Manitoba RCMP in Toronto area to investigate path of family found frozen near border
Mounties following up on tips, looking to confirm how Patel family got from Toronto to Manitoba: spokesperson
Manitoba RCMP investigators have travelled to Ontario as part of a probe into the journey of an Indian family who froze to death while trying to walk over the Canada-U.S. border.
Mounties are following up on about 12 tips about the family's movements in Canada they've received since asking for information last week about how the family got to the Manitoba field where their bodies were discovered.
Husband and wife Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel and Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel and their kids, 11-year-old Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel and three-year-old Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, were found just north of the U.S. border on Jan. 19.
Investigators working on the case are in the Toronto area, Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Julie Courchaine said in an email.
Police have said they believe the Ontario city was the family's first point of entry into Canada on Jan. 12.
But Mounties are still looking to confirm how the Patel family got from Toronto to the community of Emerson, Man., near the border around Jan. 18, Courchaine said. Anyone with information is still asked to call the RCMP major crime services tip line at 431-489-8551.
Tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 or submit a secure tip online at manitobacrimestoppers.com.
Because there was no abandoned vehicle discovered near the bodies, investigators believe someone drove the family to the area.
Mounties said they also believe the case involved human smuggling.
The identities of the four family members were officially confirmed by Manitoba RCMP and the High Commission of India in Ottawa last week.
Autopsies completed a day earlier confirmed the parents and their children died of exposure to extreme weather conditions, Mounties said.
Shortly before the family's bodies were discovered, U.S. officials had detained seven other Indian nationals on the other side of the border.
Two of them had been travelling in a van with Florida man Steve Shand, 47, who was charged with transporting or attempting to transport undocumented migrants.
The other five people were taken into custody near where Shand was arrested, a document filed in court that week said.
It's believed the group of seven Indian nationals and the Patels were all part of the same group, but that the family of four had gotten separated from the rest during the journey.
All seven of the surviving Indian nationals have since been released from U.S. Border Patrol custody and ordered to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, at a later date, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Kris Grogan said last week.
Shand was also released from custody on a number of conditions.
RCMP investigators on the case continue to work closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Courchaine said.
They're also meeting regularly with RCMP liaison officers in New Delhi, India and Washington, D.C. and are in contact with Indian consular officials.