By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Melinda Lynxleg’s family can finally bring the First Nations woman home after three excruciating years of searching.
Manitoba RCMP recovered the remains of the 41-year-old this week at an abandoned residence in the rural area of San Clara, Man., near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan boundary.
Police are considering Lynxleg’s death a homicide following an autopsy Thursday.
Betty Lynxleg said the discovery of her niece’s remains has brought relief for the family, but closure can only come when justice is served.
“Whoever’s responsible has robbed more than one life. They’ve affected our whole family. How they sleep at night, I don’t know,” she told reporters Friday.
“They’ve taken not only Melinda’s life, but they’ve broken our family.”
Police received information about Lynxleg’s disappearance that led officers to the abandoned property with a small house and several outbuildings.
RCMP crews, including a forensic identification team and a forensic anthropologist, began canvassing the area and recovered Lynxleg’s remains.
“This is not the news that anyone wanted to hear,” Sgt. Laura LeDrew said during a news conference Friday.
“Though we suspected (Lynxleg) was deceased, confirming that fact is very difficult, certainly for the family but also for the investigators.”
LeDrew could not say when or where Lynxleg died.
Police would also not say whether they have identified any suspects.
The mother of six was from Tootinaowaziibeeng Treaty Reserve, also known as Valley River First Nation, in southwestern Manitoba.
She was one of seven siblings. Betty Lynxleg described her niece as a strong and resilient woman who fiercely advocated for her children.
Betty Lynxleg said the last three years have been difficult for the children.
“They have missed three years of cuddling,” she said. “They’ve missed three years of school events with their mom.”
Throughout the investigation, police spoke to more than 60 people with whom Lynxleg had a relationship. Officers searched many locations throughout western Manitoba and Winnipeg.
LeDrew has been involved with the case since the start. She said she and other officers got to know the family over the past three years.
With each tip RCMP received, investigators hoped it would lead to the discovery of Lynxleg, said LeDrew.
“We have been searching for so long that when the remains were discovered there was a collective moment of silence,” she said.
During the investigation, the Lynxleg family also relied on support from other families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Betty Lynxleg said even though three years of uncertainty felt like a lifetime for her family, she recognizes others have not been able to get the answers they deserve.
“At least we get to bring Melinda home. We get to bring her to our traditional territory.
“She’s not lost anymore.”