Tina’s homicide closed
Major development needed to reopen case, police chief says
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/03/2018 (1922 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It will take strong new evidence to reopen Tina Fontaine’s homicide case, Police Chief Danny Smyth said Friday.
The case has not been relegated to the cold case files and it would take a major development for police to pursue it again, Smyth said.
Neither is the case being forwarded to Project Devote at this time. Project Devote is where a joint team of RCMP and Winnipeg Police officers investigate unsolved historical homicides and missing person cases.
“As of right now, there’s nothing going on as to the investigation,” he said. “In future, if some credible information came forward that required some additional investigation, we would look there.”
Smyth made his comments after speaking to the Winnipeg Police Board, which provides civilian governance and oversight of the Winnipeg Police Service.
An 11-person jury found Raymond Cormier, 56, not guilty of second-degree murder last week in 15-year-old Tina’s death in August 2014. The jury deliberated for 13 hours after a three-week trial, which drew international attention to the plight of the many missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada.
The Sagkeeng First Nation teen had been in the care of Child and Family Services and was last seen leaving a downtown Winnipeg hotel, where she had been placed in the care of a private agency contracted by the government.
Fontaine’s body was found in the Red River wrapped in a duvet cover weighed down by rocks.
“I’m disappointed with the verdict and hoped for a different outcome,” Smyth told the board.
He expressed his sympathies to the family and Sagkeeng First Nation.
“It’s heartbreaking for the family. I think they expected a different outcome. I’m sure our investigators expected a different outcome.”
The case has been criticized for not having enough evidence. Some experts say it had little chance of convicting the suspect.
Smyth said police realized the evidence was circumstantial.
“I think the evidence we gathered was reasonable to charge Ray Cormier. It just didn’t reach the standard for conviction,” he said.
“Frankly, we did our best on this one,” Smyth said. “Our homicide unit really worked hard to bring evidence against Ray Cormier.”
He denied feeling political heat to charge Cormier. “I didn’t feel political pressure at all. I think what we did was the right thing to do for a victim in our community.”
Smyth does not believe the case will damage the police’s reputation with Indigenous people.
“I think we established some pretty good working relationships in the (Indigenous) community and we will continue to do that.”
He said going to trial at least brought transparency to the case. “There was transparency in that for the community. The community got to see what we were dealing with, some of the circumstances, some of the evidence that was collected.”
He noted some good has already come from the case. The province no longer places children in care into hotel rooms like it did at the time of Tina Fontaine’s death.
“When Tina went missing, it wasn’t unusual for kids to be housed in hotels. That doesn’t happen anymore,” he said.
He expects more reforms will come. “A lot more talk, a lot more reform is required. In the end, that will be the legacy,” he said.
Manitoba’s children’s advocate is expected to complete a report by June into how child-welfare workers and others dealt with Fontaine.
Updated on Saturday, March 3, 2018 11:08 AM CST: Writethru