The RCMP in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., are investigating a suspicious death in the community.

Melissa Payne, 23, went missing Sunday evening. Her body was found Wednesday at about 2 p.m. in a wooded area just outside the community.


Melissa Payne, 23, of Fort Resolution went missing Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Raymond Beaulieu)

Police say the circumstances surrounding her death are suspicious. The RCMP’s major crimes unit, detachments in Hay River, Fort Resolution and Fort Smith, are investigating, along with the territory’s coroner’s office.

Payne grew up in Trout Lake, N.W.T. A spokesperson for her family said they are travelling to the community this morning.

Family upset at police response

Payne's family told CBC News they are unhappy with how police responded to the case. They say community members had to initiate their own ground search for Payne.

"They [the RCMP] should have just said 'ok rangers, go out and look for her'. They didn’t. They waited and waited and waited until we took it upon ourselves to go there after lunch yesterday. The rangers – they helped volunteering because they couldn’t wait any longer. They couldn’t wait. We’re community people. We’re family," said Rosie Bjornson, who is a spokesperson for the community.

Payne's partner, Raymond Beaulieu, was the one who found her body.

Brad Kaeding from the RCMP said the officers in Fort Resolution did a ‘substantive’ number of interviews with people in the community during their investigation to try to find out Payne’s whereabouts.

He said they got conflicting information – some people said she went south to Edmonton, others said she went north to Yellowknife. And still others said they had seen Payne in the community after she had been reported missing.

"In a case like that it’s difficult where you don’t have a starting point in order to do a search. You really do need a place to start with or a good reason to think that a search would be effective . To run around a community or neighbourhood as large as Fort Resolution, to look around, is to a large extent going to be an exercise in futility in many cases," said Kaeding.

Bjornson said trauma counsellors will be available for community members.