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Rocelyn Gabriel, 20, was found near death at a Portage la Prairie, Man., recycling depot around 9 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2014. The last time anyone recalled seeing her alive was around 4 a.m. at a nearby gathering.
Portage la Prairie RCMP eventually ruled out foul play in her death but say the case is still active.
Joyce Gabriel strongly believes her daughter was dropped off at the depot by a car or a taxi, as there was a raging blizzard that night and it doesn’t make sense that she would walk out into the storm alone.
She says she felt police determined no foul play too quickly and failed to gather key evidence until the family urged them to do so.
“We had to lead the investigation,” she said. “We had to ask them to get the surveillance of all the other businesses — they didn’t. We had to tell them to get the camera video at the recycling place.”
The last time Joyce saw her daughter was Jan. 25, 2014, in the kitchen of her Portage la Prairie home.
Joyce was headed to Winnipeg that afternoon to pick up groceries, and Rocelyn had given her a short list that included water and name-brand salad croutons. She hugged her mom and told her she loved her.
Rocelyn and two family members were celebrating a cousin’s birthday that night at a house near her home. They had taken a number of taxis; they didn’t walk anywhere because of the blizzard that night.
Surveillance video shows Rocelyn at the recycling depot at about 4:40 a.m., dressed only in a couple of sweaters. She appears to be jumping up and down, trying to flag down cars.
The next morning, a man whose identity is not known to the family found Rocelyn near death outside the depot. RCMP called Joyce in WInnipeg — about an hour away — and she raced to the hospital, even though the highway was closed.
Rocelyn passed away that afternoon. Her official cause of death was listed as hypothermia.
Joyce Gabriel said she just can’t figure out why her daughter would try to walk home in a storm, from a house at least a 30-minute walk away. Homes of several other family members line the route she would have taken to get to the recycling depot and she could have found shelter at any point, she said.
Joyce still doesn't know where her daughter's winter coat went.
This Skownan First Nation woman wanted to be a nurse. She grew up in Portage la Prairie, was close to her family and was looking forward to starting university.
Joyce said Rocelyn was a bit shy when she first met someone.
"If you didn't know her and you sat down with her, you would probably fall in love with her right away," said Joyce. "Once you got to know her, she'd be talking to you as if you were her own sister."
Now Joyce is waiting for answers about her daughter's death.
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.