Secrets of the river
A missing girl found deadé
The case RUNAWAY teen
Tina Fontaine didn’t have the easiest start in life.
Tina and her sister – from the First Nations people, indigenous to Canada – were raised by their great-aunt Thelma Favel, because their alcoholic mother and cancer-sufferer father were unable to care for them.
In October 2011, Tina’s dad Eugene was beaten to death in an argument over money.
His death had a huge impact on Tina and, in June 2014, she left her home in Sagkeeng First Nation for Winnipeg, to reconnect with her mother after years apart.
Concerned when she didn’t hear from Tina over the next 10 days, her great-aunt Thelma called Child and Family Services (CFS).
Tina, 15, was found and taken into care. But, over the next few weeks, she went missing several times. One social worker for Southeast CFS said Tina was placed in a hotel, but went missing almost immediately. Tina shuttled between several locations in the city, sleeping on couches and occasionally returning to CFS care, only to walk away shortly after. Soon after, she started dating a young man from St Theresa Point – almost 300 miles from Winnipeg. One night in mid-july, he and Tina were drinking on the street when they met 56-year-old Raymond Cormier as he was riding past on a bicycle. According to Tina’s boyfriend, Raymond said his name was Sebastian. The lad said Cormier gave them drugs and took them back to various houses, including one at an address on Carmen Avenue.
Then, on 6 August, Tina’s boyfriend flew back to his home at St Theresa Point.
Upset that he had gone home, Tina cycled to the house on Carmen Avenue to meet Cormier.
That night, it seems the pair got into an argument.
Witnesses said Cormier had been making sexual advances towards the young girl.
And Tina became angry when she discovered that Cormier had sold her bike in exchange for drugs. Furious, Tina stormed out. The next reported sighting of the teenager came in the early hours of 8 August, when police found her inside a truck they’d pulled over, believing the driver was behaving suspiciously.
Unaware that she’d been reported missing, the police officers let Tina go.
One hour later, she was found, passed out in a nearby alleyway, and was taken to the local children’s hospital.
Tina was treated and discharged into the care of a social worker, who got her a fast-food meal and checked Tina into a downtown hotel.
The social worker tried to convince the troubled teen to stay at the hotel, but Tina insisted she wanted to go out to meet some friends.
She left at around 5.30pm – and never returned.
Nine days later, on
Her dad’s death had a huge impact
17 August 2014, Tina was found dead in the Red River, which runs through Winnipeg.
Her slight body – weighing just over 5st – was wrapped inside a duvet and plastic and weighed down with rocks.
The discovery of the dead teenager sent shock waves through the city.
Hundreds took to the streets and social media to demand better protection for indigenous women and girls, many of whom go missing.
The police believed Tina had died around 10 August.
The river had washed away any DNA evidence that might have been left on her body and the duvet in which she was wrapped. But they had other leads... Police interviewed a woman who said Raymond Cormier lived in a tent in her backyard.
She and her daughter claimed that Cormier had the same duvet cover that was found wrapped around Tina’s body.
On 1 October 2014, the police went to the house on Carmen Avenue.
They found Cormier there, and he tried to run away.
Under questioning, Cormier admitted that he’d wanted to have sex with Tina when he first met her, before finding out that she was under 18.
Cormier was placed under police surveillance.
The operation, dubbed Project Styx, lasted six months and consisted of undercover officers wearing recording devices.
They engaged Cormier in 62 scenarios, designed to provoke a reaction from him and elicit information on Tina.
The police also arranged for him to live in an apartment where they placed listening devices to record his conversations.
Finally, in December 2015, Cormier was charged with seconddegree murder.
At his trial this January, Raymond Cormier pleaded not guilty.
The court heard evidence from Tina’s boyfriend, as well as a friend of Cormier.
The friend said Cormier had told him he and Tina ‘straightened it out’ after their argument at the Carmen Avenue house.
Ernest also claimed he had seen Cormier with the duvet cover at the house.
The police played the recordings they had gathered while Cormier was under surveillance.
In the clips, Cormier seemed obsessed with Tina’s killing. He was recorded saying he wanted to find her killer, but also made statements about her death.
In one conversation with a woman on 17 July 2015, Cormier said, ‘Fifteen-year-old girl f*ck. I drew the line and that’s why she got killed. She got killed, I’ll make you a bet. She got killed because we found out, I found out she was 15 years old.’ These statements, the Crown argued, were admissions of guilt. They argued that Cormier killed Tina because he didn’t want to be known as a paedophile. A pathologist told the court that a cause of death couldn’t be determined, but the method used to dispose of the body was suspicious. During the trial, the authorities didn’t introduce any forensic evidence or eyewitnesses directly linking Cormier to Tina’s death.
And, at the time of the trial, the cause of her death still remained a mystery.
Cormier’s lawyers argued that, without a cause of death, it couldn’t be known for certain that Tina died as a result of murder.
They said Raymond Cormier should be acquitted on that argument alone...
Cormier: Murder suspect
Police evidence The duvet in which Tina’s body was wrapped troubled: tina, only 15