At 12:32 a.m. on Aug. 18, 2019, Miranda Belle, a young mother from Winnipeg, phoned an acquaintance.
When her friend answered, Belle said she was in distress and needed to be picked up from a home on the 1000 block of Dudley Avenue.
Her family and friends haven't heard from her since.
On Wednesday, Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Rob Carver said investigators believe Belle, 31, was the victim of foul play and that her body may have been dumped in a rural location outside the city.
"We’re not confident that we’re going to find Miranda alive. At this point — really I wish I could say something different — we’re really looking for closure for the family. We expect to find Miranda not alive," Carver told reporters, with members of Belle’s family huddled behind him.
"You need to understand that behind me are victims as well. These are members of Miranda’s family. We view them as victims just as any other victims of a crime."
Belle was last seen in the Grant Park area of Winnipeg, but police would not reveal what she was doing in the neighbourhood or what led her to place a distress call in the early morning hours.
Investigators believe they have a good sense of what happened to her, but have hit an impasse in the case, Carver said. As a result, police are asking for the public’s help so Belle’s whereabouts can be located.
Police are also asking the public for information on a grey 2012 Dodge Caravan they believe may have been involved in Belle’s disappearance.
"If we have a sense as to what happened, then we have a sense as to a suspect or suspects. We have a sense as to timelines. We have a sense as to events," Carver said.
"Investigators have a sense of what’s happened here, but we’re at the stages of an investigation where we’re not able to move forward with a conclusion."
When asked if police have taken anyone into custody during the course of the investigation, Carver said people with suspected involvement, or knowledge of Belle’s disappearance, have been interviewed, but he declined to elaborate further.
He also declined to say whether Belle was romantically involved with anyone at the time she went missing, but said investigators are aware of the people who made up her social circle.
At the press conference, Alexis Harvey, Belle’s sister, made an emotional plea for information that could lead to a break in the case, her voice cracking with pain as she said her family needs closure.
"We as a family are reaching out to the public for any information or assistance in finding my sister. There is suspicion her body has been placed in a remote area outside of Winnipeg. If anyone knows information regarding my sister’s disappearance, please contact Winnipeg police," Harvey said.
"We all, as a family, want to bring my sister home in the capacity that she comes home so we can properly lay my sister to rest and we as a family can get closure."
Police are asking residents and businesses in and around Winnipeg to search their properties, fields and outbuildings and to call investigators if they find anything suspicious. Carver stressed that something which may seem inconsequential could prove vital to the case.
The investigation is being handled by members of the WPS missing person unit and homicide unit.
At any point in time, there are between 90 to 120 active missing person cases in Winnipeg, Carver said. He declined comment when asked what led investigators to believe Belle was the victim of foul play.
Belle is described as a Métis woman, 5-foot-6 tall, 100 pounds, with medium length brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information related to the case is asked to call investigators at 204-986-6250.
If it is discovered that Belle was killed, her death would bring Winnipeg’s homicide total up to 31 in 2019.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 5:08 PM CDT: full write-thru with new info, quotes, new headline