Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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The last time Tanya Nepinak was seen, she had $5 in her hand and planned to walk to a pizza restaurant a few blocks away.

It was 11 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2011, and the 31­-year-­old told her mom exactly where she was going before leaving her Sherbrook Street home in Winnipeg.

The next morning, her aunt, Sue Caribou got a worried phone call.

“My sister called me and said, ‘Tanya didn’t come home,’ and I said, ‘Not like Tanya. She always comes home,’” said Caribou.

“I asked her, ‘Did you call the police?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, but they told me to wait 24 hours.’”

Caribou didn’t want to wait. She knew something was wrong.

“I told my sister, ‘Find a picture of Tanya. The biggest picture you can find.’ I phoned the media,” she said.

Local TV stations turned up with cameras and by the next day police were at Tanya’s home to interview her mom.

“I told my sister, ‘Go ahead and you talk to the police, and I’ll do the search,’” said Caribou.

She’d been through several other family members being murdered or going missing since she was a child.

“I went to search and put posters out.”

Four years later, the family is still searching for Nepinak.
There have been some developments. In June 2012, Winnipeg police charged Shawn Cameron Lamb with second-­degree murder in connection with her disappearance.

Lamb was also charged with second-­degree murder in the deaths of Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith.

Nepinak’s body has never been found, but Winnipeg police have said they believe she is dead.

They also said they believed her body was dumped in a garbage bin and taken to Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill.

Officers searched downtown Winnipeg and the city’s West End and announced plans to search a small portion of the landfill.

Nepinak’s body was not found in any of those searches.

In November 2013, Lamb was convicted of two lesser charges in Blacksmith’s and Sinclair’s deaths.

The charge in Nepinak’s death was stayed. Manitoba Justice officials said there was not enough evidence for a conviction.

“He admitted to it, but now he’s denying it. It’s very hard to get any justice, especially when you don’t have a body,” said Caribou.

“It’s hard to remember the good times without crying. I miss her. I promise not to give up on her.”

Tanya’s case will remain open, according to investigators.

“While the charges relative to Shawn Lamb were stayed, the investigation itself will remain open, as a potential for further information exists that would bring further closure to the file,” said a statement from Winnipeg police

In the meantime, Nepinak’s family is struggling to find closure.

“My sister, her mom, is having a very hard time dealing with it because there’s no closure,” Caribou said.
“Her dad passed away ... When her dad was sick in the hospital, he told me, ‘Don’t forget about my daughter. Continue searching for her.’”

So that’s what Caribou is trying to do.

“For the last three years we’ve been searching for her on our own without anybody,” she said.

“I’m not giving up. I love her.”

Caribou’s strongest memories of her niece are of singing together —­­ and that Tanya used to always want to look like her aunt.

“When she was just a little girl and she seen me getting ready to go out she would say, ‘One day I’ll look like you, auntie. I’m going to look like you,’” said Caribou.

Tanya’s sister, Gail Nepinak, has repeatedly called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

In December 2013 she travelled to Ottawa to speak before a special committee on missing and murdered indigenous women.

Do you have more information on any of these cases?

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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.