Monday, April 19, 2010

Suspicious death in Cow Bay continues to generate interest

The tragic death of a young Prince Rupert teenager last week, still listed by the RCMP as suspicious in nature has proven to be an item of interest well beyond Prince Rupert's city limits.

The discovery of the body of Emmalee Rose McLean last weekend, submerged in waters off of Cow Bay has been on the mind of Prince Rupert residents over the last week as parents of high school children and concerned citizens try to come to some understanding as to what may have happened to the Nisga'a teenager in the hours prior to the discovery her body.

The report of that discovery of the weekend of April 10th has been reported extensively this past week in the local media and has been examined across the province and even in  national media outlets.

Opinion 250-- April 17-- Prince Rupert Teen Drowned
Vancouver Sun-- April 13-- Foul play not ruled out in death of teen found partly submerged in water
Vancouver Sun-- April 13-- Police identify teen found dead on Prince Rupert waterfront
Vancouver Province-- April 13-- Body found at Prince Rupert waterfront identified as Nisga'a teen
Vancouver Province-- April 12-- Police identify 16-year-old girl found dead on Prince Rupert waterfront
Toronto Sun-- April 12-- Body of B.C. teen ID'd
Globe and Mail-- April 12-- Teen death in Prince Rupert ‘suspicious’
Vancouver Sun-- April 12-- RCMP investigate girl's death
CBC News-- April 12-- Teen found dead in Prince Rupert identified
CTV News-- April 11-- Police in Prince Rupert, B.C., investigate teen death
Vancouver Sun-- April 11-- RCMP investigate death of 16-year-old girl in Prince Rupert
Opinion 250-- April 11-- Body Of 16 year Old Found In Prince Rupert

On Friday, the RCMP released some further information from the autopsy report, with an initial finding indicating that the preliminary cause of death was due to drowning.

Since the discovery of Miss Mclean's body, the RCMP has undertaken an extnsive investigation into the circumstances of that discovery, utilizing the services of the Force's GIS section, Forensic Identification Service as well as RCMP divers who were working the waters of Cow Bay earlier this week.

As the investigation continues, the RCMP is seeking further assistance from the public should they have any details or information surrounding the hours prior to the discovery of the body. Any information that the public may have on the case can be provided to the RCMP at 250-624-2136 or Crimestoppers at 250-627-8477.

The Northern View provided the early coverage on the local scene of the suspicious death with a number of updated  items posted on line through the week, the most recent one from this weekend past with details of the preliminary autopsy findings.

Drowning ruled the preliminary cause of death in case involving 16-year old girl 
By Shaun Thomas 
The Northern View 
Friday, April 16, 2010

On April 16 the Prince Rupert RCMP released further information on the death of Emmalee Rose Mclean, the 16 year old girl whose body was found along the waterfront last weekend.

An autopsy was conducted in Vancouver on April 13 and the initial findings from the autopsy indicate the preliminary cause of death was due to drowning.

While the investigation continues into her death, an investigation that has included the General Investigation Section, RCMP divers and the Forensic Identification Section searching the area in the 100 block of George Hills Way over the past week, RCMP had said on Monday that foul play was not being ruled out and it was being treated as a suspicious death.

The RCMP received a call at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 10, after a passer-by observed the body of Emmalee Rose Mclean of Prince Rupert partially submerged along the waterfront The RCMP is asking anyone that may have seen anything suspicious in the area prior to the deceased being located to call the Prince Rupert RCMP at 250-624-2136 or Crimestoppers at 250-627-8477.

CFTK TV 7 News also had early details on the discovery posted to their website on April 12th, with Sahar Nassimdoost filing this report for the TV station.

This most recent weekend saw the memorial service for Miss McLean take place at the Nisga'a Hall, while her friends and family offered up tributes and remembrances of a young life cut short.

The Daily News provided a number of reports this week, including a rather detailed examination by George T. Baker  of Emmallee Rose McLean's life and the involvement in it of those around her, instructive to a fashion as to some of the lifestyle choices that some young people in our community are making these days.

Choices and circumstances which seemingly can lead to a path of pain and sadness for the families involved and should provide a level of concern for others in the community as to some of the happenings in this community on a daily basis.

