The man charged with first degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Elmira woman Erin Howlett has been identified as Michael Ball, 22, of Kitchener. 

Ball has also been charged with committing an indignity to a body and appeared in Waterloo Region court Thursday afternoon. He faces an additional 34 unrelated charges, including drug and weapon-related offences. He will be held in custody until a bail hearing next Tuesday. 

"Investigators are able to confirm that the accused and the victim were acquaintances," Waterloo Regional Police said in a news release.

Dane Howlett, Erin's brother, told CBC News that he had never seen his sister's alleged killer since her death in July. 

"Little bit of anger, little bit of despair at the same time because it just makes it that much more real," he said. 

Howlett added that he is not entirely sure how his sister and Ball knew each other.

"I knew they were acquaintances, maybe even friends at one point, but that's all I know."  

'A fun guy to have a couple beers with.'- Chris McInnis, friend of Michael Ball

Erin Howlett's body was found in the Grand River near Riverbend Drive in Kitchener in July.

Police deemed the death as suspicious in the summer and upgraded the investigation to a homicide last week.

Police are not revealing how Howlett died in order to protect the investigation and court proceedings.

The day police identified Howlett as the woman whose body was discovered in the Grand River, Ball wrote a message of condolence on Facebook, tagging the slain woman.

Erin Howlett

The body of Erin Howlett, 28, was found in the Grand River on July 5. (Waterloo Regional Police)

Howlett and Ball were connected as friends on Facebook.

Described as a 'happy guy'

Chris McInnis, 23, attended St. Mary's High School in Kitchener with Ball and knew him for seven years.

"He was a happy guy. A fun guy to have a couple beers with," McInnis said. "I'm very surprised."

McInnis knew Ball was under investigation by police in relation to Howlett's death.

"He seemed scared and shaken up and seemed more worried about being mistakenly charged," he said.

He said he didn't know Howlett, but knew she and Ball were dating.

Ball wrote this message of condolence on his Facebook page on the day police named Erin Howlett as the deceased person who was found in the Grand River in July.

Michael Ball facebook post offering condolence to Howlett family