Family of woman with autism found dead in foster home seeks answers
Published Wednesday, December 21, 2016 3:37PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, December 22, 2016 5:06AM CST
A family is searching for answers after a Manitoba woman's death in July was deemed a homicide on Tuesday by the RCMP.
Lydia Whitford, 18, lived with autism and epilepsy. She was in the care of Sandy Bay Child and Family Services at the time of her death, the agency told CTV News. It's considered an extension of care because Lydia was an adult.
Jessica Whitford said family members were initially told by Sandy Bay CFS her sister died of natural causes.
Jessica wants to know why RCMP and CFS weren't more up front with her family about the circumstances surrounding Lydia's death.
She can't understand why anyone would want to hurt Lydia.
"How could somebody do that to somebody innocent like that, somebody who's really gentle?” Jessica said.
"She didn't verbally speak so she didn't really have a voice."
RCMP said officers from Oakbank responded to Lydia's death at her home in the R.M. of Springfield on July 14th.
On Tuesday, five months after Lydia was found dead inside the home, the Mounties said investigators determined her death is a homicide. The RCMP wouldn't elaborate on details of the case.
Sandy Bay Child and Family Services executive director Richard De La Ronde said Lydia lived in a licensed foster home in the R.M. of Springfield. The agency closed the home after the death, which means children are no longer placed at the home.
"It's an automatic response when there's any kind of critical incident," said De La Ronde.
De La Ronde said it was RCMP who initially told CFS Lydia died of natural causes and that's the information they gave her family.
"(The RCMP) said they were changing it to a homicide without providing any reason."
De La Ronde said the agency has requested the Children's Advocate do a review of the case.
"You never want to lose a child, or anyone in care, for that matter," De La Ronde said. "We want to make sure checks and balances are in place."
The Office of the Children's Advocate said it's aware of Lydia's death. A spokesperson said because she was 18 a review can't be automatically initiated however the Advocate has decided an investigation will be launched but likely not until the police wrap up their case.
"In cases where there are criminal investigations underway, our review process is limited until those other processes are concluded, as we are careful not to interfere with law enforcement investigations," the spokesperson said in an email.
The province said it can't provide information about an individual and said that it's not appropriate to comment on the case because of the ongoing police investigation.