On Monday, November 10, 2014, the Winnipeg Police Service took the rare step of identifying a teenaged victim of a serious sexual assault in a move aimed to motivate the public to come forward with information to resolve her case.
Police identified the girl as Rinelle Harper (16) years, a resident of the community of God’s Lake Narrows who temporarily resides in Winnipeg to attend school.
The Initial Report
Police originally reported the incident occurred on November 8, 2014, at approximately 7:00 a.m., when emergency services were dispatched to the area of Donald Street and Assiniboine Ave regarding a “check the well-being” incident.
On arrival, EMS workers located Harper on the river walk east of the Midtown Bridge. It was apparent she’d been the victim of a serious assault.
Harper was transported to hospital in critical, unstable condition.
The Winnipeg Police Service Homicide Unit was assigned to lead the investigation.
Police indicated they were seeking the public’s assistance for any information that might, “help investigators solve the crime and bring Harper’s attacker to justice.”
Police released the following information;
- Investigators know Harper was out with friends on Friday evening in the South Broadway area
- Investigators know Harper was attacked along the river-walk next to the Assiniboine River near the Donald Street Bridge
- The attack is believed to have been sexually motivated
- Investigators believe Harper ended up in the Assiniboine River after the assault
- Harper’s unconscious body was discovered by a passerby a short time later. She was rushed to hospital in critical condition.
(Her condition has since been upgraded and she is expected to recover from her injuries.)
Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen Harper on Friday evening (November 7) in the hours and minutes preceding the attack or anyone who may have intimate knowledge regarding the incident.
Harper is described as;
Aboriginal, 16 years, 5’8” tall, 180 pounds with dark brown hair past the shoulders, wearing black leggings, white runners, dark-colored North Face hooded jacket and a black ‘Wutang’ hoody. She was last seen in the area of the Midtown Bridge at the rear of 340 Assiniboine Avenue heading towards the river walk.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Homicide Unit at (204) 986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at (204) 786-TIPS (8477).
Winnipeg, we have a problem.
Sexual predators are lurking in the dark corners of our streets, alleys and river walks.
These creeps are criminal opportunists who constantly scan the environment looking for vulnerable women or girls who may be alone, under the influence of alcohol or drugs or otherwise present as easy targets.
Awareness is an important part of public safety.
On August 1, 2014, during the early morning hours, a 35-year-old woman was the victim of a serious sexual assault in the area of the Donald Street Bridge. The woman managed to fight back and the suspect fled the scene.
He was described as male, Aboriginal, approximately 35 years of age, 170 pounds, short-black unkempt hair, pocked marked face, slight moustache, wearing dark clothing and white runners.
No arrests have been made.
On August 17, 2014, the body of Tina Fontaine (15), was pulled from the waters of the Red River. Fontaine was a vulnerable teenaged girl struggling to cope with the murder of her father.
She was reported to have issues with alcohol and involvement in the sex trade.
No arrests have been made in her killing.
In October 2003, WPS CSI investigators positively identified human body parts, recovered from the Red River months earlier, as belonging to missing teen Felicia Solomon (16).
Solomon was a vulnerable girl reported missing on April 3rd, 2003 and was last seen alive on or about March 25, 2003.
Police have no information to suggest Solomon worked in the sex trade.
Her murder remains unsolved.
(The Solomon case has not been mentioned in mainstream media reporting on the Harper case.)
Connecting the Dots
While the police focus centers on solving each case, investigators must be alert to any potential connection that might exist between the Harper, Fontaine, Solomon and the August 1st, 2014 sexual assault case.
These cases have certain commonalities regarding the nature of the crimes, victim demographics and geographical locations.
Police indicate these cases have not been linked but have not ruled out the possibility.
The message to the public remains one of caution and concern.
Sexual predators and killers capable of grotesque criminal acts are at large in our City.
That is an undeniable fact.
The Donald Street Bridge has a certain degree of dark history.
On January 12, 2002, the body of Derek Buboire (24) was found under the bridge after he was brutally murdered by a man later identified as Patrick Joseph Cleeton. Buboire had been stabbed up to twenty-six (26) times.
Cleeton subsequently plead guilty to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for fifteen (15) years.
Tragically, Buboire’s sister would suffer a similar fate.
On March 24, 2004, the body of Stephanie Ann Buboire (30) was found in a Burnell Street apartment. Buboire was killed instantly after she was shot in the head by a crack dealer identified as Dwayne Lorne Powell (27).
Powell plead guilty to manslaughter indicating the shooting was accidental. He was given double time credit for time served and walked out of jail after serving a sentence of thirty (30) months.
The sentence on paper is theoretically equal to five (5) years incarceration.
Stephanie and Derek Buboire originated from Sagkeeng First Nation but grew up in the child welfare system in the City of Winnipeg. They were both reported to be involved in the sex trade.