‘My daughter didn’t deserve this,’ mother says as murder charges laid in 2020 death of Manitoba woman

The mother of a Manitoba woman found dead last fall says her fight is not over, after a 37-year-old man was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in her daughter’s death.

“I’m relieved, but it’s not done. It’s not over for me,” said Sheila Norman, whose daughter, Tamara (Norman) Benoit, was found dead in the rural municipality of Portage la Prairie on Sept. 3, 2020, months after she was reported missing.

RCMP announced Thursday a man has been arrested in connection with Benoit’s death. Ryan Peters, of Long Plain First Nation, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder.

RCMP Supt. Michael Koppang said another arrest and further charges are expected “imminently,” and Norman said she won’t rest until all involved in her daughter’s death are charged and brought to justice.

“My daughter didn’t deserve this,” she said.

Benoit, 36, had last had contact with her family in May 2020. Norman said Peters was Benoit’s boyfriend prior to her death.

Since her daughter’s death, Norman said she’s worked hard to help police in any way she can, and has spent days and nights searching for information to assist.

WATCH | RCMP announce arrest in connection with Tamara Benoit’s death:

RCMP have arrested Ryan Peters and charged him with second-degree murder in the death of Tamara Benoit. She was found dead in the rural municipality of Portage la Prairie on Sept. 3, 2020. 1:57

Norman remembered her daughter as happy and outgoing, often joking around, and a loving mother to her seven children. Norman said she still can’t believe her daughter is gone.

“I cannot picture her alive and… know that she’s never going to come here and I’m never going to see her again. I can’t accept that,” she said.

“I never got to see her, because of the condition of her body. And I cannot think of her in the ground.”

‘Our hearts go out to them’

Benoit was reported missing to Winnipeg police in July 2020. She had last been seen in May in the area of Portage la Prairie, about 85 kilometres west of Winnipeg, and in Long Plain First Nation, just southwest of Portage la Prairie.

Acting Chief Bruno Rossi of the Manitoba First Nations Police Service said Thursday that investigators hope to see justice for Benoit’s family.

“Our hearts go out to them, as it’s a tragic, tragic situation that happened,” Rossi said. “And we’re just happy to be part of it and bring people to justice.”

RCMP worked with Winnipeg police and the Manitoba First Nations Police Service on the investigation, Koppang said Thursday. He said he couldn’t provide further details about the techniques used in the investigation or any possible motive because the case is still before the courts.

Two other people were also arrested, including a 15-year-old boy arrested in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Koppang said. The teen was later released without charges.

Peters also faces an accessory after the fact charge. Koppang said he couldn’t say specifically what prompted that charge, but in general, it describes assisting in a homicide after the victim’s death.

Peters remains in custody.

‘Found strength’ in family

Koppang said the investigation was long and complex, made even more so by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership among multiple police services was crucial to the case, he said, and he hopes to see it become a “template” for future investigations.

“Throughout, the investigative team never lost sight of who Tamara was, the violence she endured and the loss her family suffered,” he said.

In a news release Thursday, newly appointed Justice Minister Cameron Friesen thanked investigators for their work and said his government supports continued joint efforts.

“Too often, Indigenous women and girls have been the victims of violence and their families don’t receive the closure and sense of justice they need to heal,” Friesen said.

Benoit was M├ętis, police said, and was in the process of learning more about her background, family history and culture before her life was cut short.

“She loved her family and found strength in them,” Koppang said.