Loretta Saunders. Submitted
The family members of Loretta Saunders were devastated at the news Wednesday evening that the missing woman's body had been found in New Brunswick.
“Oh my God. I can’t speak now,” Barb Coffey, Saunders’ aunt, said when contacted by TC Media Wednesday evening after the news broke.
Halifax police say Saunders’s body was found late in the afternoon Feb. 26 in the median off Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Salisbury, N.B.
Salisbury is just west of Moncton, about a three-hour drive from Halifax where Saunders lived.
Halifax police had earlier said the disappearance of the university student from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., was being treated as a homicide, ending the hope her family had expressed that she would be found safe after vanishing two weeks ago.
Police say they have identified suspects in the homicide and charges are anticipated in the case.
Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk woman who lived in Halifax and was a student at Saint Mary’s University — where she was researching missing and murdered aboriginal women and was set to graduate in May — is originally from Labrador. She was last seen Feb. 13 leaving her Cowie Hill Road apartment. Her family reported her missing a few days later.
Family members in Labrador, Halifax and St. John’s were trying to reach each other to speak about the upsetting news Wednesday evening, Coffey said.
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“It’s hard, but they are strong,” she said of Saunders’ family, especially her mother, Miriam, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Two people have been charged with stealing her 2000 Toyota Celica, which was found in Harrow, near Windsor, Ont., last week.
Members of Saunders’ family have travelled to Halifax to make public appeals for help in finding her. A vigil was held for her Tuesday night in Halifax.
“We recognize that Loretta’s family and friends, along with the community, have rallied together in an effort to bring her home safely,” Const. Pierre Bourdages of Halifax Regional Police said in a statement. “This is a tragic incident and a profound loss.”
Police say they have identified suspects and are not looking for anyone else.
Ontario Provincial Police arrested Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28, and they were returned to Halifax to face auto theft charges.
Leggette is scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing Friday, while Henneberry is scheduled to make an appearance in Halifax provincial court today.
Coffey said earlier Wednesday that Saunders’ family is amazed at the way the aboriginal community across the country has given them strength. She also noted the kindness and efforts made by volunteers in Nova Scotia, Ontario and elsewhere who helped put up posters and spread the message about Saunders’ disappearance.
With files from Metro Halifax.