Winnipeg police say the homicide unit is investigating Cooper Nemeth's disappearance, but it is still a missing-person case.

Nemeth, 17, was last seen in Winnipeg's Valley Gardens in the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 14.

"With the amount of information coming in, the resources of the homicide unit have been brought in to assist," said a news release issued by the Winnipeg Police Service late Friday.

On Friday, the investigation led police to a home in Winnipeg's East Kildonan on Treger Bay. There, investigators removed several items from inside the home, sealed in plastic evidence bags. They also towed a car from the back lane.


Laresa Sayles, Nemeth's aunt, is asking friends, family and community to avoid resorting to "rumours and speculation" after the homicide unit became involved in the investigation into Nemeth's disappearance. (CBC)

Laresa Sayles, Nemeth's aunt, sent out a text message addressed to "family, friends and community" on Saturday morning, reminding people that the homicide unit is helping with the investigation.

"Please don't let this resort to rumours and speculation," she wrote. 

"The homicide just has more resources, plain and simple."

Sayles said she and the rest of her family will not give up until the teen is found.

"Until it is absolutely confirmed: dead or alive, I'm going to keep this baby open and go in and begging people just to come and support, and keep going if you can, even if it's just for half an hour," she said.

'Please keep the momentum going'

An exhaustive search is sweeping Winnipeg and beyond, but it has left volunteers tired.

"I was at my wits end [on Friday]. By the end of the day I was so exhausted," said Sayles.

"And [Nemeth's mother] Gaylene grabbed me. She hadn't talked to me the whole day … she goes, 'Please, please keep the momentum going for the weekend. People have to get back to their lives. I don't know what else we can do here. Please get us an answer.' How do you say no to that?"

She is asking anyone who is able to search to show up to the Gateway Recreation Centre, even if for reasons aside from looking for Nemeth.

"I've hugged hundreds of strangers and they're the best hugs I've ever received," Sayles said.

"Come on down if you need a hug. Come on down if you need some coffee to warm up."

The search resumed at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and goes "all day/night," according to Sayles' text. Since then, 20 off-duty firefighters have arrived to help and equipment donations, including flashlights and warm gear, have come in from different businesses.

Winnipeg's North End, Point Douglas, West End, Sargent Avenue and Keewatin Street are the focus of Saturday's search.