Family buries woman who died near border

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She died of hypothermia walking through farm fields on foot — quietly determined to enter Canada to visit her daughter in Toronto, and meet her new grandbaby, Rebecca.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/07/2017 (1855 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

She died of hypothermia walking through farm fields on foot — quietly determined to enter Canada to visit her daughter in Toronto, and meet her new grandbaby, Rebecca.

A month after the Ghanaian woman’s body was found on May 26 in a ditch just south of the Canadian border, Mavis Otuteye’s remains were quietly buried in Hallock, Minn.

Her husband from Ghana and her daughter, Peace Lani Otuteye from Toronto, were at the June 28 graveside service, said Maggie Yeboah, president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba.

FACEBOOK Mavis Otuteye died of hypothermia trying to enter Canada on foot.

“The last time I spoke to (Peace) was when they were on their way to Minnesota to go bury her mom,” said Yeboah. The grieving daughter flew to Winnipeg, then drove to her mom’s burial in the United States, she said.

“Her dad got his visa to go to the funeral,” said Yeboah.

Mavis married Dick Otuteye in 1990 in Ghana, where he resided, according to her obituary in the Kittson County Register. It said she was 46 years old, not 57 as U.S. authorities reported.

It said she was from the greater Accra area in Ghana and studied dressmaking and fashion at trade school.

Mavis Otuteye lived in Delaware and Silver Springs, Md., and worked distributing health supplements and designing and sewing custom clothing for customers in Ghana, the obituary said.

She travelled to and from the U.S. with her fashion and design business, it said.

Otuteye was living in the U.S. for more than a decade, but it was not her official home, according to authorities. She was trying to enter Canada undetected because her temporary visa had expired in 2006, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have said.

After she was reported missing in May, U.S. Border Patrol officers searched the area in northwestern Minnesota between Noyes and St. Vincent. They found her body west of Highway 75 and less than a kilometre south of the Canadian border.

Her death was investigated by the Kittson County Sheriff in Hallock, Minn.

“The final autopsy report is complete with the cause of death — hypothermia,” said Chief Deputy Matthew Vig in Hallock.

Members of the Ghanaian community had expressed concern that the middle-aged woman with a bad back would knowingly and willingly agree to walk such a distance over uneven terrain. They wondered if the driver who left her to walk more than a kilometre through ditches, coulees and farm fields to Canada might have been partly responsible for her death.

“The case is still open for investigation, however the Kittson County Prosecutor’s present opinion is that there are no criminal charges under the provisions of Minnesota law that would be applicable to Otuteye’s death,” Vig said.

Plans for a memorial service for Otuteye’s friends and family in Maryland are in the works, said Winnipeg’s Yeboah.

Family members in the U.S. and Canada had initially hoped to raise enough money to have her body flown back to Ghana for burial, but the cost was prohibitive. Then they planned to raise money to have her remains buried in Maryland, which was too costly, as well.

In the end, Otuteye was laid to rest at Union Liberty Cemetery in Hallock — 31 kilometres south of where she died trying to get to the Canadian border.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

History

Updated on Friday, July 14, 2017 7:44 AM CDT: Thumbnail photo added.

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