Indigenous women found dead in Edmonton in 70s identified

Two dead Indigenous women, whose identities remained a mystery for decades until recently, will be honoured in Edmonton on Friday.

On July 30, 1975, the body of Louise Laderoute, 24, from Papaschase First Nation, was pulled from the North Saskatchewan River.

Almost a year later, on June 11, 1976, Irene Jacknife, 30, who had been reported missing from Drayton Valley, died outside an Edmonton address.

Both were buried in Edmonton ceremonies without officials being able to confirm their names.

Their files were the first to be re-examined as a part of Project Match, a collaboration by local and national authorities to review Edmonton Police Service’s historical unidentified human remains investigations.

Supported by Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and the City of Edmonton’s Indigenous Relations Office, EPS began working in August 2023 with the RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains and the chief medical examiner’s office on the cases.

Because DNA samples were not collected in the 1970s, the bodies of both women were exhumed. Two elders oversaw the process and performed ceremonies.

The chief medical examiner’s office and an external forensic anthropologist then collected DNA and re-examined both the remains and the reports from the initial autopsies.

Neither death was considered suspicious by police at the time. Autopsies concluded Laderoute drowned and Jacknife died from medical causes.

The DNA was submitted for forensic testing, DNA extraction and comparison analysis, leading to matches with familial samples that had been submitted to the RCMP National DNA Data Bank.

Laderoute and Jacknife will be honoured in a ceremony in Edmonton on Friday.

Both EPS and RCMP offered condolences to the loved ones of both women.

“Unsolved human remains cases leave behind families experiencing years, sometimes a lifetime, of ambiguous loss, grief and trauma” EPS Det. Kevin Harrison said in a news release. “That’s why, together with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, we are working to apply today’s technology and investigative lens to these files to help bring some sense of resolution to the grieving families.”

As of Friday, EPS’ missing persons unit had 14 unsolved unidentified human remains files dating back to 1979 which will also be reviewed under Project Match.

More to come… 

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