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RCMP have charged a man with second-degree murder 2 1/2 years after a woman’s body was found in an isolated area on a remote Manitoba reserve.

Crystal Andrews of the Gods Lake First Nation was 22 when she disappeared after a social at a community club in November 2015. Her body was discovered in the woods a day later. RCMP said the mother of two died after a serious assault.

“There is a lot of mixed emotions and feelings within my community. There is a sense of relief but I am sure there is a lot of anger and frustration,” Gods Lake Chief Gilbert Andrews said after the charges were announced Thursday.

Michael William Okemow, who is 37 and also from Gods Lake, was arrested earlier this week in Winnipeg.

In the days following the discovery of the body, Okemow was arrested on unrelated charges. However, people suspected his involvement in the killing and were critical about how long the investigation was taking, Chief Andrews said.

It has been difficult for the community of about 1,500 to move forward without any answers, the chief said, particularly since the 2013 killing of 15-year-old Leah Anderson in Gods Lake remains unsolved. Many people felt the RCMP were not taking the investigations seriously, he said.

Crystal Andrews’s fiance, two children and mother sat quietly, occasionally wiping tears from their eyes, as RCMP Chief Supt. Mark Fisher announced the arrest at a news conference.

Fisher said officers conducted more than 200 interviews and sent DNA collected at the scene to labs for testing. He said he hopes the young woman’s family can get some closure now that there has been an arrest.

“Charging the man ... won’t bring her back, but it is one way we can honour her memory,” he said. “She is not being forgotten.”

Gods Lake, about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, is one of many communities across Canada in a state of trauma that still need to heal, said Sheila North, the grand chief who represents First Nations across northern Manitoba. More work must also be done to strengthen relationships with RCMP, she added.

“We still have over 1,200 cases of murdered and missing (Indigenous) women across Canada and most of them are in Manitoba,” she said. “I think there is still a lot more work ahead for all of us.”

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