An arrest has been made in one of Canada’s most distressing unsolved murders. In August 2014, 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was found dead after being pulled from a river in Winnipeg. In December 2015, police finally charged someone with the crime. Raymond Joseph Cormier, 53, was announced as the suspect in the crime by Deputy chief Danny Smyth and Sgt. John O’Donovan in Winnipeg on December 11. Cormier is a native of New Brunswick and was arrested in Vancouver in early December. At the time of the murder, he had been living in Winnipeg. Police said that he is a career criminal.
He’s facing a charge of second-degree murder in the case.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Had ‘Several Encounters’ With Fontaine Prior to Her Death
According to CBC’s Alana Cole, Fontaine and Cormier had “several encounters” prior to her death. Meanwhile, that station’s Caroline Barghout said that Fontaine had told police that her friend’s truck had been stolen, Cormier is somehow connected to that incident.
Fontaine’s body was pulled from Red River in Winnipeg, a week after she was reported missing in August 2015. At the time of her death, she was visiting her mother, sex-worker and alcoholic, Valentina Duck, in Winnipeg. A CBC profile on Fontaine from 2014 said that she was a native of the Sagkeeng First nation, northeast of the city where she was found dead. She was in the care of her great aunt and uncle, Thelma and Joseph Favel, in Powerpain-Pine Falls, Manitoba.
In 2014, she twice visited her mother in Winnipeg, never returning from the second visit. Thelma Favel said that she contacted authorities prior to the first visit and made sure that it was safe for Fontaine to visit. After that visit went off okay, Thelma Favel didn’t take the same precautions for the second trip. Thelma Favel spoke glowingly about Fontaine to CBC saying “Any good word there is out there in this world, that would describe Tina. To me, Tina was the perfect little girl.” Though she said that after visiting her mother, Fontaine wasn’t the same girl.
While she was in Winnipeg prior to her death, Fontaine was placed in emergency foster care in a hotel in the downtown area of the city, reports The Globe and Mail. She escaped from that arrangement and was declared missing.
Global News reported that a week after she was first reported missing in August 2014, Fontaine was in a car that was pulled over by police but not taken into custody.
2. He’s Been Convicted of 2 Crimes in Winnipeg Already This Year
Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mike McIntyre tweeted that Cormier was convicted of a drug possession charge in February, the arrest stemmed from July 2014. Then, in March 2015, he was convicted of assault with a weapon. The attack happened in August 2014, just days after Fontaine’s body was found. He was sentenced to five months time served in that case.
3. Her Cancer-Surviving Father Was Beaten to Death in 2011
Tragedy struck Fontaine in 2011 when her father, Eugene Fontaine, 41, was found beaten to death behind a garden shed in the Sagkeeng First Nation, reported CBC. He had surrendered custody of his daughter to her great and uncle after he became ill with cancer. In 2014, Jonathan Starr and Nicholas Abraham were convicted of manslaughter in the case. Eugene Fontaine’s sister, Robin, told CBC, that the murder hit Fontaine particularly hard saying, “It’s not going to bring Tina back, it’s not going to bring him back. It’s gonna be lonely.” Starr and Abraham said they got into a fight with Eugene Fontaine over money.
4. Her Family Said They Had No Faith in the Justice System After Fontaine’s Murder Went Unsolved for So Long
Speaking to CBC, Fontaine’s great uncle, Joseph Favel, said that the family were told on the night of December 10 that there had been a development in the case but nothing further. He said, “To me, it’s some closure, but he’s got to be punished for what he did.” After Fontaine’s father’s death, Thelma Favel, told CBC that she had tried to get counseling for her grand niece from social services but was turned away. The family explicitly stated that they believe Eugene Fontaine’s death directly contributed to Tina Fontaine’s murder.
Fontaine’s death had resulted in a grassroots movement to help missing and endangered aboriginal women in Canada, reports The Globe and Mail. One of Fontaine’s relatives, Nahanni Fontaine, posted on Facebook on December 10 that she and other representatives were in Ottawa to meet with Canadian ministers over the unsolved cases of missing aboriginal women. On December 9, Canada’s liberal goverment announced that an inquiry had been set up to investigate the unsolved cases.
Nahanni Fontaine told CBC’s Karen Pauls after the arrest was made “Everyone is in shock .. People and families across the country want justice for Tina Fontaine.”
5. If Convicted, Cormier Could Face at Least 25 Years in Prison
Tina Fontaine had been “exploited” prior to her death. Under Canadian law, sexual assault combined with second-degree murder can result in a 25 year prison sentence.