Police say body found near Edmonton is Liana White

An autopsy has confirmed that a body found along Edmonton's outskirts is that of Liana White, a pregnant woman who has been missing for a week, police say.

Edmonton police have confirmed that a body found along the city's outskirts is that of a pregnant woman who had been missing for a week.

Liana White, 29, appeared to have been in a struggle before she died but the cause of death has not been determined, Detective Michael Campeau said on Tuesday.

The news comes just hours after her husband, Michael White, appeared in an Edmonton courtroom to face a charge of second-degree murder.

"It's not a victory for the police service ... it's a tragic day for both families," Campeau, the lead investigator, told a news conference.

"Liana's mom is not doing very well."

Campeau said White was identified through dental records but her body was too decomposed to immediately determine how she died.

"There are signs on the body indicating that she was involved in a struggle."

The detective said she had some clothing on, "but not very much."

Husband's truck towed from area near body

Michael White, 28, was arrested on July 17, hours after a search party he organized found White's body on the city's outskirts. It was about 1½ kilometres from the area being combed by police and their volunteer searchers.

White, a heavy-duty mechanic and ex-soldier, has also been charged with committing an indignity to a dead body.

Campeau said the latter charge related to the body being dumped in a rural area.

He would not comment on where police believe she was killed.

He said that a vehicle towed Sunday night from the area where White's body was found was her husband's pickup truck.

Investigators are still trying to determine a motive in the case, Campeau said

"There are still many leads to follow up on."

Police are investigating reports that the Whites were in financial straits. Campeau said officers had never been called to the home. He also said no questions had been raised over the paternity of the unborn baby.

He said the couple's three-year-old daughter was being looked after by one of her grandmothers.

White didn't enter plea in court

White made a brief court appearance Tuesday morning, wearing blue prison coveralls, leg shackles and handcuffs. His eyes welled up with tears and his breathing was heavy as the charges were read.

"We are anxious to answer these allegations," his lawyer, Larry Anderson, said outside court.

His lawyer reserved plea in the case, and White's next court appearance was scheduled for July 26.

Police change time White was last seen

Revising the timeline of when Liana White was last seen, Campeau said someone other than her husband saw her alive just before midnight on July 11.

Originally, police believed she had left her home at 6:15 a.m. July 12 on her way to work as a medical clerk at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. But at least two witnesses came forward to say they had spotted her abandoned SUV before 6 a.m.

Her brown Ford Explorer was found in the parking lot of a playing field behind a YMCA – about two kilometres from her home, along her regular route to work. The keys were inside the vehicle and the door was wide open.

Police said White's purse, some identification and a pair of shoes were found near the SUV. More identification and her cellphone were found in an area northwest of the parking lot.

On the weekend, Michael White organized his own search party, which found his wife's body. Campeau said White kept police up to date about where he was looking, and called 911 when the body was discovered.

'Certain evidence' changed focus to White, police say

Police initially said the husband wasn't a suspect and that they were treating the disappearance as a missing persons case.

But Campeau said Tuesday that at some point last week they "became aware of certain evidence that changed the focus to Michael White." He wouldn't elaborate.

Police also searched the Whites' home last week, saying it was the last place the missing woman had been seen. They obtained a search warrant Saturday to take another look at the house, and White wasn't allowed back in.

Last week, White made a televised plea for his wife's return, saying he would do anything to find her and thanking police and volunteers for their efforts.