Investigators are at work in a city park where they’ve begun the task of examining, removing and identifying human remains found in the snow along the Assiniboine River.
At this point, there’s no timeline for how long that grim task may take.
"We don’t really know how long we’re going to be there," Brandon Police Service spokesman Sgt. Mike Pelechaty said.
The report of human remains along the Assiniboine River in Queen Elizabeth Park was made to police at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The discovery was made by an equipment operator who was clearing away debris and deadfall from a wooded area along the riverbank as part of continuing cleanup from the 2011 flood. The work is being done by a local landscaping company hired by the city.
Officers attended, confirmed that the remains are human and guarded the scene overnight.
The BPS Forensic Identification and Criminal Investigations units were assigned and those units, and the Office of the Medical Examiner, will now focus on the task of examining the scene and removing the remains. The medical examiner will attempt to determine identity and cause of death.
Investigators were busy Wednesday morning and afternoon setting up equipment at the scene just northwest of 26th Street North. Police said the remains are just metres from the southern bank of the Assiniboine River.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner supplied a shelter and other equipment such as generators, and by around 4 p.m. a tent had been set up around the remains. Pelechaty supplied a general outline of how such investigations typically proceed. First, the scene is secured and protected and the shelter erected to protect the remains and provide an area for investigators to work. Within the shelter, the area might be thawed to allow better examination.
Some forensic examination would be done at the scene before the remains are removed and further examination done by the medical examiner at either the Brandon hospital or, if necessary, a better-equipped facility in Winnipeg.
The case is currently considered suspicious and foul play hasn’t been ruled out. Police said the remains are in an "extremely advanced state of decomposition," and gender and age have yet to be determined. Clothes were also found, including what appeared to be jeans and running shoes.
Pelechaty said that at this point it hasn’t been determined how long the remains have been there but, while they’re not recent, they aren’t historical or archeological. The theory that they haven’t been there for an extended period is supported by the
fact that, while embedded in snow, it doesn’t appear that the partially-exposed remains were buried.
Workers were clearing debris from the ground’s surface and weren’t excavating. The park is well-used in the summer — the scene is near a baseball diamond and the area is popular for walking dogs — so remains wouldn’t lay exposed long without being discovered.
On the other hand, due to the decomposition, it seems likely they weren’t there prior to snowfall which would have preserved them.
Police have pointed out that they have one recent missing person case that’s unsolved, although there’s nothing to indicate at this point whether the remains are those of William James Kent.
Kent, 63, was last seen at his west-end home on the evening of April 24. Police said they believe Kent walked away from his home and was not dressed for the elements as temperatures were barely above freezing.
Pelechaty said police have spoken to Kent’s wife since the remains were discovered.
An official with the landscaping company that employed the worker who made the discovery declined comment.