'Why couldn't they find her?' asks father of First Nations teen who died in Kenora, Ont.
Family of Azraya Ackabee Kokopenace, who died in April, still searching for answers
Months after his 14-year-old daughter died, Marlin Kokopenace says he still has not heard from Ontario Provincial Police about the nature of their last contact with her, in the hours before she disappeared in Kenora, Ont.
Azraya Ackabee Kokopenace, of Grassy Narrows First Nation, was last seen walking away from the Lake of the Woods hospital in Kenora on April 15, 2016. Police had dropped her off there.
She was found dead two days later in a wooded area nearby. Provincial police said foul play is not suspected in her death, but the family has many outstanding questions.
- Unresolved: Case Closed or Murder? CBC investigates 34 cases
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Ackabee-Kokopenace's death is one of more than 30 cases that are part of Unresolved: Case Closed or Murder? a CBC News Investigation. It examines circumstances where police say there is no evidence of foul play but the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women continue to maintain their loved ones may have been killed.
"Why couldn't they find her?" Marlin Kokopenace, the teen's father asked.
He also wants to know why have police been so reluctant to explain what happened on that night before she disappeared.
The provincial police refused to answer questions from CBC News about why they had contact with Ackabee-Kokopenace on April 15.
Police also would not comment on the nature of an officer's altercation with Ackabee-Kokopenace — one that was caught on video — just weeks before her death, on March 26.
CBC News filed a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services about the Ackabee-Kokopenace case. It was denied on the basis that it:
- could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter
- could reasonably be expected to facilitate the commission of an unlawful act or hamper the control of crime
- the personal information [contained in the case file] is highly sensitive
As time stretches on, with no response from police, Kokopenace said more questions build up.
"We still don't have her toxicology [test results]," he said. "If someone gave her something [drugs or alcohol], we want to know if they could be charged."
There's also the question of why a girl, who had only just turned 14 in March, was allowed to walk away from the hospital in the first place.
Friends and family said Ackabee-Kokopenace had demonstrated suicidal behaviour following the 2014 death of her brother, Calvin Kokopenace. He had died from complications of muscular dystrophy and mercury poisoning that is endemic in Grassy Narrows.
"If she was suicidal already, they should have taken anything from her" that could have been used for suicide, Kokopenace said.
The Lake of the Woods District Hospital did not respond to calls from CBC News about Ackabee-Kokopenace's case.
"There are some substantial issues we're working through," said regional coroner Dr. Michael Wilson.
One of those issues is the fact that Ackabee-Kokopenace was in the care of a child welfare agency at the time of her death, which automatically triggers a review by the paediatric death review committee.
Kokopenace said he will not rest until he knows "the whole story" of how his little girl died.