4 months after young girl’s body was found in the Grand River, police still don’t know who she is

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Four months after the body of a girl, between the age of 10 months and two-years old, was found in the Grand River near Dunnville, Ont., police still don’t know who she is or how she died. 

Emergency crews responded to a call around 1:22 p.m. on May 17, after the remains were found in the river. 

OPP Det.-Insp. Shawn Glassford said in May it was unclear how long the girl was in the water and whether the body may have moved with the current from a different place. 

On Wednesday, four months later, he told CBC News, “these things take time,” adding that the doctors at the office of the chief pathologist are doing “painstaking work” related to the autopsy of the child. 

“We all want answers quickly,” Glassford said. “It’s important for the community to know we are still investigating this case. We want to identify this child.”

The family of the child has also not been identified. 

“We’re looking for missing children … really across Canada and the United States,” Glassford said in May, adding tips had come in from across the province and the U.S.

None of the tips have so far led to an identification. 

Emily Holland, a forensic anthropologist in the department of anthropology at Brandon University in Manitoba, agreed that quick answers are not always possible in these cases.

She says an “autopsy can take different amounts of time depending on the complicated nature of the case” and locating the body in water makes finding answers more difficult.

“Water complicates the whole process,” she said. “It complicates estimating time since death and it complicates estimating where this person originally came from.”

Police with the OPP’s search and recovery unit were seen in the area in May, with officers on a boat, on shore and in the water combing the river. (CBC News)

Back in May, Wasyl Luczkiw, whose family owns the Grand River Marina and Cafe in Dunnville, said police used the business’s property as a base for their investigation, and used one of the marina’s boats to conduct the search.

The body’s discovery was “surprising and shocking and sad to hear that somebody lost a loved one,” Luczkiw told CBC Hamilton, adding he hoped the family could eventually find closure. 

Holland says there are other complications in the identification process. She says there’s a challenge that would make it difficult to determine the ethnicity of the young girl. 

“If an individual has been dead for a long time, if that outer layer of skin is lost in the process of decomposition, you can’t rely on that to determine someone’s ancestral origin,” she said. “For adults you can look at specific features of the skull but that same kind of assessment isn’t always possible for children, particularly young children.”

In a statement from the office of the coroner, representative Stephanie Rea said, “Death investigations – especially complex ones – can take many months.”

“The coroner needs to be able to answer five questions to complete an investigation: the identify of the deceased, the date of death, location of death, medical cause of death, and manner of death,” she said. 

The investigation is ongoing and Glassford said he is determined to find the girls identity. 

“We’re not going to stop until we do get answers,” Glassford said. 

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