WINNIPEG — The parents of a woman who disappeared last summer fought back tears Wednesday as they stood before the house where police believe she was murdered.
George and Melinda Wood bowed their heads as a pastor led them in prayer, surrounded by a few hundred people who took part in a ceremony that has become familiar — a vigil for a missing and murdered aboriginal woman.
"It's been a long seven and a half months that we've been searching for our daughter, but this is not what we hoped for," George Wood told reporters a few minutes earlier at a nearby church where supporters gathered.
"The hardest part is, there's no comfort yet, there's no body."
Christine Wood was 21 when she disappeared last August after leaving her downtown Winnipeg hotel to go out for the evening. She had travelled from her home community of Oxford House First Nation with her parents to accompany a relative to a medical appointment.
Police on Monday charged Brett Ronald Overby, 30, with second-degree murder after searching a home. Police said they don't believe Overby had any previous connection to Wood and, while her body was not in the home, police allege there was evidence she was killed inside it.
George Wood called for his daughter's killer to tell police where the body is. He said the loss has hit the family hard.
"We, just like any other parents, had hopes for our daughter ... we had the same thing when we let our daughter come to the city."
Wood, his wife Melinda and the couple's three sons led the crowd on a 20-minute-long march down Main Street in rush hour. The sons held a banner featuring Christine's picture. Cars honked in support as they passed by.
Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the crowd many indigenous families know too well the sorrow they feel.
"I remember a time when I was a little boy when we buried my aunt back home on Pine Creek Indian reserve because her life was taken (in Winnipeg)," Nepinak said.
"There was a time when nobody talked about people that we lost in these cities, and our families are still in a lot of pain."
Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth expressed his condolences to the Woods.
"My heart goes out to you. I'm sorry for your loss," he said.
"This investigation was especially important to me because you were guests in this city when this happened and we just couldn't stand by and watch that."
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press