Missing purse or missing person? Questions swirl around bundle found in Red River
After discovering a woman’s purse and clothing — wrapped up with rocks inside a plastic bag — along the Red River, a Winnipeg woman wonders who the items belonged to, and why someone seemed intent on getting rid of them.
By day, Lisa DeLarounde takes care of her grandchildren, cooking meals and making sure they get to school.
But by night, you can find her walking along the Red River, searching for the missing faces that disappeared from Winnipeg.
“That river is crying out,” she says, as she explains feeling spirits of bodies hidden in the waves of the Red River.
She calls herself an Indigenous Warrior.
DeLarounde, along with more than 20 other members, have scoured the Red River as First Nation Indigenous Warriors since 2017.
“We’re all family. We have a lot of people that are not family, but we’re all like family.”
Programs like Drag the Red search in the river, but she believed it was time for someone to search the river bank, she said.
“We started doing it at night because no one else does it, so we started walking along the river late at night.”
DeLarounde said it wasn’t until Nov. 1, that her group, FNIW stumbled upon their first suspicious item along the river.
The group shared their evening walk in a Facebook Live video, with no anticipation of what they’d discover.
Pointing, a group member said he noticed an item caught in the rocks of the water.
The video shows the group’s uncertainty as they try to decipher between a bag of garbage or something worse.
DeLarounde said she knew in her gut, it wasn’t a washed-up trash bag.
“Oh my god, it was a scary feeling, but at the same time, it was excitement,” she said as she recalled the moment of finding the mysterious bag.
One of the group members lifted the soggy grocery bag out of the water.
“We talked, and we were going to come back the next day,” she recalled, as they group decided their next move. But she said she ultimately knew she couldn’t leave the mysterious bag.
“I said ‘No, because you guys, it will bother you, it will bother you all night.”
The next thing DeLarounde remembers is shock when they opened it.
Searching for an Answer
Inside was a purse with a sweater, but more disturbing she said, was inside the bag were three pieces of cement-like blocks attached to the sweater.
She said it wasn’t something that would have already been in the river.
“It is nothing that is beside the river, as I’m looking there’s all types of rocks that are there, but there’s no pieces of cement.”
The group continued to investigate, pulling the sweater farther out of the bag and looking deeper before a wallet was found at the bottom.
The video shows the group immediately investigating the wallet, which contained many cards and even an ID.
DeLarounde suddenly realized their fingerprints could contaminate what could potentially be evidence for police.
According to Cst. Tammy Skrabek of the Winnipeg Police, DeLarounde was right.
“If an item must be moved to be kept secure, we ask that it is done carefully so as not to disturb any evidence,” Skrabek said.
“Don’t touch it!” DeLarounde yelled. She could tell the bag had been in the river for a while. “Deanna” was the name handwritten on the back of one of the cards.
She immediately thought the worst, she said.
DeLarounde said the group’s next move would be to get a hold of police. Cst. Skrabek said DeLarounde made the right choice.
“If an item is simply suspicious, and there is a possibility it could be related to an offence but it’s not certain, we would ask that police still be notified,” Strabek said in a statement to Global News.
Strabek said it may take time for someone to attend once their unit is notified, “likely some sort of appointment would be made for a later date.”
DeLarounde said that’s exactly what happened. After speaking with police, the group decided to take the purse home, afraid of leaving it and having it fall into the wrong hands.
“[Police] came and picked up the bag the very next day at 8:30 in the morning,” DeLarounde said.
Waiting for an Explanation
Now that her unsettling discovery has been taken over by police, DeLarounde said she’s still left wondering who “Deanna” is.
“I phone police every week to ask, and my husband even called the last time.”
She said she’s been given few details by authorities after handing the purse over. “They said that the purse was sent over to investigations and missing.”
Police confirmed they have assigned an investigator, but were still looking into it.
However, after this story published, police reached out with further information.
They said one of the items in the bag was a debit card that had been reported stolen. “It has since been replaced by the bank and belongs to a male.
“At this point, we have been unable to link any of the found items to any active missing person. It is believed that the bag may have been stolen and put into the water.”
They said they have no report of a missing Deana or Deanna.
With nothing left to do but wonder, DeLarounde said her findings have prompted her to move now, more than ever before.
“Out there somebody is missing someone, and they know who she is.”
She said her group will keep fighting for people like “Deanna” who don’t have a voice.
DeLarounde said if she didn’t make the follow up calls with police, “Deanna” would simply disappear back into the Red River.
“Don’t let her die.”
What to do if you spot a suspicious item
- If an item is known to be involved in an crime, leave it undisturbed and notify police.
- If an item is suspicious, but you don’t know for sure that it is related to a crime, notify police knowing that an appointment would be made to inspect and seize the item at a later time or date.
- If an item must be moved until the appointment, handle the item as little as possible.
- When moving, use gloves, don`t over handle or smudge the item to avoid cross-contamination when moving an item.
- If the item comes in contact with another material, notify police so authorities can rule it out as belonging to a suspect or scene.
WATCH: FNIW video of the discovery, taken at the edge of the river