16 years old found dead Saturday 
By George T. Baker 
The Daily News 
Monday, April 12, 2010 

Prince Rupert RCMP are investigating the death of a 16-year old Charles Hays student.

Emmalee McLean’s body was found partially submerged at 100 George Hills Way on Saturday afternoon. Police are calling her death suspicious at this point. Her body was spotted by a passer-by.

Cpl. Dave Uppal said that local investigators are working closely with the BC Coroner’s Office to determine exactly how McLean may have died, with an autopsy taking place this week.

“We are encouraging people to contact the police if they have that kind of information. I know that there are lots of rumours out there that we are trying to put an end to,” said Uppal.

Police are encouraging members of the public to contact police if they have information surrounding the death of Mclean or who may have been in or around the 100 block of George Hills Way prior to her body being located on April 10, 2010 at 1:30 PM.

Editor’s Note: Out of consideration for the family and others we will not be publishing any photographs that have been taken.

If you wish to help, please email them directly to the RCMP at

Schools deal with the tragic loss of a bright mind 
By George T. Baker 
Tuesday. April 13, 2010 
The Daily News 

A great smile from a bright and strong-willed mind is how Emmalee Rose McLean, 16, was described Monday as students and teachers of Charles Hays Secondary School learned about the death of one of their own.

McLean’s body was found partially submerged near the water marina area on George Hills Way last Saturday afternoon. Police have called McLean’s death suspicious, but they won’t know the cause of death until a BC Coroner’s Office autopsy is performed this week.

Until then, school administrators and teachers are trying to help students move forward with their curriculum – a hard task given the circumstances.

“It’s pretty quiet,” School District 52 Superintendent Lynn Hauptman. Hauptman was covering for CHSS principal Sandra Jones, who was away, to help coordinate the counselling services as needed.

“Some students have just wanted to come and sit, other students have wanted to come and talk. Some aren’t here and they must be with their families.”

Councillors from the local Ministry of Child and Family Development office were asked to help students and teachers with the grieving process.

“It is hard for teachers, too. Many of them knew the young woman very well and made connections with her and [an event like this] can trigger, if people have been through their own experiences, it can trigger those emotions as well,” explained Hauptman.

McLean’s death has shocked Prince Rupert not only because of the age of the girl, but also because of the nature of how she died.

Police have not said how long McLean was deceased before she was found. That will likely come forward after the autopsy has been 

The area she was found in is also a black area. There is little to no streetlight coverage and limited to no CCTV camera coverage.

Cpl. Jagdev Uppal told the Daily News that police are currently attempting to secure any video from local businesses should there be one.

“Members are still asking for assistance from local businesses regarding any video that may lead to clues to what happened,” said Uppal.

So, while the challenge will remain with the local RCMP to discover what happened to the 16-year-old, the school district did its best to describe what McLean was like.

Hauptman, acting as the spokesperson for the school, said that teachers shared with her many of McLean’s qualities.

Some CHSS students described McLean on Monday as being shy, though she did participate in the drama program where her personality, Hauptman said, really shone through.

“She had a great sense of humour that really helped keep the cast and crew together, and she was very bright, quick witted, funny and was a girl who was described to me as one who smiled broadly and easily,” said Hauptman.

Students also told the Daily News that their teachers said not to speculate on how McLean may have died.

Remembering Emmalee... 
By George T. Baker 
The Daily News
Friday, April 16, 2010 

There is only one way Emmalee Rose Mclean’s family want to remember her.

They say she was a bouncy, bright light with a love for drama and for eating only half of everything. A typical teen with braces laced with popcorn, who might get into her share of trouble at times, but was mainly a good girl with a penchant for trying new things.

McLean was the 16-year old girl found last Saturday afternoon, partially submerged in the water near George Hills Way. Police are still investigating what happened to her in her final moments, but the family is not concerning themselves with speculation at this point.

They want answers, and the answers will come, but what they want most right now is for the North Coast community to know what kind of person Emmalee Rose McLean was.

“Friends to Emma were like family – she would call them her cousins,” said Cousin Naomi White.

