Manitoba

Simone Sanderson's family has 'serious concerns' about police investigation

The grandmother of Simone Sanderson broke down in tears as she spoke about her disappointment with how police have handled the investigation into the young woman's death.

Simone was someone who wanted to bring hope to the homeless, says grandmother

Simone Sanderson's family has 'serious concerns' about police investigation

7 years ago
Duration 2:12
The grandmother of Simone Sanderson broke down in tears as she spoke about her disappointment with how police have handled the investigation into the young woman's death.
Simone Sanderson, 23, was last seen on Aug. 26. Her body was found in the city's North End on Sunday. (Winnipeg Police Service)
The grandmother of Simone Sanderson broke down in tears as she spoke about her disappointment with how police have handled the investigation into the young woman's death.

Betty-Ann Sanderson accused the police of using "false labels" in calling Simone a sex trade worker and of creating a negative image of her life in the media.

"Nobody should have to feel like I do now," she said, sobbing and urging police to improve how they deal with families of murdered and missing women.

"I am hurt because I was left out."

She said the family hasn't been consulted very much in the 3 ½ years since Simone's body was found covered in cardboard at the southwest corner of Burrows Avenue and Main Street on Sept. 2, 2012.

While the 23-year-old woman has been described as an addict and sex trade worker, Sanderson said Simone was actually someone who wanted to bring hope to the homeless and to spread the gospel of Christ to them. She said Simone had designed pamphlets with scripture to hand out.

"She was a loving person. She loved people."

RAW: Betty Ann Sanderson upset with the way Winnipeg police handled the investigation into her granddaughter's death

7 years ago
Duration 1:31
Simone Sanderson's family isn't happy with the way Winnipeg police handled the investigation into her death. Tuesday police announced they had arrested Kyllan Ellis in connection with her murder in 2012. Family members say they gave his name and other evidence to police last year.

On Tuesday, police  said Kyllan James Ellis, 28, of Lorette, Man., has been charged with second-degree murder. 

He was arrested Monday night and police obtained a DNA sample from him that is currently being analyzed and compared to DNA found during the investigation.

Deputy Chief Danny Smyth said investigators believe Simone, who died of blunt force trauma, was killed after an argument with Ellis became violent. He also said investigators believe the two didn't know each other prior to the encounter.

Simone's family members say they received a tip about Ellis last year and gave police his name, along with some other evidence, but never received any follow-up. Frustrated by that lack of communication, the family hired a private investigator to chase the case.

Since then, they say they have found evidence suggesting "apathy" on the part of police, indicating the case wasn't taken seriously enough.

Private investigator Janie Duncan says she has interviewed two people that saw Simone on the afternoon of Aug. 28, 2012, even though police said she was last seen alive on Aug. 26.

She also said police have not bothered to seize surveillance footage from a home where Simone was seen that day.

Duncan also said Simone told family she had been forced to become a police informant after crack cocaine was found in her apartment in spring 2012, which could suggest a motive for the slaying.

"We believe there is a cover up. We have serious concerns about the police investigation," she said.

Investigator Janie Duncan (left) and Betty Ann Sanderson speak to reporters on Wednesday, at the location where 23-year-old Simone Sanderson's body was found in the city's North End. (Jillian Taylor/CBC)
"What we are here to say is that the Winnipeg police investigation was seriously flawed and we will be continuing our investigation in hopes of finding the true killer."

However, Sanderson and other family members appeared to contradict that suggestion.

"[I am] trusting … that they in fact have been doing their job and that we'll be able to have some closure," added relative Nikita Campbell.

At the same time, Campbell and Sanderson say there are still answers they want and will keep forging ahead with Duncan.

"We don't think [Simone] was just picked up one day and beaten to death. We [believe] there was something that led to that and that's what we want to know — those facts, those details," Campbell said.

"We just want to make sure that all of the evidence they have on their end is leading to some real justice here."

Added Sanderson: "I hope they are right and my family can be at peace, but until I hear a guilty verdict I am going to keep looking. I will not sit and wait."

'We expect to be criticized'

Asked about the criticisms, police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said he could not go into specific details about the police investigation but he defended the job police did, saying the service's dedication and its officers are "second-to-none."

"We worked tirelessly for a long period of time to identify and then ultimately be in a position to hold someone accountable where we could lay charges and we are very proud of that fact," he said.

"Our goal each and every time is to hold people accountable for these horrific crimes, these violent crimes. It was no different in this case."

He understands, and expects, the police service to be under scrutiny, especially during highly-emotional cases.

"We have chosen a profession where we are expected to be held at a very high regard, I think higher than many other professions," Michalyshen said.

"We expect to be challenged, we expect to be criticized, we realize that how we do business isn't always understood. We have to respectfully acknowledge that, and we do." 

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