Marlene Bird

Assault victim Marlene Bird, 47, was discovered June 1 in Prince Albert, Sask.

A 29-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the disturbing assault of Marlene Bird, the 47-year-old homeless woman from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Police announced the arrest on Sunday, saying the man had been charged with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault. The suspect was arrested Saturday night while officers executed a search warrant at the accused's home.

On Monday police released the name of the man charged, Leslie Ivan Roderick Black, adding he is a resident of the city. Police also said the accused was a casual acquaintance of Bird's.

On June 1, Bird, who lived a transient life in Prince Albert was found in a shopping mall parking lot in the Saskatchewan city. She had suffered such severe burns that both her lower legs had to be amputated, and she was left with a large laceration that stretched across her entire face from the centre of her forehead down to her chin. 

The woman remains in hospital, in Edmonton, recovering from her injuries and is currently in stable condition.

Suspect was a person of interest

According to a statement from Prince Albert police, the investigation of the assault had recently identified the suspect as a person of interest in the case. They said that forensic evidence strengthened that view.

"The incident occurred during the early morning hours when she was left alone with the accused at the location where she was later discovered," the statement added. "As of today [Monday], we are not looking at any other suspects."

They said Bird was interviewed by police in Edmonton on June 21.

Police said the suspect will remain in custody until his first scheduled court appearance on July 2, at 9:30 a.m. at Prince Albert Provincial Court. 

Bird's condition improving

Lorna Thiessen, an aunt of Bird's, told CBC News Monday that family members were relieved with the news of an arrest.

She added that Bird faces a lifetime of difficulty as a result of the attack.

"She is doing very well," Thiessen quickly added. "She has been talking and eating and has been upbeat. She's so thankful that she's alive."

According to Thiessen, on the night prior to the attack Bird had left a bible service at an outreach place in Prince Albert and had decided to walk home because she did not have a ride or any money to get a taxi.

"She was walking over to an aunt's," she said. "She just didn't have a ride."