Rinelle Harper has been discharged from the hospital after a vicious attack that thrust the 16-year-old into the spotlight and shook Winnipeg anew.
Ms. Harper, who was left for dead near the city's Assiniboine River last weekend, was released from the children's ward at a local hospital Friday evening. "We're so happy," her mother, Julie Harper, said in a brief interview with The Globe and Mail after the girl was discharged.
The family had already breathed one sigh of relief earlier in the week, when Winnipeg police arrested two men in connection with the assault on Ms. Harper and a separate attack on a second woman shortly afterward. Justin James Hudson, a 20-year-old Poplar River First Nation band member living in Winnipeg, and a 17-year-old male have been charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.
Mr. Hudson's father, Brian McKay, told The Globe he extends his condolences to Ms. Harper and her family as the girl continues to recover. He said he has had little contact with his son since he was born on Sept. 27, 1994, to a woman named April Hudson. His understanding is that Mr. Hudson grew up in Winnipeg and was at least partly raised by his extended family.
"His mother gave him up when he popped out, and an aunt took over," Mr. McKay, a carpenter who lives in Berens River First Nation.
Mr. McKay said he learned of his son's arrest after he arrived home from work Wednesday. "My heart just stopped," he said. "I'm real sorry to that entire family about what happened."
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Mr. Hudson is slated to appear in court Monday to advise whether he will seek bail. He is also facing charges of possessing stolen property related to an alleged offence in August, and was in court this past Monday on that matter. Information about the 17-year-old can't be released because he's a minor.
Mr. Hudson's ex-girlfriend, Emily, said she dated the man briefly but talks to him online and often sees him at a Winnipeg soup kitchen. Emily, who cannot be identified because she is in provincial Child and Family Services care, said she ate with Mr. Hudson at the shelter mid-afternoon last Friday. He suggested they go to the downtown public library to use the computers, but she declined. She said she saw him again at the soup kitchen Monday and they chatted about how they had spent the weekend. "He said, 'My weekend was fine,' " she recalled.
Emily, who said she was recently "choked out" by a male acquaintance and spent time in the hospital with bruised ribs, was also friends with Tina Fontaine – the 15-year-old whose body was pulled from the city's Red River in August after she ran away from CFS care. Homicide investigators are still probing her killing, which prompted renewed calls for a federal inquiry into Canada's more than 1,180 murdered and missing aboriginal women.
Grand Chief David Harper, a relative who represents 30-odd First Nation communities, said the family is calling for calm in the wake of the arrests. The request comes as online commentators post threatening messages to Mr. Hudson's Facebook page.
"There should be no retaliation," Grand Chief Harper said, before making an apparent reference to the families of the co-accused: "One family is hurt already. Two other families are hurt already."
Just past midnight Saturday, Ms. Harper was beaten by two men under a bridge near the Assiniboine River and somehow ended up in the frigid waters, police say. Wet, battered and barely clothed, she managed to crawl out of the river only to be attacked again by the same men. Then, police say, the co-accused left the girl for dead before allegedly going on to sexually assault a second woman.
Police have credited the swift arrests with the rare decision to name Ms. Harper. The family consented to releasing her identity in the hopes that doing so would compel witnesses to come forward and help solve the case.