Police kept flying to North Caribou Lake First Nation until a family member last seen with Tammy Keeash allegedly admitted to having her cellphone since her death and then also changed their story of her last moments alive, APTN News has been told.
“Police went flying up there three times,” said Pearl Keeash, Tammy’s mother.
It was on the third trip, she said, that things apparently changed.
“After pressuring, (the family member) stood up, dug in (their) pocket and handed them the phone,” said Keeash.
The 17-year-old First Nations girl’s body was found in the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway May 7 in Thunder Bay after going missing the day before.
Keeash said York Regional Police (YRP), have been keeping her updated on their investigation ever since they were called in by Ontario’s chief coroner in June.
Thunder Bay police determined Tammy’s death showed no signs of criminality days after her body was found and ruled her death was consistent with drowning.
Several weeks later, APTN first reported Tammy was found partially nude from the waist down, based on the person who found her, and further out in the floodway than Thunder Bay police had told her mother.
Keeash had no idea of the state of her daughter’s undress until APTN told her.
The coroner then called in YRP to reexamine Tammy’s death, as well as the death of Josiah Begg, 15, who went missing the same day as Tammy.
Begg was found over a week later in a different part of the floodway. Begg’s mother declined to comment.
Keeash said investigators also told her the family member, who had allegedly had Tammy’s cellphone, also changed their story of the young girl’s last moments.
Tammy had been drinking with three family members up on a hill in Chapples Park near the floodway when she went missing.
The family members told Keeash they watched Tammy walk away because she was past curfew at her nearby foster home, as she was under the care of the province.
Keeash was left to believe Tammy had somehow returned to the same spot they had been drinking and ended up in the floodway and drowned.
“They said they watched her walk away. That’s what they originally said,” said Keeash, adding they all kept to the story until police recovered the phone.
Keeash said YRP said the family members now claim they left Tammy on top of the hill as she was heavily intoxicated.
Before they left they turned her on her side so she wouldn’t choke on her own vomit, said Keeash.
“She was still alive when they left her,” said Keeash.
APTN knows the identity of the family member who had allegedly had Tammy’s phone.
Telephone calls and Facebook messages have gone unanswered.
Keeash said police told her they don’t expect to lay charges and the file will remain open, but she hasn’t heard from them in a few weeks.
“I want them charged,” she said.
YRP had five investigators working both deaths that are believed to be wrapped up and in the hands of the coroner.
The lead investigator from YRP declined to comment on the investigations.
Keeash said when she last met with police and the coroner a few weeks ago, they couldn’t explain the cause of a mark on one of Tammy’s hands, something she believes, in her heart, was a defensive wound.
She said the coroner originally did a sex assault examination but it came back inconclusive.
As for why Tammy was about seven metres out in the floodway, Keeash said YRP told her maybe she got up to go to bathroom.
Keeash questions why Tammy would go down the hill and walk out into the floodway, thick with reeds and low water level at the time, to go pee.
It’s also a secluded area at that time of night.
“I don’t believe that, you know?” she said. “I believe something happened to her. I still have a lot of questions.”
Keeash last saw her daughter the day she went missing.
Her home is close to Tammy’s former foster home that was shuttered by the province after her death.
“It’s too hard,” said Keeash of what she’s been going through. “I don’t think you even want to imagine it.”
Sadly, it’s the second time Keeash has lost a child while in custody of the province.
She also lost her 18-month-old son in 2010. She said she has been trying to get that case reopened.
“I don’t think I’ll make it if I lose another child,” she said. “It’s been a hell of a ride.”
While she waits for the coroner to give her the final report on Tammy’s death she remembers a young girl that had been struggling but was upbeat and looking forward to turning 18 and getting out from under the authority of the province.
“I would tell her funny stories about herself when she was growing up,” said Keeash. “And she’d laugh.”
It’s believed the coroner will announce the results of both deaths investigations in the near future.