The body discovered in a suspicious house fire in Fredericton over the weekend has been identified as a man from Ethiopia, who seemed to disappear about five years ago, according to a friend.
Jennifer Zilliac, of Oakland, Calif., says she was shocked and heartbroken to learn the body found in the attic of a house on Aberdeen Street on Sunday evening was that of Selamneh Techane.
Zilliac says she received a call from the New Brunswick coroner's office on Monday after identification was discovered on the body. Officials are still using DNA and medical records to confirm the identity, she said.
Fredericton Police Cpl. Sean Clark has said the body was unrelated to the fire and that foul play was not suspected in the person's death.
Zilliac had put up a Facebook site dedicated to finding Techane after he seemed to disappear five years ago. She says he was instrumental in helping her adopt a daughter from Ethiopia in 2005.
'He was loved by so many'
"He was a taxi driver in [Ethiopia's capital city] Addis Ababa and he was connected with people who were adopting children from Ethiopia and connected to everybody," she told CBC News in a telephone interview from her home in Oakland.
"I don't know if you've ever gone to a foreign country and not spoken the language and not known the culture and needed to rely on somebody to help you with that. Selamneh was that person for me and for a lot of people."
Zilliac says Techane would translate for people and help them find family members in Ethiopia. She spent two months with him as he took her from home to home and to the embassy, helping pave the way for the adoption of her daughter.
"I wasn't sure when I was going to get back with my daughter. It just looked like it was going to go on for months. And then he helped [me] go through a process that involved persuading people to help me out and then we got home for Christmas Eve in 2005 with our daughter and that meant so much to me."
Zilliac says Techane wanted to immigrate to the United States or Canada. She tried to help him, but he didn't get accepted into the United States.
That's when they lost touch, but she heard he was somewhere in Canada.
So she started a Facebook page dedicated to finding him "so friends of Selamneh could call me and if anybody knew where he was, they could communicate that way."
Her first call came at 2:40 a.m. on Monday from New Brunswick, informing her that his body had been found.
Officials asked for her help in locating next of kin, she said.
Zilliac says one parent, Melissa Fay Greene, paid tribute to Selmaneh in the book: "There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children"
She says the news will be devastating to Greene and many other parents who benefited from his kindness.
"We have been looking for Selamneh for years. He was loved by so many."