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This article was published 12/11/2014 (2208 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A responsive public, help from surveillance cameras and co-operation from the victim's family were key factors in helping police identify two suspects in the attack on a 16-year-old girl severely beaten and tossed into the Assiniboine River.

Winnipeg Police Service Supt. Danny Smyth said Wednesday he credits the numerous tips received from Winnipeggers -- sparked after police secured rare permission from Rinelle Harper's family to release her name to the public -- as being partly responsible for the arrests of two male suspects three days after she was found unconscious by the river.

"The Harper family have been tremendous to deal with," Smyth said. "I really want to thank them for trusting us enough to allow us to identify Rinelle in this matter. They showed tremendous courage."

He noted the two suspects have also been charged after another woman was assaulted with a weapon and sexually assaulted about two hours after Rinelle was left at the side of the river. Smyth heaped praise on an unnamed Winnipeg police officer who provided homicide detectives with information that linked the pair with both crimes.

"Without that, I don't know if we would have solved this as quickly as we did," he said.

'The Harper family have been tremendous to deal with. I really want to thank them for trusting us enough to allow us to identify Rinelle in this matter. They showed tremendous courage'‐ Winnipeg police Supt. Danny Smyth

Smyth said two men were arrested and charged Tuesday in connection with the attack on Rinelle around midnight Saturday.

Justin James Hudson, 20, and a 17-year-old male have been charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon. Both have been remanded in custody.

Rinelle Harper, 16, was attacked Saturday under the Midtown Bridge.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Rinelle Harper, 16, was attacked Saturday under the Midtown Bridge.

Rinelle's parents, Ceasar and Julie Harper, are holding a news conference organized by the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) today at 11 a.m.

"Police told them when the arrests happened," said MKO Grand Chief David Harper, who is related to the teenager and has visited her a few times in hospital.

"It was a relief to them that somebody is behind bars for this brutal attack on their loved one... the family wanted to know if they were natives or not and they were told 'Yes.' "

Harper said he had hoped the news conference could be held Wednesday, but bad weather delayed the grandfather's flight from Red Sucker Lake, about 700 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Meanwhile, Southeast Collegiate, where Rinelle goes to school, said in a statement released Wednesday its staff and students were "trying to come to terms with this horrific assault on one of our own."

The school's administration said it had spent the past few days "comforting her classmates, as well as providing ongoing support to Rinelle and her family. In-house counselling support has been made available for staff and students. We are extremely thankful of the remarkable progress she has made since Saturday. We are wishing her a speedy recovery and hope she returns to school soon."

The school's administration asked for privacy for its staff and students, but indicated it would issue a further statement today.

Earlier, Smyth said surveillance cameras on buildings in the area of South Broadway also helped the investigation by allowing officers to see the direction Rinelle and the suspects went.

Justin James Hudson, 20, shown here in a Facebook photo, has been charged with attempted murder in the attack on Rinelle Harper.

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Justin James Hudson, 20, shown here in a Facebook photo, has been charged with attempted murder in the attack on Rinelle Harper.

Police said Rinelle, who is from God's Lake Narrows and was living with family in Winnipeg while she goes to school, was out with friends Friday night when she became separated from them.

Smyth said Rinelle was walking in the downtown area at about midnight when two men struck up a conversation with her.

They walked to the Assiniboine Riverwalk before the teen was attacked under the Midtown Bridge.

Smyth said Rinelle was left in the river and was swept downstream a short distance before escaping the frigid water. He said once she got out of the water, soaking wet and wearing "minimal clothing," she was attacked with a weapon. Court documents state the weapon was a baseball bat.

Smyth said Rinelle was "essentially left for dead" at the side of the river.

Rinelle was found unconscious about seven hours later by a passerby and rushed to hospital in critical condition. She is expected to recover.

Smyth said it is alleged the two suspects attacked another woman -- a 23-year-old -- around Sherbrook Street and Portage Avenue near the Sherbrook Pool at about 2:30 a.m. that morning.

He said the woman was also left unconscious after being sexually assaulted and assaulted with a weapon.

Smyth said there is no evidence linking Rinelle's assault with Tina Fontaine's slaying. Fontaine's body was pulled from the Red River on Aug. 17.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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