A 15-year-old boy has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with last year’s death of an 11-year-old Garden Hill First Nation girl, marking the latest development in a probe that involved dozens of RCMP officers, tens of thousands of investigative hours and hundreds of interviews.
The teen, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is accused of killing Teresa Cassandra Robinson in the remote Manitoba community last May. The RCMP have confirmed that her family has consented to the identification of Teresa as the victim in the gruesome case – one that had Garden Hill residents gripped in fear for 10 months.
The first-degree murder charge was laid Friday after the teen was arrested at his home in the community on Thursday. The revelation that the accused is a teenager shocked some Garden Hill residents and, according to one grand chief in the province, underscores the hopelessness among some indigenous youth.
At a news conference in Winnipeg on Friday, the RCMP revealed few details about the accused or the killing, saying the matter is now before the courts. The federal force offered condolences to the Robinson family, expressed thanks for the community’s co-operation and stressed the lengths to which officers went to crack the case. “This was a wide-ranging, complex investigation,” said Staff Sergeant Jared Hall, the Mountie in charge of major crime services in Manitoba. “Not a single day has passed without work being done on this investigation.”
He said the force continues to investigate and follow leads. Asked whether he foresees charges being laid against anyone else, he said there is “one accused.” He would not speak to a potential motive or the specific date of Teresa’s death, nor would he shed light on the relationship between the girl and the accused. About 80 RCMP officers across more than 10 operational units put in “tens of thousands of hours on this case,” conducting nearly 400 interviews and analyzing hundreds of exhibits, he said.
“The investigation also included the collection of DNA samples from males within Garden Hill First Nation,” Staff Sgt. Hall said, referring to a massive effort earlier this year in which officers asked the 2,000 or so males in the community to voluntarily submit DNA. “The scope of this collection was unprecedented in Manitoba.” He said he could not disclose whether the accused provided a sample or whether the DNA effort played a critical role in the arrest. However, he said “logic is there that forensics and DNA have a place in this case.”
Teresa, who was last seen on the evening of May 5 leaving a birthday party near her home, was initially thought to have been mauled by an animal. The RCMP were first notified the morning of May 11 that the child was missing from the fly-in community, located about 500 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
The girl’s father, John George Robinson, believed Teresa had gone to stay at a friend’s or a relative’s, as children often do in the community. After he called her school on May 8 and learned she had not attended for a few days, a volunteer search was launched. On May 11, two residents discovered the girl’s partial remains in a wooded area, not far from the birthday party, in the opposite direction of the family’s home.
“There has been fear [for] almost a year in Garden Hill,” said the community’s chief, Dino Flett. “People were fearing because they had no idea what was going on, if this person was still out there ... We are going to pull together and do this together, to help the family members and help the community.”
Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, who represents 30-odd northern Manitoba First Nations, including Garden Hill, said the accused and his family need support, too.
“This speaks to a larger issue of our communities … that our young people are in crisis, they are in despair,” she said. “They need hope. They need opportunities. They need better resources, and I think that it’s upon all of us to make sure they get what they need to find happiness and success in their lives.”
With a report from The Canadian PressReport Typo/Error