Ontario Provincial Police reopening 1977 investigation into Moosonee teenager's death

Ontario Provincial Police are reviewing the 40-year-old cold case of Josephine Chakasim from Moosonee, Ont.

A case manager for the Ontario Provincial Police is reviewing the file of Josephine Chakasim

Josephine Chakasim, 17, was found dead in water by railway tracks in Moosonee, Ont., on April 23, 1977. (Supplied)

Ontario Provincial Police are reviewing a 40-year-old cold case from Moosonee, Ont. 

Josephine Chakasim was found dead at the age of 17. 

Her body was discovered in water by a hunter on April 23, 1977 by the Ontario Northland railway tracks.

Provincial police did not originally classify Chakasim's death as a homicide, according to detective inspector Gilles Depratto, but that has changed. 

"When we requested a review [of] the forensic pathology, they said homicide could not be ruled out," Depratto said.

"We've prepared the file, and now a major case manager is going to look at this file again."

Provincial police recently sent Chakasim's case to be re-examined by a forensic pathology unit because the service is revisiting its files on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, according to Depratto. 

Challenges with reviewing historic case

A regional coroner determined in 1978 that Chakasim died of exposure with no evidence of abuse to the body.

Her family questioned the findings because they said Chakasim's glasses and cigarette lighter were found on the other side of the tracks from where her body was discovered, which could indicate signs of a struggle. 

A case manager is expected to review persons of interest, exhibits of forensic science, including DNA. 

But Depratto notes there will be challenges moving the investigation forward. 

"We no longer have the investigators that were involved in the investigation in 1977," Depratto said.

"Sometimes some of the witnesses are not available any longer."

Tune into CBC Sudbury's Morning North at 7:20 a.m. ET during the week of October 23 to hear a new series called Unresolved, about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from northeastern Ontario. Listen live here.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome: