WINNIPEG — A long-awaited arrest in a Winnipeg cold case mystery has sparked new calls for a national public inquiry into murdered and missing women.
Police announced Monday that Traigo Andretti, 38, is charged with second-degree murder for the September 2006 death of Myrna Letandre.
Letandre was 37 years old when she vanished without a trace. Her name was added to the list of 28 missing and murdered Manitoba women being investigated by the “Project Devote” RCMP-Winnipeg police task force beginning in 2009.
Police got a major break in the case in May 2013 after Andretti — a former Winnipeg resident — was arrested in British Columbia and accused of killing and dismembering his wife, Jennifer McPherson, on a remote west coast island.
While questioning Andretti about that homicide, B.C. investigators received information about the Letandre case that was quickly forwarded to their Manitoba colleagues. That triggered an extensive search of a Lorne Avenue home in Point Douglas, where the remains of Letandre were discovered.
“I want closure for our family. But I also wish the other missing and murdered women would get justice,” Sue Caribou, a relative of Letandre’s, said on Monday.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper was at the RCMP news conference and applauded police for solving “one piece of the puzzle.” But he noted a recent report shows there have been more than 1,100 missing and murdered women cases in Canada since 1980.
“This does send a message of hope,” Harper said. But he said a “further fact-finding mission” in the form of a thorough public review is still required.
“Where else in the world are there over 1,000 women missing?” Harper asked.
“We heard of the missing school girls in Africa and there was a public outcry. Here we have over 1,000 and still no call for a missing and murdered women national inquiry.”
Dennis Whitebird of the Assembly Manitoba Chiefs also attended Monday and agreed with Harper. He was critical of police for allegedly not keeping his organization informed or involved in the investigation.
Letandre’s relatives have expressed frustration in the past at what they felt was a slow-moving process. But investigators defended their work Monday, saying it was a sensitive case that required plenty of legwork.
They acknowledged the case picked up steam when Andretti pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder for killing McPherson. He was given an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
Project Devote investigators then moved in to complete their investigation of Letandre’s death. Andretti was formally arrested while in prison in B.C. but has now been transferred to Manitoba to deal with the charge. He will make his first court appearance later this week.
“These charges are the result of Project Devote’s careful investigation of leads and gathering of evidence,” Winnipeg Police Service Superintendent of Investigative Operations Danny Smyth said Monday.
“While we are pleased to bring these charges before the courts, our thoughts go out to Ms. Letandre’s family members, who have suffered an overwhelming loss. We hope this will bring them some measure of justice.”
Police say Andretti also goes by the name of Dylan Harold Grubb. Andretti had contact with Letandre while they were living in Winnipeg. One source described it as an informal relationship.
RCMP previously stated they believe Letandre may have briefly lived at the same Lorne Avenue home, although they wouldn’t disclose whether it was with Andretti.
Andretti and McPherson previously lived at the Lorne Avenue home where Letandre was found before moving west more than five years ago. Family members of McPherson say she met Andretti through a dating website shortly before leaving Manitoba.
Andretti has a form of autism and has been a cause of concern for police and justice officials after he failed to take prescribed medication. He has a criminal history in Manitoba and B.C., including a violent attack against McPherson in 2008 that netted him probation. The judge ordered Andretti to stay on his medication as a condition of his probation “so he will not be a danger to others and himself.”
Police discovered McPherson’s scattered human remains on a remote island near Alert Bay, off the east coast of Vancouver Island, last spring. The couple had been living on Hanson Island as caretakers of a remote fishing resort called the Pacific Outback Resort.
At his sentencing hearing last month, lawyers revealed Andretti was co-operative upon his initial arrest and even gave police a tour of the island to show them where he had disposed of the remains, including some he burned.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 3, 2014