She loved her drama class and had a deep understanding with her teacher, CHSS drama teacher Elliot Fox-Povey. She loved to cook and would get her hands on all sorts of cupboard items, asking her family, “…will share half, if I cook?”

Sometimes, as her cousin Adam White would say, the other half would end up in the garbage can instead of being shared, much to the wonderment of her family.

Naomi White would know. McLean had come to live with the Whites almost one year ago. Naomi would share thoughts with McLean at night, discussing everything from how the school day went to what was going on amongst their various friends. Sometimes they would just talk about whatever first came to mind.

Perhaps prophetically, last month a metaphysical question about how they wanted to be remembered when they died came under discussion during one of their conversations.

White said that the question was completely unprompted, the timing eerie. Yet, she would not call it a prelude.

“Emma didn’t want anyone to cry when she passed away,” explained White. “I told her not to talk about it, but she said ‘just listen please.’”

McLean went on to explain to her cousin that it was really important that no one cried at her memorial. She wanted them to think of the good things about her and the positive moments they shared.

How did it come up in conversation?

“We were just at home in bed. Usually when we go to bed we talk about how our day went and usually when we have nothing to report we talk about the first thing that comes to our mind. I guess that was the first things that came to her mind. She said she wanted to be cremated and she wanted to be yellow. I told her not to talk about it, that she had a long life ahead of her.”

 “She said ‘It’s just a conversation’.”

Her idea for a memorial was to have the same as the one held for her father.

Her dad was Dennis Paul Lee, and he was the most influential person in Emmalee McLean’s life. He encouraged her to go to school and to achieve. Her father was right there for her all the time.

Dennis Paul Lee passed away 11 months ago to cancer, and his death had a profound affect on the teenager. But even those close to Emmalee – the family is very tight knit – had not realized just how important he was to her.

After her father passed away, school became a struggle. McLean lost focus. She fell into a life that, some say, had her involved with a crowd that did not have her best interests at heart. Some say she was involved in drugs and alcohol.

How much involvement has become a bit of a debate in the community, but her family wants it to be known that Emmalee was no problem teen. Her experiments with drugs and alcohol, whatever amount there may have been, were not indicative of a life slipping away. They were simply the rebellions of a teenaged girl.

Her family and those that knew her said that she was smarter than that. They said, regardless of the situation, she could be relied upon to do the right thing. Even if she had become inebriated after a night of partying, she would call her Aunt Terry to pick her up and make sure she had a safe ride home.

She was going through a tough time in her life and needed a stable home environment, which the Whites were able to provide. Terry White said her home had become Emmalee’s safety place.

“With all her struggles she’d gone through in the past year, she was actually coming back around again. She did straighten up a bit. But coming close to [the anniversary of] her dad’s passing, it sort of did throw her off track,” Terry White tried to make clear.

What happened the night of April 10th is still a mystery. Six days later, speculation in Prince Rupert has taken on a life of its own. At this point they are simply rumours and theories, with little or no concrete proof to back them up.

RCMP investigators are working on putting the pieces together by diving in the harbour area where a passerby found McLean on Saturday afternoon, between the Oceanside Royal Fish Plant and the Northwest Fuels Petro Canada gas fueling station.

Why it took so long for anyone to notice her is unexplained. Neither businesses, nor the Prince Rupert Port Authority have cameras in the area. Who she was with, also remains private. If the police know, they are not sharing.

They want the case to remain as confidential as possible so that the integrity of the investigation is not compromised.

Cpl. Jagdev Uppal is the media relations’ officer for the case. He told the Daily News that the dive on Wednesday was just another part of the investigation to ensure that no previously unfound evidence that could lead to a conclusion or an arrest, remains in the water.

“Tips keep coming in and that is what we encourage the public to do.The more information we get, [the more it] will help us in determining how she died. There are a number of leads that we have to follow up on.

“An investigation like this does take time. It is not something that is going to be solved over night.”

Police have received McLean’s autopsy report. Information from that report will also not be released. With the procedure complete, the family can finally prepare Emmalee for her final rest. But there is still so much that isn’t known.

And with such little information, McLean’s family says they are finding it hard to find closure. For them, it is too soon. Some still have not accepted that she is gone.

“My reaction was denial,” said her cousin Jaime McLean.

