Thursday, June 11, 2009

Missing woman feared slain: RCMP treating Portage case as homicide

By: Lindsey Wiebe and Gabrielle Giroday, The Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG — RCMP say the case of missing Portage la Prairie woman Amber Lynn McFarland is now being treated as a homicide.

And officers have returned for a second search, both inside and out, of a home in the community that once belonged to the 24-year-old's former boyfriend. She was last seen at a Portage la Prairie nightclub on Oct. 18, 2008.

"Our investigation is considered a murder investigation," said RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish Wednesday. Karpish said investigators resumed searching a property on Yellowquill Trail on Wednesday morning. The Forensic Mobile Response Unit was on scene, she said, and officers were still at the property Wednesday evening.

"We do remain very confident that we're going to get some kind of conclusion," Karpish said.

"Someone will be charged and face the consequences, or we will find her body at least to give some closure to the family."

Karpish did not identify the home, but said it has previously been searched by police.

Amber's mother, Lori McFarland, said the home was formerly owned by Amber's ex-boyfriend, one of the last men seen with her.

Lori McFarland said Wednesday was the first day she'd been told the investigation was being treated as a homicide. The news was difficult but not surprising, she said.

"You always want to maintain some shred of hope," she said. "I guess in your mind you know where it's headed.

"It'll be eight months on June 18. Short of a miracle... I wouldn't say that we're surprised, you know?"

Karpish said a combination of factors led officers back to the Yellowquill Trail property, but didn't offer specifics. She said there are no suspects in custody in connection with the case.

Lori McFarland said she's aware police vehicles were outside the home Wednesday, but said she didn't know what was happening on the property.

It "gets to be a lot of public speculation," she said.

"We have to filter that out, and we rely on the RCMP to give us the latest as to where the investigation is at."

Amber McFarland was last seen in Portage la Prairie at the Cat and Fiddle Nite Club and reportedly left with a former boyfriend. Surveillance footage captured her buying beer there at a vendor in the company of two men.

Her car was found in the parking lot of a Portage hotel, where she had left it before going out that evening.

When McFarland did not come back to her parents' home, her friend and family said the ex-boyfriend told them McFarland called someone on her cellphone and they picked her up at his home on Yellowquill Trail.

They said he told them he did not know who picked her up, and he never saw McFarland again.

McFarland was the subject of a frantic search following her disappearance last fall, including draining part of the Assiniboine River diversion. Amber's purse and cellphone were never located. "We just want to have her found, and bring her home," said Lori McFarland. "She's loved and she should be with people that love her."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Slain woman hoped to become Mountie: Called family in tears two days before fall

By: Bill Redekop: The Winnipeg Free Press

The 23-year-old woman killed in a fall from an 11th-storey window Friday telephoned family two days earlier crying and saying she wanted to come home.

"She said, 'Grandma, forgive me for what I did,' " said Alice Moar, the woman's grandmother who lives in Thunder Bay. "She said, 'It's no good where I am.' "

Alinda Lahteenmaki plummeted from a window of a suite in a Manitoba Housing Authority highrise at 375 Assiniboine Avenue.

A man has been charged with second-degree murder.

Alinda was apologizing for having become mixed up with crack cocaine, said her grandmother. Moar and other family members claimed Alinda's boyfriend was cruel to her.

"I just said, 'Come home.' That made her happy," Moar said.

"She was a good girl but she met the person she wasn't supposed to meet."

Alinda was born and raised in Thunder Bay. She moved to British Columbia about three years ago with her mother, then moved to Winnipeg 18 months ago where she has other family, including two half-sisters.

Her father, who immigrated from Finland, died of a heart attack in 1995. Her mother is originally from Berens River First Nation on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg.

Her boyfriend had threatened Alinda's life shortly after Christmas, her mother, Darlina Lahteenmaki, said.

Darlina, living in Vernon, B.C., visited her children in Winnipeg over the first three weeks of January, before returning to B.C. on Jan. 21. "When I was there, I noticed (her boyfriend) was very, very controlling, and I overheard him once threatening her," said Darlina.

She asked Alinda to move in with either of her sisters. "I told her to leave him but she wouldn't."

Alinda and her boyfriend lived at her boyfriend's parents' house.

Alinda had done some modelling in Thunder Bay. She never finished high school but was planning to get her Grade 12 and wanted to become a Mountie, her mother said.

"She was a beautiful girl. She had a big heart. She was sensitive," said Darlina.

A man hovering over Alinda's motionless body at about 4 a.m. Friday was overheard telling a passerby: "She fell from the 11th floor--I was holding her by her hood and I couldn't hold her."

The witness said the man kept repeating Alinda's name and was slurring his words. She died shortly after in hospital.

Charged with seconddegree murder is Mario Trunzo, 41.