Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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When Justine Cochrane was an infant, she was taken into child and family services care.

By three, she was a permanent ward of the system, and by six, she had been sexually assaulted.

Justine was from Sunchild First Nation — a Cree community in Alberta — where her mother was allegedly murdered in May 1997.

Following the loss, Justine spent time with her aunties.

“She was a very happy little girl. She used to like to do crafts and to powwow,” said Grace Gopher, Justine’s grandmother.

“She liked the culture.”

Gopher can vividly recall seeing Justine’s body at the funeral home, with her hair messy and bruises all over her body.

“She looked like she had been beaten up,” Gopher said from her home in Wildwood, Alta.

“It looked like she was kicked everywhere.”

According to media reports, the 15-year-old was raped, beaten and left half-naked on a road on the Sunchild First Nation.

The RCMP believe the person responsible for her death died by suicide, but Justine’s case remains open.

“I was left in the dark for over a year until I started calling around and talking to the investigators,” Gopher said.

“I told them that I was the grandma and that I had every right to know what’s going on in the case.”

Only then did police start to contact Gopher, and she said the last time she spoke to authorities about the case was around 2014.

Because Justine died while in government care, a fatality inquiry was held in February 2015. A report with the findings was released one month later, stating there was nothing her caregiver could have done to prevent her death.

If the investigation could be done all over again, Gopher said she would have liked to have seen police contact family members about the case from the very beginning — not only to inform them of her death, but to interview the people that were there the night her granddaughter was murdered.

“So many things happening to me and my kids and grandkids, and it’s so rough to me,” said Gopher, crying.

Before her death, Justine told her grandmother she really wanted to meet her father, so Gopher tracked him down and Justine got to spend winter months with him.

“She had a great visit,” Gopher said

Justine’s death is all too similar to the death of her mother, Trudy Gopher.

Trudy was killed on the Mother’s Day weekend in 1997, also on the Sunchild First Nation.

According to Grace Gopher, Trudy was beaten and found with bruises all over her body, hanging from a tree by her own jacket.

Trudy’s death was ruled as a suicide by police, but Gopher firmly believes her daughter did not kill herself.

No one was charged in Trudy’s death.

Do you have more information on any of these cases?

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Contact us by email at mmiw@cbc.ca or anonymously via SecureDrop.

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.