Family of 2019 homicide victim push for public info
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The family of an 18-year-old woman whose death in The Pas three years ago has been declared a homicide is relieved it may soon have some answers.
On Tuesday, RCMP issued a new appeal for tips in their investigation into the death of Kendara Ballantyne after major crimes investigators determined the death was a criminal act.
The woman’s body was found on Aug. 6, 2019, near the University College of the North campus 11 days after she had been reported missing. She had last been seen July 18 in the northern Manitoba town.
Her older sister, 24-year-old Gloria Ballantyne-Packo, said the family has always suspected foul play.
“Ever since she went missing, we knew that this wasn’t some sort of accident. She always checked in, she always came to family events, she loved being around everyone,” said Ballantyne-Packo.
“She was a very integral part of our family… so we knew from the start that this was no accident. So the fact that it’s finally being ruled a homicide, we feel like we’re just that much closer to getting justice for her.”
Ballantyne was a happy young woman who was full of life, said her aunt, Lorraine Packo.
“She had dreams. She wanted to travel, she wanted to be independent, she wanted to go back to school and watch her nieces and nephews grow up, and one day have kids of her own,” she said.
Ballantyne was born in Winnipeg, but spent much of her life in The Pas after her mother died of an illness, Packo said.
Ballantyne had recently moved out of another aunt’s home to stay with friends while she finished high school and worked, Packo said.
The family grew worried when she fell out of contact, filing a missing persons report with the local RCMP detachment and printing posters seeking information about her disappearance.
Family and Opaskwayak Cree Nation Bear Clan volunteer patrol members began to search in The Pas. One day in August 2019, they found Ballantyne’s treaty card behind a convenience store near the college campus.
A search up a nearby trail located a body, Packo said.
“It took three weeks to identify her, and it seemed like the investigation started to intensify,” said Packo.
Packo would not reveal details of the investigation Thursday, nor would RCMP, to protect its integrity.
“The investigation in its totality up to this point has contributed to investigators determining Kendara’s death was a homicide. This is an ongoing investigation, and we will not jeopardize the investigation by getting into details at this time,” said Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel.
Ballantyne-Packo said she’s glad the family has had community support and communication with police investigators, as not every Indigenous family is treated the same way.
“Not everyone has it looked at for so long, and so many people are forgotten,” she said.
“We’ve known from the beginning that someone took her from us, and someone ended her life far sooner than it was supposed to, and we’ll never stop fighting for justice for her and we’ll never stop being her voice and advocating for (missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people) as a whole.”
Family members urged anyone with information about the slaying or Ballantyne’s activities prior to her death to contact RCMP at 431-489-8106.
“We’ve always said that people know what happened to Kendara,” said Packo, adding she’s been frustrated by those who’ve spoken to the family but not police.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.