First-degree murder charges laid in Loretta Saunders case: RCMP
Published Thursday, February 27, 2014 2:57PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 27, 2014 5:50PM EST
A man and a woman are facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of 26-year-old university student Loretta Saunders, RCMP announced Thursday.
Saunders' body was found Wednesday afternoon in a highway median in New Brunswick. Just a few hours earlier, police had declared the case a homicide.
Saunders was reported missing by her family on Feb. 13. She was last seen in the Cowie Hill Road area of Halifax.
Five days after she was reported missing, her car was found in Harrow, Ont., located about 40 kilometres south of Windsor.
Saunders, an Inuk woman, was three months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.
She had been studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax for three years, and was in the process of completing a thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Victoria Henneberry, 28, Blake Leggette, 25 have each been charged with first-degree murder. The two were arrested on Feb. 18 for the theft of Saunders' car.
They are scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court on Friday.
"We are hopeful that these charges will bring some sense of closure to Loretta's family and friends," Halifax police said in a statement. "We extend our sincere sympathies to them."
Members of Saunders' family had travelled from Labrador to Halifax to make public appeals for help in finding her. Dozens of supporters papered the city with posters showing a smiling Saunders and her bright blue car.
Call to action
Assembly of First Nations Chief Sean Atleo offered his condolences to the Saunders family on Thursday and urged officials to act on addressing the issues of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
"This is a call to action that this must end now," Atleo said in a statement. "We cannot add one more name to the list of murdered or missing women. We need to see action by all parties to end violence, to respect and honour women and families, to ensure our communities are safe and secure for all."
The Assembly of First Nations in calling for a National Public Commission of Inquiry to address the ongoing issues.
"The loss of Loretta Saunders is tragic and has clearly sparked a growing awareness and concern among the broader Canadian public," Atleo added.