Thunder Bay

Mystery of Delaine Copenace's death must be solved, says mother of drowned First Nations teen

The mother of a First Nations teen says she is angry and frustrated by a coroner's decision not to hold an inquest into her daughter's disappearance and death in Kenora, Ont., last winter.

Anita Ross says she will appeal coroner's decision not to hold an inquest into death he ruled accidental

'I'm not going to give up because my daughter is not going to rest peacefully," says Anita Ross about the quest for answers into her 16-year-old's death in Kenora. (Martine Laberge/Radio-Canada)

The mother of a First Nations teen says she is angry and frustrated by a coroner's decision not to hold an inquest into her daughter's disappearance and death in Kenora, Ont., last winter.

Anita Ross said she will appeal the decision to the chief coroner, as she remains strongly opposed to the regional coroner's determination that her daughter Delaine Copenace, 16, accidentally drowned.

"I believe somebody is responsible for my daughter's death," Ross said. "I believe it was done by perpetrators, and those perpetrators are still out there."

"I'm not going to give up because my daughter is not going to rest peacefully and my family doesn't have closure," she said.

Copenace, an Ojibway teen from Onigaming First Nation, was reported missing on Feb. 28. She was last seen within a short walk of her home in Kenora. Her body was found on March 22 in Lake of the Woods.

Dr. Michael Wilson, the regional supervising coroner, said he believes the coroner's investigation answered all the outstanding questions about Copenace's death "to the best of our ability."

But Ross said there are many "discrepancies and suspicious inaccuracies" in the coroner's investigation.

Here are three questions for which Ross said she is still seeking answers:

1. What caused the bruising on Copenace's ankles and wrists?

Ross said investigators believe Copenace sustained the injuries before she went in the water but "to me that's not a common injury that you get just from walking somewhere.

"I find that suspicious because she didn't have bruises when she left home."

2. Why was her daughter alone near the water?

The coroner's theory, according to Ross, is that Copenace made a "fatal error" of judgement by walking out on the ice alone, but her mother said the teen was always with friends whenever she left the house.

"She would have asked somebody to walk her home. Where she was last seen is only a four minute walk from home. I don't believe she would go in a complete different direction by herself," Ross said.

3. Why was Copenace's body not revealed earlier in the search?

There are dozens of security cameras in Kenora's downtown area, according to Ross, and Copenace was last seen on one of the camera's around 5:30 p.m. on the night she disappeared.

Ross wants to know how it is possible that no other camera spotted her daughter, and how, after weeks of searching, the teen's body turned up near a downtown dock in an area that had been thoroughly searched.

"She was within metres of a police station, where her body was found 24 days later," she said. "They want me to believe that she was there the whole time. That area was so extensively searched, how did her body just pop up? It's a mystery."

The regional supervising coroner says privacy rules prevent him from commenting on the details of his investigation.

"It's like they're telling me this is the end, but this is not the end," Ross said. "I'm still going to seek those answers and they [police] should be doing the same thing too. I think it should be further investigated because right now my daughter is getting no justice."

now