Body of Inuit Student Researching Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Found
The body of a missing Inuit woman who was herself researching the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women in New Brunswick has been found just days after her tenants were arrested with her car hundreds of miles away.
Loretta Saunders, 26, was last seen alive on February 13, according to news accounts. Surveillance cameras filmed her as she left her apartment building, where she had gone to collect rent from her subletters, police told the National Post. Over the next few days, family members received odd text messages from her phone. Then silence. Concerned, especially when one of the messages asked for information about accessing her bank account, the family reported her missing on February 17. Saunders’s car was found in Ontario, near Michigan, on February 18 in the possession of her roommates, who were arrested and charged with fraud and possession of stolen goods. Police also discovered outstanding warrants for their arrest elsewhere in the country.
Then on Wednesday February 26 the pregnant Saunders’s body was “found on a median off Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick,” the National Post reported. It was hundreds of miles from where she lived and was last seen.
Blake Leggette, 25, and 28-year-old Victoria Henneberry were arrested near Windsor, Ontario, 2,000 miles away and brought back to Nova Scotia to face the charges in Halifax. Police said they are treating Saunders’s death as a homicide but did not immediately reveal whether more charges were pending. Saunders had left her boyfriend's apartment on the day of her disappearance to meet with them and collect back rent, The Globe and Mail said.
Saunders attended Saint Mary’s University and was studying criminology. She hailed from Nunatsiavut, the Inuit territory of Newfoundland and Labrador, where she was one of eight siblings in a close-knit family, according to The Globe and Mail. The very nature of her research told her family there was something wrong.
“She is a proud Inuk whose thesis topic is on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, so she knows better than to just disappear like this,” said her sister, Delilah Terriak, in a Facebook message quoted by the National Post before Saunders’s body was found.
Saunders was described as passionately devoted to understanding the issues surrounding the disappearances and murders of aboriginal women. Her thesis advisor, Darryl Leroux, said he was inspired by the inquisitive young student from the first time she attended his class and was struck by the depth of her commitment. When the search for her was still active, Leroux wrote eloquently about his student for Halifax Media Coop.
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