Two people have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ruth Longboat, a 56-year-old Six Nations woman whose body was found in the Humber River in Toronto on March 8.
The OPP and Six Nations Police announced on Tuesday that Michael Joseph of Brantford and Jayden Elijah of London, both 23, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and committing an indignity to a body.
The pair appeared in a Brantford courtroom on Tuesday and remain in police custody.
The arrests come after an “intensive investigation” led by the OPP criminal investigation branch, said Const. Mary Gagliardi in an email.
Gagliardi declined further comment as the investigation remains ongoing. Six Nations Police did not respond to several requests for comment.
Toronto police opened a homicide investigation after Longboat’s body was spotted in the river, but the investigation soon shifted to Six Nations.
“She didn’t know anybody in Toronto. She didn’t travel to Toronto. She barely liked to leave her house for a couple hours,” said a Six Nations woman who told The Spectator she and Longboat were close friends for more than 30 years.
“It’s got nothing to do with Toronto. That was just a dumping site.”
In an interview before the arrests were announced, the woman asked that her name not be published because she feared being targeted by Longboat’s killers for speaking out.
In the days following the discovery of Longboat's body, officers searched a house on Mohawk Road on Six Nations and put out a call for video footage of any suspicious activity in the surrounding area.
Longboat’s friend said the property police searched is a well-known “drug house” and that Longboat had been mixed up with people from on and off the reserve involved in the drug trade.
“She did drugs and bought drugs. She was starting to be a prisoner in her own home because they were coming there, trying to take it over,” she said.
‘Who killed Ruth?’
If Longboat feared for her life in the days before her murder, she didn’t show it.
“She didn’t express it to me, but we’re kind of those tough girls where I’m not sure if she would’ve said something,” her friend told The Spectator.
“It would take a lot for her to say, ‘hey, I’m in trouble,’ or, ‘hey, I’m scared.’”
However, her friend did raise her eyebrows when Longboat borrowed her phone to call a life insurance company to ask about setting up a policy.
“I look back at the things she said and did leading up to all that, she must have known something was going to happen,” Longboat’s friend said.
The last time the two saw each other was on Thursday, March 3, at Longboat’s house.
Her friend showed The Spectator a Facebook message she received from Longboat’s number at 1:11 p.m. on March 6, a simple “Ok” in response to an update on a personal matter.
There was no communication after that, even as Longboat’s friend messaged her repeatedly and went over to her house to check in.
“I’d been over there 10 times looking for her,” she said, noting it was “odd” for Longboat to be out so often and not return messages.
She tried not to panic, thinking perhaps Longboat was having phone trouble and was out running errands, or had crashed at a friend’s place for a few days.
“No big deal, you know? I’ll catch her later. I just kept telling myself that,” she said.
That was until news broke that Longboat’s body had been found in the river.
“My friend texted me and asked me, ‘Who killed Ruth?’” Longboat’s friend remembered.
“And I was like, what? What the hell are you talking about?”
‘You don’t get to say goodbye’
Longboat’s funeral on the reserve lasted more than 90 minutes as her loved ones shared memories and tried in vain to find closure.
“I can’t really accept the fact that it’s happened. That it went to the extent it did, you know?” her friend said quietly.
“You don’t get to say goodbye.”
Her friend described Longboat as a loving mother, grandmother and aunt with “lots of friends.”
“She’d give you the shirt off her back even if she didn’t know you,” she said.
Several of Longboat’s relatives contacted by The Spectator declined to be interviewed for this story.
Over the years, Longboat’s friend would drop by Ruth’s house to chat, often finding her tending to her beloved rose garden.
“She had a really good heart,” her friend said. “She was there to talk to no matter what frame of mind she was in. No matter what.”
Longboat had two sons, one of whom died suddenly in 2019. Her remaining son, and her other relatives, are “doing horrible,” her friend said.
“I talk to her sister almost every day. We vent to each other,” she said.
“There’s a lot of anger right now.”
‘No one deserves this’
In an earlier interview, Longboat’s friend worried that in death, Longboat would be written off by the police as “another druggie” because she struggled with drugs and alcohol.
“So what? Everybody does,” her friend said. “She also liked Sunny D and salt and vinegar chips.”
On Tuesday, speaking with The Spectator after the arrests were announced, she said she was “relieved” investigators gave the case the attention it deserved.
The pair charged with Longboat’s murder were among seven people arrested between March 9 and 11 — just after Longboat was killed — as part of Project Chance, a months-long drugs and guns investigation that saw police in Six Nations, Mississaugas of the Credit and London seize 57 guns, a “large quantity” of ammunition, and $27,000 worth of illicit drugs in a series of raids.
Joseph and Elijah were charged with illegally possessing firearms and stolen property, as well as possession of cocaine and opioids with the intent to distribute. They were also charged with three counts of having guns in a vehicle and assault while resisting arrest.
Longboat’s loved ones still have many unanswered questions about her final moments.
“I almost don’t want to know why they did it to her, because it’s just going to make me more angry,” her friend said.
“It makes you wonder how they would feel if that was their mom or grandma.”
She wants people to know Longboat “meant a lot to a lot of people, and she was a kind person.”
“This was a cowardly move by the people that did it,” she said.
“I know that she never did anything in this world to deserve that.”
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator