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Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace was just 14 years old when she was found dead in a wooded area on April 17, 2016, just days after she was last seen walking away from the hospital in Kenora, Ont., where she had been dropped off by provincial police.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) won’t say why they had contact with the teen on the night of April 15, nor will they comment on the nature of a police officer’s altercation with Ackabee-Kokopenace — one that was caught on video — just weeks earlier, on March 26.
The OPP say they will not comment on the case.
A coroner’s report on the cause of Ackabee-Kokopenace’s death is not yet complete, but her father, Marlin Kokopenace, said he was told that she died by suicide.
Kokopenace said there are still too many unanswered questions about his daughter’s final hours for any conclusions to be drawn.
“Why couldn’t they find her?” he asked.
Ackabee-Kokopenace left the hospital at 11:20 p.m., walking toward a nearby wooded area, according to police. It’s the same area where her body was discovered two days later.
Kokopenace said after his daughter’s body was found, searchers remembered seeing a Jeep parked near the area, but no one knows to whom it belongs.
“We still don’t have her toxicology [test results],” Kokopenace said. “If someone gave her something [drugs or alcohol], we want to know if they could be charged.”
There’s also the question of why a girl, who had only just turned 14 in March, was allowed to walk away from the hospital in the first place.
“If she was suicidal already, they should have taken anything from her” that could have been used for suicide, Kokopenace said.
Darryl Contois of the First Nations search group the Bear Clan, which found Ackabee-Kokopenace’s body, told CBC News it appeared that she died by suicide.
The Lake of the Woods District Hospital did not respond to calls from CBC News about Ackabee-Kokopenace’s case.
The teen was in the care of a child welfare agency at the time of her death. The executive director of Anishinaabe Abanooji Child and Family Services said, for privacy reasons, she could not confirm if Ackabee-Kokopenace was a client.
But Kokopenace said that’s where his daughter “put herself in care” because “she said she needed help getting treatment, and I was all for that.”
Ackabee-Kokopenace had dropped out of school at Grassy Narrows after being bullied, according to her father.
“I told her, ‘You can’t sit around and do nothing,’” he said.
Friends and family said Ackabee-Kokopenace had demonstrated suicidal behaviour following the 2014 death of her brother, Calvin Kokopenace. He had died from complications of muscular dystrophy and mercury poisoning that is endemic in Grassy Narrows.
Kokopenace said Azraya was present at the hospital when her brother died. It’s the same hospital that she walked away from in the hours before her death.
“Maybe she didn’t want to be there,” he said, guessing at the reasons she may have left.
Ontario’s paediatric death review committee is looking into the child welfare agency’s involvement with Ackabee-Kokopenace, which is standard procedure, according to the regional supervising coroner.
That review could also delay the release of the coroner’s report, he said.
"I just want to know the whole story," Kokopenace said. "It's pretty devastating. We're still grieving."
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.