The family of Rico Cody Linklater, a presumed homicide victim from Nelson House who went missing nearly a year ago, is pleading with their community and RCMP to keep up the search.
“It’s very hard. Like a heavy feeling. Sad. Our family just needs closure,” said his aunt, Daisy Linklater.
Rico Linklater, 22, was the second-eldest of 12 children who lived with his parents and younger siblings in Nisichawasihk Cree Nation, or Nelson House. He was last seen Oct. 21, 2021, and his family reported him missing two days later.
At the time, investigators believed Linklater was still in the community about 665 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, or in nearby Thompson, Man. But his family knew he wouldn’t have strayed.
“He was very loving, very family-oriented, a stay-at-home kind of guy, very shy and he wouldn’t be the type of person to be all over the community. Like he would visit just close family within the radius of his home,” said his aunt, Cheryl Moore, who is also a band councillor.
Over the past year, the family and community have conducted many searches, and held a news conference pleading for information.
On Sept. 6, RCMP reported his death was believed to be a homicide.
“We knew within the first week that he went missing that it was a homicide. We knew. And I don’t know why it took the RCMP a whole year to determine that,” said Moore.
She was with a group of women doing a community patrol late on Oct. 21 when she last saw her nephew, walking on the road just before 11 p.m., the community curfew at the time. Concerned for his safety, Moore said she convinced him to take a ride to her cousin’s house, where she dropped him off.
She found out days later he didn’t stay there, and was seen with another young man at a convenience store at around 1 a.m. She said the young man said a vehicle pulled up beside the store, the two separated, and Rico never returned to the house they’d been at earlier with the cigarettes he’d set out to buy.
He was apparently last seen at a house party in a part of the community known as Dog Point the next day, according to Moore.
“He never came home.”
Moore says she feels especially badly for her nephew Roger, Rico’s father.
“Roger comes here and I tell him, “Don’t lose hope. Don’t lose hope, we’ll find him.’ And I just pray that we do.”
During the week of Sept. 5, several RCMP units, including a forensics team, a dive team, search-and-rescue and investigators went door-to-door in Nelson House. Moore said much of the investigation focused on the Dog Point area, an effort the family had hoped to see sooner.
“We kept pressuring them. And we told them, get a search warrant to look in that house he was last seen. Get luminol there. Go check the vehicle that he was supposedly in. Check for hair fibres. We knew that they were dealing with a homicide and then sadly that house burned down where he was last seen. And so I don’t even know if the RCMP had a chance to do a thorough investigation in that home,” she said.
Rico’s uncle, Jonathan Brightnose, said Rico’s siblings ask their parents each day where he is.
“Hard to see somebody going through that kind of pain. Can’t even imagine what they’re going through. It’s nothing that any parent would want to go through,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure if it was somebody else like a white person’s kid I’m pretty sure they [RCMP] would go out and look for this kid. It’s hard to talk this way but that’s how we see it. And that’s the way I see it,” he said.
RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Julie Courchaine said the investigation began as a missing person investigation, which can be lengthy and difficult to investigate, “especially in communities with the geography and terrain found in the Nelson House area.”
Investigators ‘working diligently’: RCMP
She said as the investigation progressed, it became a homicide investigation, and investigators are limited in what they can share with family and media, including details of what came of the community search earlier in September.
“Be assured that investigators are working diligently on this file as they would any other homicide and hope to be able to provide answers to Rico’s family,” she wrote.
The family said rumours in the community have been rampant and awful, with lots of finger-pointing and stories of what happened to Rico. At first, Moore said the searches would go all day, throughout the entire community and even underwater with drones.
“Nothing comes up. It’s like Rico vanished into thin air,” Moore said.
Brightnose and Daisy Linklater last saw him on Oct. 17, while dropping by for a visit. They hugged him, told him they loved him, and promised to pick him up to take him to Thompson when they returned.
“Didn’t really think it would be goodbye. It’s the one thing we didn’t expect. It was so unexpected. Uncalled for. Unfair. We’re really in disbelief,” said Brightnose.
“He just wanted to take care of his brothers and sisters. Was so humble, kind. It’s hard to believe that anyone would hurt him,” she said.
Moore said there is a “conspiracy of silence” in Nelson House right now around Rico Linklater’s disappearance.
“The people who were involved in his disappearance, I pray that they do the right thing and bring closure to our family, bring closure to our community. I pray for that.”