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28 Missing People

RCMP and Winnipeg Police officials said they're working shoulder to shoulder on a project aimed at solving the cases of 28 missing people and homicides dating back to 1961.

Called Project Devote, the team is made of 18 police officers (10 from Winnipeg Police Service and eight RCMP), two RCMP civilian member analysts, three RCMP data entry personnel and one RCMP administrative support person.

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Project Devote will concentrate on the 28 investigations of unsolved homicides and missing persons where foul play is suspected, involving exploited or at-risk persons, said Hiebert during a press conference Friday morning.

No arrests have yet been made through the project, which began it's work last fall. Instead, members have focused on communicating with the families of the 28 victims, as well as the families of those murdered and missing who did not meet the criteria set out by Project Devote.

Those investigations are ongoing, said Hiebert.

The youngest victims to make Project Devote are Cheryl Duck and Susan Holens, who we're both 15.

There is one male victim on the list, 46-year-old William Weinbender.

Project Devote was created based on recommendations made by the Manitoba Integrated Task Force for Murdered and Missing Women. It was announced in May, 2011.

Gender and ethnicity we're not factors in determining the criteria for Project Devote, Cpl. Hiebert said.

It is determined by at-risk or high risk to be exploited or suffer physical abuse, said Hiebert referring to substance or alcohol abuse, transient lifestyles, frequent and regular hitchhiking, possible involvement in the sex trade and potential mental health issues.

The specific 28 that have been chosen in these circumstances are the ones that meet these risk factors that we have just identified.

Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the scope of Project Devote is limited and does not directly address the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.

It is our hope that these investigations will produce leads that will provide these families with much needed relief and closure, said Nepinak, who is calling for an inquiry, in a press release.

But until the Province of Manitoba recognizes the problem of missing and murdered people is worse and getting worse in the Indigenous community, Project Devote will remain limited in scope and outcome.

The Assembly also believes there should be more representation of aboriginal groups on the steering committee of Project Devote, and questioned the Manitoba government when it came to funding the Project saying no new money has been directed towards it.

Project Devote needs to engage First Nations, added Nepinak.

Patrol Sgt. Monica Stothers said Project Devote has identified and recorded more than 27,000 pieces of information, including peoples names, addresses, phone numbers and vehicle descriptors.

Comparison and analysis of investigational entities, DNA analysis, behavioural markers and investigational review findings we're then conducted to determine if linkages exist, said Stothers.

Hiebert said that up until this point in the investigation, there is no physical evidence that would link one person to more than one of these crimes.

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Posted in Law Post Date 07/23/2017


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