‘She didn’t deserve what happened to her’ Family seeking answers after Winnipeg mother killed; police believe slaying linked to string of inner-city assaults
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The family of a Winnipeg mother whose slaying is linked to three serious assaults in the same area is struggling to understand why anyone would hurt the “kind” and “caring” woman.
Danielle Dawn Ballantyne, 36, was found dead inside an apartment on the 100 block of Jarvis Avenue in Point Douglas around 7 a.m. Monday.
“She was a beautiful spirit, and she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” said her sister, Lorraine Ballantyne. “Losing her is very hard. She was the rock of our family.”
In the two-and-a-half hours before Ballantyne was discovered, three men in their 50s were found in separate locations after being assaulted. Two were in critical condition in hospital.
A Winnipeg police spokeswoman said the incidents are believed to be related. Detectives suspect more victims were assaulted, but have not come forward.
Police have increased patrols while the investigation continues.
No arrests have been announced.
“We understand all community members are shaken by these recent events of violence,” spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon wrote in an email.
Police declined to comment on a possible motive and the backgrounds of the victims, who are believed to be homeless or vulnerable in other ways.
Ballantyne’s four children are taking her death “really hard,” said her sister, noting the family is hoping to get answers from police and an autopsy.
“I just want to know what happened to my sister,” she said. “I’m just hoping to get justice.”
Ballantyne’s 19-year-old son, Nick, described his mother as someone who put other people first, no matter what she was dealing with.
“She would try to help anyone she could in any way possible,” he said. “She would feed people. If she found a place, she would let others stay with her, so they weren’t on the streets.”
“I just want to know what happened to my sister… I’m just hoping to get justice.” – Lorraine Ballantyne, victim’s sister
Originally from Misipawistik Cree Nation, about 415 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, Ballantyne had been through hard times, including drug addiction and living from place to place, said loved ones.
They said she made some positive steps before her death — the city’s 34th homicide of 2022.
“She was trying to do better for herself and her kids,” said Lorraine Ballantyne, 21. “She was on the streets, but she was trying to find the right path. The last time we talked, she was clean.”
Ballantyne, one of eight children, would occasionally stay overnight at her sister’s home. They would talk and catch up over a cup of coffee.
“She pretty much raised us all. She was like our second mom,” her sister said.
Ballantyne enjoyed listening to music and discovering interesting things such as statues, murals or graffiti while exploring Winnipeg, her son said.
The last time he saw her, she told him she was doing OK.
“She’s been trying to fix her life one step at a time,” he said.
Friend Lisa Howardson bumped into Ballantyne outside a Walmart at Empress Street and Sargent Avenue three weeks ago.
“She was doing very well and looked good, and then this (happens),” said Howardson. “It still blows my mind how anybody could do this to her.
“She would have nothing and still try to help somebody out. She was a positive person. It didn’t matter what hand was dealt to her, she took everything in stride.”
In the other incidents, a man was found with serious injuries in a parking lot on the 800 block of Main Street around 4:30 a.m. Monday.
About 30 minutes later, an injured man was discovered on the 600 block of Main Street.
Around 5:30 a.m., officers found a man with injuries while patrolling near Logan Avenue and the Disraeli Freeway.
The homicide unit is overseeing the investigation with help from major crimes detectives.
Public safety activist Sel Burrows, co-ordinator of the Point Powerline crime-prevention group in North Point Douglas, described the string of incidents as “unacceptable.”
“The viciousness, I’m told, has been really horrible,” he said.
Burrows said it appears most, if not all, of the victims were homeless or in precarious housing situations.
A witness to one of the attacks told him it appeared to be random.
Residents, said Burrows, are “terrified” by the assaults on vulnerable victims.
“You turn around and say, ‘What should we do about it?’” he said. “When somebody sets out on a rampage like they did the other night, I don’t have an answer for that.”
“When somebody sets out on a rampage like they did the other night, I don’t have an answer for that.” – Public safety activist Sel Burrows
In the interim, Burrows would like to see more links between neighbourhoods and police to increase the flow of information about criminal activity and weapons.
Neighbourhoods in the city’s core lack recreational facilities and programs for young people, he said, noting more intervention is needed for at-risk youth.
He said police officers have told him many of the people they arrest for violent crimes are on release conditions following previous arrests or convictions.
Burrows, who has been monitoring recent incidents involving guns or knives, said suspects are getting early bail or release “way more than before.”
“Police have noticed this,” he said.
In response to the incidents, Jason Whitford, president and CEO of the non-profit End Homelessness Winnipeg, said there is a “high level of concern” for the city’s homeless population.
Members who do neighbourhood walk-throughs or peacekeeping often find people who’ve been assaulted, he said.In response to the incidents, Jason Whitford, president and CEO of the non-profit End Homelessness Winnipeg, said there is a “high level of concern” for the city’s homeless population.
The group is releasing a census in October, but anecdotal evidence points to an increase in the number of homeless people in the city.
One of the challenges is a lack of movement along the housing spectrum due to a “drastic” shortage of transitional, supportive, long-term and affordable housing, said Whitford.
End Homelessness Winnipeg is working on strategies to improve the safety of people who are on the streets and struggling with things that make them more vulnerable, including addiction, mental health or a lack of supports.
“They don’t have the safety and security many of us take for granted,” said Whitford. “A life is a life. We need public sensitivity around this issue.”
Anyone with information about Ballantyne’s death or the assaults is asked to call police at 204-986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.