Edmonton

Missing and murdered inquiry sparks Edmonton police review of unsolved homicides

The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has sparked a review of unsolved homicide and missing-person files in Edmonton.

In all, 190 unsolved homicides and 91 missing-person cases are being re-examined

Det. Ryan Tebb says improvements in technology are helping investigators as they search for evidence that could help solve old homicide cases. (CBC)

The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has sparked a review of unsolved homicide and missing-person files in Edmonton.

In all, 190 unsolved homicides and 91 missing-person cases dating back to 1938 are being re-examined to determine which ones involved Indigenous females.

The Edmonton police commission was told Thursday that investigators have so far have found 10 homicide files involving 11 Indigenous female victims, and 10 missing-person files involving Indigenous females.

Reviewing the cases means many of the victims' families are again hearing from police.

"In all cases on the missing person side, efforts were made to contact families," homicide Det. Ryan Tebb told commission members. "But strategically, on the homicide side, there were instances where we did not reach out to the families. But it was our goal, at some point during the process, that we will be engaging contact with the family in all those cases."

Improvements in technology have also prompted investigators to take another look at the evidence from old homicide cases.

"We work closely with the RCMP lab, discussing the potential for additional testing and re-testing of exhibits, just given the changes in technology that have taken place over the years," Tebb said.

Review led to charge in one case

The review has already yielded results.

"We've had one file that we were able to bring to resolution, where charges of second-degree murder were laid," said Tebb.

Staff Sgt. Bill Clark said each file involves a lot of work.

"These reviews are very extensive, they're not something that can be done in one day," said Clark. "Sometimes, these files can be binders and boxes of information, and every piece of paper has to be reviewed." 

Often the challenges investigators initially faced in the cases still exist upon review.

"The biggest obstacle is simply not enough evidence," said Clark. "We have witnesses who are reluctant. We know there are people that have witnessed a murder, they won't come forward or they won't tell us the whole story. They're scared for various reasons."

That lack of evidence is difficult for investigators and victims' families.

"It's frustrating, but it's part of our job," Clark said. "So, we have to work at other means trying to get that evidence. That, of course, doesn't satisfy the families of these people. They want results as much as we want to give it to them."

Information about cases that involve Indigenous females will be passed on to the inquiry.

Meanwhile, the chief commissioner of the inquiry, Marion Buller, said she has assembled a team of forensic investigators who are reviewing the activity of some Canadian police forces. It's not yet known if that review will involve cases investigated by Edmonton police.

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