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Police investigate after a head was found in an alley in Edmonton, Oct.24, 2012.

Jesse Whitnack/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Police are trying to determine whether a human head found in an Edmonton alley on Wednesday belongs to a body found in a rural area east of the city on the weekend.

A woman discovered the head in a northeast neighbourhood in the early morning, a source said.

Jesse Whitnack, a 30-year-old computer technician who lives in an apartment at the end of the alley, was out on his balcony having a cigarette about 7:30 a.m. when he noticed police.

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It was still dark out. He asked an officer what was going on and was told he should watch the news.

"I said, 'Please don't tell me it is another body,' and he said, 'It's parts,'" Mr. Whitnack recalled.

When the sun came up about an hour later, Mr. Whitnack said he went out on his balcony again and zoomed in with his camera on what officers were doing. The head was lying on the ground. Mr. Whitnack could see dark hair, but couldn't tell if the head belonged to a man or a woman.

Police took it away in a brown paper bag, he said.

"I have no idea if there were other body parts."

The Mounties and city police had little to say about Wednesday's discovery. But the RCMP did confirm that both forces were working to determine whether the find is linked to the remains of a man found Saturday evening near Ranfurly.

An autopsy was performed on that body on Monday and the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. An autopsy on the head is to take place Thursday.

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Local news media have quoted residents in the Ranfurly area who said they had heard that the body had been decapitated and was found lying in a ditch next to a running pickup truck.

"We are aware of the file by the Edmonton Police Service and it's my understanding that efforts are under way between EPS and the medical examiner's office to identify them," said RCMP spokeswoman Doris Stapleton.

"Our investigations are always based on facts. At this time we don't have any facts that confirm that their file is in any way connected to our file."

Ranfurly is about 120 kilometres east of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway, between Vegreville and Vermilion.

The neighbourhood where the head was found is populated by seniors and families, said resident Dave Gridzak. A school that combines elementary and junior high also sits at the end of the alley. Students often walk from a nearby convenience store down the lane to the school yard.

Mr. Gridzak said the neighbourhood is safe and it's apparent the person wasn't killed in the alley. "Someone wants to ditch [a head] in your neighbourhood, what can you do?"

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Mr. Whitnack said that despite its tranquil appearance, there has been some violent crime, including homicides, in the neighbourhood in recent years. And the gruesome discovery is enough to convince him that it's time to move.

"It's time to go. I don't like this neighbourhood no more."

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