The RCMP have taken the rare step of shipping to a crime lab in Pennsylvania the remains of a young, blind girl who was murdered last week in northern British Columbia.
But police aren't saying why the body of 15-year-old Loren Donn Leslie has been sent to an unnamed facility in the U.S., other than that the procedure will allow a forensic specialist to help investigators gather evidence.
"It's extraordinarily unusual. Especially over such a vast distance," said Robert Gordon, director of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, of the decision to ship the girl's remains across the continent.
"That's an incredibly elaborate process," he said. "That would involve very careful preservation of the remains and transportation of the remains, there and back again. And the coroners in two jurisdictions would obviously be very closely involved in that. The big question for me is what is so peculiar about this case that would justify that kind of time, trouble and expense?"
But answers to questions like that will have to wait, say the RCMP, who found the girl's body in the bush south of Fort St. James, after stopping a pickup truck that was seen swerving off a logging road onto a remote section of Highway 27.
"The investigators are not releasing any information pertaining to the cause of death or of the injuries sustained by the victim at this point in the investigation," RCMP Corporal Dan Moskaluk said Tuesday.
"We can confirm that part of the post-mortem forensic examination was performed at the Kamloops Royal Inland Hospital last week. Investigators also sought the expertise of a particular specialist, state side, in Pennsylvania last week, which saw the transfer of the young girls' remains to a facility in Pennsylvania. We are unable to provide details at this time as to the nature of this particular portion of the post-mortem examination, but can state that it was a necessary and important step to take. We want to ensure that we are very thorough and do our best by Loren and her family," he said.
Cpl. Moskaluk indicated RCMP investigators have used the expert in Pennsylvania before.
"It's my understanding that yes, we have utilized, or had prior knowledge of this resource available and we went that route. It's all about being as thorough as possible," he said.
"I guess what we are saying as well is that it will be some time yet before we get concrete pathologist's reports … once those reports are submitted to the investigator certainly we'll be in a better position to comment on why we've gone this route."
The RCMP case began on Nov. 27, when an officer on a routine assignment to deliver some material to another officer, saw a pickup truck pull on to the highway and speed away. The officer, whose name has not yet been released, pursued and stopped the truck. After questioning the driver the officer called a provincial Conservation Officer, who tracked the truck's route back into the bush, where the body of Loren was found.
The girl, who was completely blind in one eye and partially blind in the other, had gone missing earlier in the day after leaving her home to meet a friend for coffee.
Police arrested the driver of the pickup truck, Cody Legebokoff, 20, of Prince George, who has been charged with one count of murder.
Cpl. Moskaluk said police have not linked Loren's death to any other unsolved homicides in the Prince George area, where an RCMP task force is trying to find out what happened to 18 women who disappeared or were found dead along the Highway of Tears.
"We are still at the same point at the fork of the road where we are not ruling anything out yet, nor have we confirmed at this time any linkages to other investigations," said Cpl. Moskaluk.
Highway 16, which links Prince George to Prince Rupert, has been dubbed the Highway of Tears because of the number of women and girls that have gone missing along it over the past 20 years.
Loren's body was found off Highway 27, a spur road to Highway 16.