Police ask those who knew Jana Williams to help homicide investigators

The death of Jana Williams, whose remains were found near the Red River at Alfred Avenue last week, was a homicide, police say.

Police said last week they responded to a call around 6 p.m. Thursday reporting the discovery of a body near the Red River.

Jana Williams’ family held a vigil Sunday night near the river, and police confirmed Monday morning that they had found her remains.

The vigil shows just how loved Williams was by her family and in the community at large, said Const. Jay Murray, a police spokesperson, during a news conference Monday morning. 

“There was a significant outpouring of support for her. It’s very tough and it kind of reminds us of the human element in these cases,” he said. 

Williams would have been 28 when she died. Her birthday was March 5, police said, meaning she would have turned 29 just one day after her body was discovered. 

Police were called to Alfred Avenue, off Main Street near the Red River, around 6 p.m. Thursday, after someone came across human remains. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Williams’ remains were found outside, but police don’t think her body was in the river at any point, Murray said.

They also don’t believe her remains were there for a significant amount of time, he said. 

“We know someone was involved with the disposal of her body. That much is for sure,” he said.

“I don’t like to use the word disposal. I struggled with another word to use, but when the facts of this case do come out, I feel it’s the most accurate word to use, unfortunately.”

Whoever left Williams’ body there had tried to conceal it, but Murray couldn’t say how. He said where she was found was “not necessarily where she passed away,” indicating there may be another crime scene. 

He couldn’t say how police think she might have been killed.

Police released this image of Jana Williams in the hopes that someone will recognize her and come forward with information about where she was in recent weeks. (Winnipeg Police Service )

Williams was from Winnipeg, but police don’t believe she was living at a fixed address in the last days of her life, Murray said. She also had not been reported missing, he said.

Investigators are hoping someone in the community, particularly those living or working in homeless shelters, might have seen or talked to her in the two weeks before her body was found. 

Police decided to release photos of her in case it jogs someone’s memory, Murray said. 

“There’s a lot we don’t know about Jana. There’s a lot that we want to establish,” he said. 

“Traditionally, investigations like this where we recover a body and we have to start working backwards, we have to start establishing where she was in the days leading up to her death, when that death occurred and the people she was with. So it can be incredibly challenging.”

He also asked that people living in the area where her remains were found call police if they can remember noticing anything suspicious in the last few weeks. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the homicide unit at 204-986-6508 or submit a tip anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).