Home of Rinelle Harper, teen attacked in Winnipeg, burns down

The home of Rinelle Harper, a teen who was attacked in Winnipeg and left for dead last year, has burned down.

Neighbours told CBC News the house was locked and no one had been in it for months

Just a smoking pile of rubble remained of the Harper home after the fire. (Courtesy Julie Harper)

The home of Rinelle Harper, a teen who was attacked in Winnipeg and left for dead last year, has burned down.

"Who would do this and why?" said an emotional Julie Harper, Rinelle's mom.

Fire chief Mark Barkman said the call came in at 5:18 a.m. on Monday from a band constable on Garden Hill First Nation, a remote fly-in community about 500 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Barkman said when he got there the house was engulfed in flames. It's located on top of a hill and it was windy that morning so the flames spread quickly, he said, adding the cause is under investigation.

​Neighbours told CBC News the house was locked and no one had been in it for months. The family has been living in Winnipeg since Rinelle's attack.

Julie Harper said the family was ready to go back to Garden Hill just before the fire broke out. Her husband was planning to going up this week and she and Rinelle were to follow next week.

"So now I don't really know yet when we will return," she said. "We just have to take it day by day all over again.

"I am feeling really emotional about it. This really took a toll on me — from what had happened before."

In addition to what happened to Rinelle, Harper is still coming to grips with the death of her mother. Maureen Claire Harper died in a rooming house fire in Winnipeg on July 16, 2011.

Maureen Harper was one of five who died in that blaze. Lulonda Flett pleaded guilty in the case in October 2012 and was sentenced to life in prison.

As for Rinelle, she was attending school in the city at the time of her attack.

Rinelle Harper nearly died after a vicious attack in Winnipeg, during which she ended up in the frigid waters of the Assiniboine River in November 2014.
She was living with relatives while going to Southeast Collegiate, a high school for aboriginal students that is owned and operated by nine northern Manitoba First Nations.

Police said she was out with friends in Winnipeg's South Broadway area on Nov. 7, 2014, when she became separated from the group.

Two males had struck up a conversation with her, and the three of them went for a walk, police said. When they were under the Midtown Bridge, on the Assiniboine River walking path, the pair allegedly attacked and sexually assaulted her.

Rinelle ended up in the river and managed to crawl out a little ways upstream from where the assault happened. But she was then attacked a second time, beaten with a weapon, and "left for dead," police said at the time.

Rinelle was found by a passerby on the path at 7 a.m. the next morning and rushed to hospital in critical condition.

She has since recovered and two males — a 20-year-old man and 17-year-old boy — have been charged with attempted murder.