Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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She was found on the laminate floor of the bedroom in her apartment on Barton Street East in Hamilton, Ont.

She was naked except for a white tank top and blue sweatshirt, which were pulled up over her head.

The floor and walls were splattered with blood and dents, along with a blood-drenched letter.

She was supposed to go home on a Saturday. The last text her mother received was on Friday at 8 p.m.

She told her mom she was ready to be picked up so that she could go back to her home community, Six Nations near Brantford, Ont.

She had planned to spend the first night with her younger brother — her best friend, she called him — and watch movies.

But by 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 5, 2011, Tanya Marie Hill was dead. She was 27 years old.

The night before, Tanya was having drinks with her partner, a cousin and a friend.

It would not be until 5 a.m. that her cousin, Skyler, found Tanya in her bedroom after he said he woke up to the sound of the mail slot hitting the door.

Accidental death

According to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, Tanya Hill died of acute alcohol poisoning.

Her blood alcohol count was reportedly at .450 mg, a fatal level.

According to a coroner’s statement, there was “no indication of intent” in her death — that it was simply a case of too much alcohol intake with no other motive.

But the coroner's report also suggests that Hill's partner approached Hamilton police and was seemingly confessing to killing her.

The investigation then went to Major Crimes, according to the coroner’s investigation statement, noting the history of domestic violence in their relationship.

The statement’s summary said, “On the day of discovery, the decedent’s boyfriend apparently attended a police station and indicated, 'My girlfriend was killed last night.'"

Her death was eventually ruled accidental and not requiring further investigation.

The Hamilton Police Service confirmed they are not conducting a criminal investigation. It did not respond to questions about the partner’s alleged confession. The issues manager at the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario said she is unable to provide details of its investigation.

The post-mortem report describes minor bruising on Tanya’s scalp and knuckles, as well as bruising on her right and left abdomen — an injury that can be seen in the setting of blunt abdominal trauma. It goes on to say the hemorrhaging was minimal and did not contribute to Tanya’s death.

The documents repeatedly make mention of the numerous empty bottles of alcohol in Tanya’s apartment, and that there was no sign of a struggle.

It is also notes that Tanya had no other known medical history.

To ‘consider her dead’

Her mom, Rhonda Hill-Maracle, describes Tanya as the “most kindest, loving girl; she was your best friend.”

But underneath that smile was deep-seated pain. Her family said Tanya wore sweaters to cover up her bruises, or styled her hair a particular way to cover bald spots caused by her hair being pulled out.

At one point, the coroner’s report referenced a “closed head injury” from 2006 that the family attributes to domestic abuse. In fact, they said her driver’s licence was revoked because of the injury.

“I just talked with her three days before,” said Brandy Hill, a cousin, who remembers Tanya telling her before parting ways to “consider her dead.”

Hill-Maracle remembers getting the call saying Tanya had died.

“They [Hamilton Police Service] didn’t even contact me,” she said. Instead, it was her niece who broke the terrible news.

“You could see cops walking in and out of there,” Hill-Maracle said, recalling what she saw at her daughter’s apartment.

Brandy Hill remembers the scene clearly.

“There were 15 cops in there; none of them had gloves. They didn’t even act like it was a murder scene,” she said.

Hard to get answers, family says

Hill-Maracle remembers the police asking her how she found out about Tanya’s death.

The family said it was hard to get any answers, as they were quickly told to leave and to go down to the police station.

“We get down to the police station and they send this [woman] out, and this [woman] says, ‘Oh yeah, I’m sorry to tell you, your daughter’s gone,’” said Hill-Maracle. “That was it and she walked away.”

Hill-Maracle said that was just the beginning of what would become a downward spiral in the relationship between the family and the Hamilton Police Service and coroner’s office.

“What do you expect when you walk into a native’s apartment with alcohol and drugs all over?’” Hill-Maracle claimed the investigators said.

Next, the mom tried to obtain a copy of the police report. She claimed she was told she would have to pay a fee, which she did, but was ultimately never given the report because Tanya wasn't alive and was therefore unable to provide consent.

But the Hamilton Police Record Centre, which handles such requests, said family members can obtain police reports if they can produce a death certificate.

According to documents, the post-mortem was conducted one day after Tanya died. However, the family said they did not receive Tanya’s body until almost 10 days after her death. As well, her body came back with no clothes on.

Hill-Maracle said when funeral staff received Tanya’s body, a staff member said it  was the first time a body was received with no clothing.

“I don’t know why they didn’t investigate,” Hill-Maracle said of the Hamilton Police Service’s quick closing of Tanya’s case.

“To me, they just didn't want to do the paperwork.”

Despite numerous requests for comment about the family’s allegations, the Hamilton Police Service and the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario did not respond.

Confessions, blood and bruises

Five years later, the family strongly believes Tanya was beaten by someone who was there that night and left to die.

Her family believes that her partner had something to do with her death, relying on his alleged statement to police. It's not clear how thoroughly he was investigated by authorities.

The post-mortem report and the coroner’s investigation statement notes the partner’s alleged statement to police and the history of domestic violence in their relationship.

Hill’s family disagrees with the post-mortem report’s statement that there was no sign or evidence of a struggle.

The family gave CBC News several photos of Tanya’s apartment, taken after she died. Those photos show blood-stained walls and floors and dents in the wall. There was blood on a white cord on the floor.

Although official documents cite minimal bruising on her left and right abdomen, on her scalp and knuckles, the family shared several photos of Tanya's body with CBC News.

The photos show dried blood around her nose and mouth and several bruises on her face and hand. One bruise on the right side of her face is quite large, covering her cheek up to her nose. She also has one large bruise on her right abdomen with smaller bruises above it. As well, there is one dent on her forehead.

Resting in peace

When she was a child, Tanya Hill would go for walks with her mom or her cousins. They would walk along a nearby creek in the woods, known by many in the area simply as “the bush.”

It was a time Tanya treasured, but also a time she hated, her mom recalled with a laugh.

“She always thought someone was going to steal her from there,” said Hill-Maracle.

“[But] she always wanted to go.”

No one ever stole Tanya as a child, but her mom said her daughter’s life was certainly cut short as a young adult.

While she was alive, Tanya talked about helping other young girls leave abusive relationships, her mother said. It would be the last conversation the mother and daughter shared.

Today, the family remembers Tanya as someone who loved to cook and as someone who loved Tanya Tucker, whom she was named after.

Her mother said the chorus of Tanya Tucker's song Delta Dawn stays with her today:

Delta Dawn, what's that flower you have on
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was a-meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

Hill-Maracle said Tanya is now resting in peace behind the Onondaga Longhouse in the Six Nations community, far back in the bush.

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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.