Manitoba

Teen slain in 2007 linked to girls recently found dead

The family of a teen slain two years ago believes her death may be linked to the deaths of Cherisse Houle and Hillary Wilson, whose bodies were discovered this summer.

The family of a teen slain two years ago believes her death may be linked to the deaths of Cherisse Houle and Hillary Wilson, whose bodies were discovered this summer.

Fonassa Bruyere, 17, was last seen on the morning of Aug. 9 getting into a car on Aikens Street near Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg, where she worked in the sex trade. Her body was found Aug. 20, 2007, near Ritchie Street and Mollard Road at the city's northern edge.

The body of Houle, 17, was uncovered July 1 by a construction crew working near the shore of Sturgeon Creek in the Rural Municipality of Rosser, northwest of Winnipeg. The body of Wilson, 18, was found Aug. 20 on a dirt path in a sparsely populated area in East St. Paul, just northeast of the city limits.

The two aboriginal women were friends and both were involved in the sex trade and lived at-risk lifestyles. They were also involved some years earlier with a group of men who used them for sex in exchange for food, clothes and crack cocaine.

Bruyere's family said Monday that she was friends with Houle and Wilson and was involved with the same group of men. The family had told police at the time of Bruyere's death about the North End residence that was frequented by the women, but don't know whether investigators ever looked into it.

Bruyere's cousin Crystal Bruyere said she visited the house once.

"They were getting high, they were sitting there getting high. I never saw any sexual favours getting done in front of me, but there was a bedroom I guess that you could go to," she said.

Because Bruyere was connected with that circle of people in life, the family believes her death may also be linked to them. Within days of Bruyere's death, aboriginal groups in Manitoba called on the province to set up a task force to examine the cases of missing and murdered women in Manitoba.

That task force, a joint operation between police and RCMP, was announced last week — days after Wilson's body was found.

At the time Bruyere was missing, her grandmother, Janet Bruyere, said she felt helpless, scared and very worried that her granddaughter was in danger. Those fears came true two weeks later when the body was found.

"Nobody would help me. I went and put [up] posters of the pictures I had of her," she said, breaking into tears.

Two years have passed but the feeling of helplessness and wondering what happened to Bruyere has not gone away for the family. Janet said no one from the police service has updated the family on the investigation.

At the very least, the family would like to know how Bruyere died but the medical examiner's office won't reveal that. It has referred the family to the police.

Janet Bruyere is hoping the new task force can provide the answers she has been seeking for two years.