfill native elders have identified as the likely location of her remains, adding, however, the search is being done out of respect to the aboriginal community and the Nepinak family. There are no expectations.

"Certainly, we want to do as much as we can for the family," McCaskill said.

That search will begin Oct. 2 with a handful of officers from the WPS identification unit and is expected to last a few days.

Nepinak is believed to be one of three women allegedly slain by a drifter, Shawn Cameron Lamb, 52, between September 2011 and January 2012. The bodies of the other two women, Carolyn Marie Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith were found in or near Dumpsters in the city's West End.

Sources told the Free Press Lamb confessed to killing all three women and it was his information that led police to conclude Nepinak's remains are at the landfill.


Spiritual ceremonies

pointed to lone site

AT dusk for five days under late-summer skies, Gail Nepinak and members of her family made their way to the Brady Road Landfill on a sacred mission.

On Wednesday, just hours after Winnipeg police confirmed they would focus the search for her sister Tanya's remains in one small area of the dump, Gail revealed the reason for the repeated trips to the nightmare setting.

"It's good news," Gail Nepinak said, explaining it was the family who persuaded the police to concentrate on the location announced for the excavation.

The bungalow-sized plot is based on findings drawn from a series of private Anishinaabe ceremonies that took the family to the dump those five days in a row, six weeks ago.

"They're going to search the exact area where the ceremonies were taking place. That's where we told them to look... we did what we could to narrow down the search area," Gail said.

The family is still reluctant to describe the rituals conducted in August. "This is really sacred. I'll get in trouble if I say too much," said Gail, but added some details can be shared.

The Nepinaks met four different elders and greeted three separate groups of traditional singers over the five days of ceremonies. Each evening, the ceremony began in a circle as the sun began to set. They arrived at 5 p.m. and left about 9 p.m.

In the four hours there, each relative prepared by breathing in the smoke of sage and scent of burning sweetgrass, sacred to aboriginals across North America. Each evening, they listened as singers sent their voices to the skies. And they drew tobacco smoke through a wooden stem from a stone pipe bowl to symbolize their faith in solemn prayer.

Perhaps most amazing was the outcome of the ceremonies. Each evening a different elder delivered the same startling message: one single location to look for Tanya's remains.


-- Alexandra Paul

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 20, 2012 A7

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