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2 Indigenous women buried in 1970s identified through DNA analysis, Edmonton police say

Two Indigenous women buried without their names in Edmonton cemeteries nearly 50 years ago have been identified through DNA testing, the Edmonton Police Service said Friday.

The women have been identified as Louise Laderoute, who was 24 when she died in 1975, and Irene Jacknife, who was 30 when she died a year later.

Laderoute, a member of the Papaschase First Nation, had been reported missing from Edmonton. Jacknife had been reported missing from Drayton Valley, Alta.

The two cases were the first to be examined under Project Match, a joint effort launched last year between Edmonton police, the RCMP and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to review historical unidentified human remains investigations.

Edmonton police are holding a news conference Friday morning to talk more about the cases.

“Unsolved human remains cases leave behind families experiencing years, sometimes a lifetime, of ambiguous loss, grief and trauma,” Det. Kevin Harrison, with the EPS historical crimes unit, said in a statement.

“That’s why, together with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, we are working to apply today’s technology and investigative lens to these files to help bring some sense of resolution to the grieving families.”

On July 30, 1975, the body of an unidentified woman was found in the North Saskatchewan River. An autopsy revealed she drowned several days earlier. The death was not deemed suspicious.

On June 11, 1976, an unidentified woman died outside an Edmonton address. An autopsy determined the death was due to medical causes. It was not deemed suspicious.

DNA analysis was not available in the 1970s and DNA samples were not collected from the women’s bodies at the time.

On Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 last year, the bodies were exhumed from their graves in Edmonton Cemetery and Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Two elders were present to perform sacred ceremonies, police said.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and an external forensic anthropologist then reviewed the initial autopsy reports, re-examined the remains and collected samples containing DNA.

The samples were sent for forensic testing, DNA extraction and comparison analysis.

Both women were identified through DNA matches with samples from family members submitted to the RCMP National DNA Data Bank.

Edmonton police said they were supported in their efforts to examine the two cases with support from the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and the City of Edmonton’s Indigenous Relations Office.

The EPS missing persons unit currently has 14 unsolved unidentified human remains files dating back to 1979. Project Match will continue to review the files.

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