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RCMP apologize to dead Indigenous teen's family, saying investigation was never closed

RCMP initially released information saying that criminality was not suspected in the teenager's death, but 24 hours later issued a new statement saying 'circumstances surrounding her death are considered suspicious, and a criminal investigation remains ongoing.' (Submitted by Marie Seaweed - image credit)
RCMP initially released information saying that criminality was not suspected in the teenager's death, but 24 hours later issued a new statement saying 'circumstances surrounding her death are considered suspicious, and a criminal investigation remains ongoing.' (Submitted by Marie Seaweed - image credit)

In an emotional address, RCMP in Duncan, B.C., located about 60 kilometres north of Victoria, publicly apologized to the family of 15-year-old Carsyn Mackenzie Seaweed on Friday — saying a miscommunication between police agencies resulted in incorrect information being released that the teenager's death was not being investigated as suspicious.

Seaweed, who was from the Namgis Nation and the Cowichan Tribes, disappeared in Duncan on May 14 while attending a local soccer tournament with her mother. She was found alive but weak the following day behind a Super 8 Motel off the Trans Canada highway and died a short while later.

The man who found her body told her family that she was under a wood pallet and covered in twigs and garbage.

RCMP initially released information saying that criminality was not suspected in the teenager's death, but 24 hours later, issued a new statement saying "circumstances surrounding her death are considered suspicious, and a criminal investigation remains ongoing."

RCMP said Thursday investigators didn't consider the death a homicide.

Addressing a rally of family, friends and mourners outside of the Duncan RCMP attachment on Friday morning, Insp. Chris Bear, the head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment spoke candidly, saying the case is a top priority.

"I can assure you that our investigators are doing everything they can. There have been some miscommunications which I completely own up that we had. It was misconstrued that we aren't investigating. We have been giving this everything that we have since the onset, and we are doing everything that we can," said Bear.

"I just want to reassure the public that we are doing everything. The investigation was never closed whatsoever. That was a miscommunication that I apologize for, and I apologize to the community and the family. This is a very huge priority we are doing everything that we can."

Bear said the error was the result of a miscommunication between Duncan RCMP, Island District RCMP and media liaisons.

Kathryn Marlow/CBC
Kathryn Marlow/CBC

Carsyn's mother, Marie Seaweed, said Duncan RCMP also apologized to her directly by phone on Friday morning.

"It made me feel good that my daughter's case is a main priority, that she's not going to be swept under the rug, that my daughter isn't just a statistic," she said.

"My daughter hasn't been laid to rest for a week, and the outpouring of positive support has touched my soul."

Adrian Sylvester, who organized the rally and asked police to speak to those gathered, said the initial release calling the case unsuspicious sent shockwaves through the community and led to concerns that precious time was lost to properly investigate.

"The mother has gone through enough as it is. It totally shocked everyone ... they were losing time when they could have kept going on it and finding more leads."

Asked about the file at an unrelated media event in Nanaimo, Premier David Eby said the province will ensure Duncan RCMP are fully equipped to take on the investigation.

"We are counting on the RCMP to do a comprehensive investigation, you know, counting on them to take this seriously and to fulfil their responsibilities, and I know they will," he said.

"There is nobody in this province, especially not a police officer, that doesn't take this tragic death of a 15-year-old seriously."

A coroner's investigation into the case remains ongoing.