The 300 residents of the northeastern Newfoundland hamlet of Fleur de Lys are in shock after the body of a 13-year-old girl from the community was found yesterday near a wilderness cabin and a local youth was charged with her murder.
The RCMP, which had used divers and helicopters with infrared searching devices to look for Samantha Walsh since she disappeared on Feb. 6, announced yesterday that her body had been found in thick woods and deep snow about five kilometres west of the hamlet.
A youth was charged with second-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court in Corner Brook on Monday. Under the Young Offenders Act the 16-year-old cannot be identified.
"This is the worst thing that can happen to a community," Newfoundland MHA Tom Rideout said in an interview. He grew up in Fleur de Lys and knows the families of both Samantha and the boy accused of murdering her. "This is going to tear the heart and soul out of this community for some time."
"Now you have a different set of victims -- you have George and Millie [parents of Samantha]and the family of this young fellow on the other side of this," Mr. Rideout said.
The family of Ms. Walsh would not talk to reporters yesterday.
Mayor Bob Traverse said it would be hard to deal with the tragedy.
"We're all in shock . . . to think that someone could do something like this in such a small town," he said.
The mayor said his 15-year-old daughter was skiing with Samantha on the day that the girl was killed.
"It's taken a big toll on our daughter, she's really upset," he said. "My daughter said [Samantha]was in the best kind of mood at the ski hill. She had a boyfriend. All the normal things."
Initially, the RCMP had treated Samantha's disappearance as a missing person's case. She left her grandparents' house to walk home on the afternoon of Feb. 6 and was last seen riding across the harbour on an all-terrain vehicle driven by a friend. He said he dropped her off at a bus shelter across the road from her home.
The RCMP brought in divers to search under the ice of the harbour and also used a helicopter with an infrared sensor that can detect body heat. But the massive land and air search turned up no trace of the missing girl.
Some local business people offered a reward for information about Samantha. The Missing Children Association sent out thousands of posters with her picture asking for information. The RCMP also held a public meeting at a church in Fleur de Lys and distributed questionnaires asking people to reveal any information they had about the case.
Last week, rumours that Samantha's body had been found were circulating in the community. Tuesday, the police announced that they believed Samantha had been the victim of foul play. Wednesday night, they arrested a boy from the community. Within hours of the arrest, an intensive search began in the bush. Her body was found near a cabin early yesterday.
RCMP Sergeant Bruce Whillans said an unidentified informant told them where the girl's body was located. He said the informant was one of several people questioned by police about where they were during the hours after the girl disappeared.
The RCMP will not discuss the possible cause of death until an autopsy on the girl's body has been performed in St. John's. However, Sgt. Whillans said police believe the girl was murdered on Feb. 6 -- the day she disappeared.