“My reaction was shock. Complete and utter shock,” said Aunt Terry White.

“I didn’t want to believe. I still don’t want to believe it,” said cousin and confidant Naomi White.

Tuesday night, Naomi White went to sleep. She had a dream. In that dream were her uncle and her cousin, Dennis and Emmalee. Emmalee spoke to her. She reassured her that she was finally safe with her father.

“She was telling me that she was showing her dad all the things she learned about the world. That she was happy with where she is and how awesome it is. Yeah. I am happy that she is happy.”

McLean’s struggles over the past year included friends betraying her, said Naomi White. She had no close friends at school – no true friends in the sense of a confidant, or one who would tell you that you are messing up - even when you don’t want to hear it.

The people she was with that night, she continued, were not people she could trust 100 per cent. Some she could trust, but not all of them.

Why then, was Emmalee out late at night?

It’s become a chorus line problem in Prince Rupert. “Where are the teenagers and what are they doing?” Prince Rupert is by no means the only community in British Columbia dealing with troubled teens - and it remains one of the topmost unresolved debates on the North Coast.

Times have changed since the halcyon days in Prince Rupert and the economics have worsened. Locals recite days that Second Ave. West would be filled with thousands of people lining up after the bars let out. The road would be closed it was so busy.

Now, with money harder to come by, fewer adults are found on the streets in the early hours of a North Coast weekend morning. However, the teenagers are there. Not all cause problems, but enough do that the topic of how to encourage teenagers to stay home past midnight continues on.

“Of course the preference would be to have the children at home by one or two in the morning,” said Mayor Jack Mussallem.

They are children. Regardless of age, they still belong to someone, said Mussallem. And he wants parents and guardians to do more to make sure that happens. Because Prince Rupert, while not the only community facing troubled teenager issues, does appear to be facing more than its fair share, per capita.

According to BC Statistics, the regional district has a juvenile crime rate of 14.4 per cent – a whole ten per cent higher than the provincial average.

Mussallem said it is time that the community puts an end to the nonsense of teenagers being out at 3 a.m. The Community on Patrol program may help. So too, might auxiliary RCMP officers. But at the end of the day, it’s the job of parents to do more.

“It’s very difficult. Kids like to be out. But really, being out late at night, those streets are not playgrounds. The downtown is not a park,” said Mussallem.

McLean’s family agrees.

“There is too much drugs,” said McLean’s cousin, Adam White, talking on what he sees happening in his community.

“There has been an increase in cocaine, heroin and ecstasy and crap like that. And all these young kids are getting into this ecstasy because it is so cheap. They want to get their high going. Parents need to start paying more attention to their kids.” Jaime Mclean concurred.

“In the long run, your kids are a reflection of you. And everything they know is what they hear from their parents.”

The life of Emmalee Mclean was taken far too soon. It isn’t easy whenever a loved one passes on. But when a teenager dies, especially under the circumstances Mclean did, it forces loved ones to try to deal with something they are ill-prepared for. The memories are too raw. The smile is still bright.

“I remember [this past Easter] was her first time she went to Port Ed ,” said Adam White to a chorus of excited “yeahs” from his family members.

“We took her to Port Ed for the first time in her life – she’d lived here for 16 years.” Adam White just shook his head.

Jaime Mclean took Emmalee McLean and Jaime’s mother and sister to Oliver Lake first. Then they went to Diana Lake. After all the lake-seeing, a mighty thirst was built up. It was time to make their way down the Port Edward highway, all the way to Brad’s, for the North Coast’s most infamous milkshake.

“And Emma was like ‘I’ve never been here before.’ I was like ‘How have you never been to Port Edward before?’ We shared a strawberry milkshake and had a really good time,” recalled Jaime.

Emmalee McLean, a 16-year old Charles Hays Secondary Student, was not the most vocal person in the classroom. She was, however, good at making her point. Sometimes she needed her cousin to help, sometimes she just needed her friends to care.

Tonight is her memorial at Nisga’a Hall – 7 p.m. It is likely, against her best wishes, that there will be some tears shed. Because, regardless of what others may say - “The important point was that she was a member of our family,” said Jaime McLean.

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