When 22-year-old Savanna Pikuyak said goodbye to her family over a caribou roast at their Nunavut home last week, her mother did not know that that would be the last time she would hold her daughter in her arms.
Sheba Pikuyak remembered how excited her daughter was to leave her home community of Sanirajak, Nunavut, and embark on a new adventure in a big city with the hope of one day becoming a nurse.
Sheba said her daughter arrived in Ottawa on Thursday. The young Inuk woman moved into a room in a shared rental she had found on Facebook near Algonquin College, where she had just started studying in the pre-health sciences pathways program.
On Sunday morning just after 10 a.m., police responded to a 911 call reporting a woman had been seriously stabbed and that a man with a knife was still in the building at 34 Woodvale Green — a two-storey row home in southwest Ottawa.
Police arrived on scene to find Savanna dead from her injuries. CBC has learned police suspect she was also sexually assaulted.
Sheba said investigators informed her that her daughter had been killed. She learned that a 33-year-old man named Nikolas Ibey was charged with second-degree murder. Sheba said police told her he called 911 and that he allegedly turned himself in to officers when they arrived on the scene.
According to sources, he was living as Savanna's roommate when the attack happened.
Her mother said the family did not know him, and that they had not heard his name until that fateful Sunday.
'Smart and bright'
Savanna is remembered by her mother as "smart and bright." Her mother recalled how the young woman had taught herself knitting, crocheting, beading and other crafts as a teenager. She was also an avid cook.
An active member of her community with a great interest in learning about Inuit culture, Savanna attended a Students on Ice program in Greenland, and, according to her mother, attended Nunavut Sivuniksavut, a post-secondary education program specifically for Inuit youth in Ottawa.
Her sarcastic daughter loved making people laugh, even when they were so far away from each other.
The morning of her death, Savanna was Facebook-messaging her mother, about a memory of a joke they once shared.
"We called her 'babe'," said Sheba. "So I asked her, 'Babe, how would you like your breakfast?' And she was very sarcastic and she replied, 'not burned'," Sheba said, still laughing at the memory. "She had that great sense of humour."
After a quick exchange of messages, Sheba said she became busy with making bannock and preparing a potluck for a family celebration. Just hours later, police would be calling to tell her that her babe was dead.
Found room through Facebook
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 34 Woodvale Green is owned by a numbered company that is registered to Ibey's brother Christopher Ibey, according to provincial property records.
Those records also show that the official closing date on the purchase of the house only occurred on Aug. 31 of this year. Christopher operates a local security company and other Ottawa businesses, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Efforts to reach Christopher Tuesday at the security company's head office were unsuccessful.
A photo posted by other employees to social media show Nikolas working at least one of his brother's companies.
And it was Nikolas who posted ads on Facebook for the Woodvale rental rooms as recently as Aug. 8 — before his brother officially purchased the home — where he advertised the $750-room that would be available for monthly rent as of Aug. 25.
Nikolas mentioned the home's "close proximity to Algonquin College" as a selling point. There was no answer Tuesday at the number listed for potential tenants to call.
In a statement to the CBC, Algonquin College said it is respecting Pikuyak's family's request for privacy and is offering resources and counselling services to students and staff.
The college declined an interview request to discuss off-campus housing and any concerns about safety it has in the wake of the incident.
Sheba says her family is now trying their best to cope with the devastating news.
"She was truly exceptional," she said of Savanna. "She had a heart of gold."
Savanna Pikuyak's death is the fifth homicide of a woman and 10th killing overall in Ottawa this year.