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Della Ootoova, 46, was pronounced dead in hospital on June 7, 2008, after police were called to a residence in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where officers found her lying on the floor.
Ootoova’s spouse, Amos Ootoova, was originally charged with murder, but the charges were stayed the same day, according to media reports at the time.
The initial toxicology report indicated that Della Ootoova had consumed a lethal amount of alcohol, but the family disagreed with that conclusion.
“I told them about how the husband was toward her,” said Lena Nashook, Della’s younger sister. “He had criminal records. There was proof there.”
A final coroner’s report came out a year later. It showed significantly less ethanol in her blood than the original report and blunt force injuries to Ootoova’s torso, face, back, arms and legs, as well as bite marks on her arms. The original report found 349 mg/100 ml alcohol levels while subsequent reports were 225 and 255 — not lethal concentrations.
The report stated that Della also had an undiagnosed heart condition called atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, in which a small amount of plaque was limiting blood flow through one of the arteries in her heart. The report stated that “strenuous activity or stress (physiological or emotional) can predispose such an individual to sudden cardiac death. Blunt force injuries, while not themselves fatal, can represent such a stressor.”
By the time the coroner’s report came out in 2009, the charges against Amos Ootoova could not be reinstated, as he was no longer alive.
That same year, four months before Della’s coroner’s report was released, Amos was found dead. His then-common law spouse was charged with manslaughter after an RCMP investigation into his death. Those charges were stayed.
“They couldn’t do anything,” said Nashook. “It took us one year to get the autopsy report — that’s what pisses me off. Why did it take so long?”
The 13-page document outlines in detail each of Della Ootoova's physical injuries at the time of her death. Nashook keeps the report because it’s the “only proof to the other side of the family — the husband’s side of the family.”
“She died of a heart attack because she was scared,” said Nashook. “She wasn’t supposed to die.”
CBC News contacted RCMP in Iqaluit and they said they have no records of Ootoova’s case. The coroner did not respond to numerous requests.
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.