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An 18-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a woman who was attacked last week while working at the downtown Christian Science Reading Centre.

Tyler Hikoalok made an initial court appearance Monday and is set to appear again by video on June 5.

Elisabeth Salm, 59, a volunteer at the reading centre, was found badly beaten last Thursday. A co-worker found Salm half-naked and unconscious around 12:30 p.m. She died a day later in hospital.

Hikoalok was arrested Sunday.

“A child right now is obviously a little bit stressed, confused about what has happened within the last 24 hours,” said Hikoalok’s defence lawyer Mike Smith.

Smith said it’s too early to say whether a psychological evaluation will be requested, and would not comment on Hikoalok’s connection to Salm because he is still waiting for more disclosure from the Crown.

Salm’s family watched Hikoalok’s brief appearance, during which he looked at his hands and quietly responded to questions from the judge. He was ordered not to communicate with Salm’s husband, Lyle Young, and another individual.

Young’s brother Lauren Young read a brief statement outside the courthouse.

“Elisabeth’s family thanks the many people who have expressed support towards us these last few days,” he said. The brothers were joined by Salm’s sister Luc-Anne Salm and sister-in-law Vicky Boldo.

Lauren Young thanked the Ottawa police and called them “true servants” to the community. The family is asking for privacy until members are prepared to make a further statement.

Hikoalok, originally from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is part of Tr1be Music, a studio program “to help Indigenous music artists break into the music industry,” according to the organization’s website.

Hikoalok performs under the name “Ty Millz,” according to a short biography on the website, which says he was put into foster care at age 9 and “music has since then been his therapy.”

Hikoalok’s biography says he uses instrumentals “as a way to express himself” and “as a way to stay motivated.”

“Music truly saved his life and helped him get to where he is now,” it continues.

“Tyler taught himself how to make beats. Through the Tr1be Music studio program, Tyler was able to fuel his passion for music. Tyler’s ambition is to set up a similar music program for youth in his hometown.”

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