|The case of a missing Ottawa teen is now a murder investigation, sparking fears by some that a serial killer may be on the loose.
Police confirmed Monday that a body found near a hiking trail, just steps from a frequently used parking lot, is that of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague who disappeared on her way home from work Sept. 8. The body was partly covered in tree branches when it was found Sunday about five kilometres from the west-end restaurant where Teague was last seen after working the late shift.
Investigators are not ruling out the possibility that a serial killer is responsible, but they said it doesn't immediately appear that the case is related to that of another murdered Ottawa woman.
The body of Ardeth Wood, 27, was discovered more than two years ago near a path in the city's east end and police have yet to find her killer.
"At this point, I must stress that the two investigations do not appear to be related," said a sombre Staff-Sgt. Monique Ackland at a roadside news conference near where the body was discovered.
But that didn't ease everyone's fears. At least one radio talk show host and many residents raised concerns about a link to Wood and fears of a serial killer.
The cause of death was not immediately known and police would not reveal whether Teague had been sexually assaulted, nor whether she was fully clothed when discovered.
"It will take . . . extensive forensic testing to obtain more information," said Ackland. "That could take weeks."
The identification was done through dental records.
As many as 65 police officers continued searching area roadways and the swamp near where Teague's body was found as separate investigative teams probed her death.
Everyone from forensics specialists to crime lab personnel and beat cops have been called in to help with the probe.
As a small aircraft guided them from above, van loads of police searchers could be seen Monday heading into a marsh that makes up part of the Stoney Swamp Conservation Area, about 500 metres from the trail where the odour of a decomposing body led an off-duty police officer to Teague.
The Teague family, after being informed of the positive identification of the teenager, asked police to relay their wishes for privacy to the media, said Ackland.
"They are going through very hard times and our hearts go out to them. Please leave the family alone."
A group of teens huddled outside Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternative School on Monday holding newspapers containing stories about their classmate.
Teague was described by school co-ordinator Gerry Cuppage as a student activist who led an award-winning environmental campaign in the Ottawa area.
Public school board chair Lynn Graham issued a statement reading:
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our student Jennifer Teague and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, relatives and the entire school community at Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternative School. Counsellors are being made available to help students at the school cope with this tragic loss."
The board's Tragic Events Response Team was to arrive Tuesday.
"Our support people are not intrusive. That's part of the work that they do," said board spokeswoman Maggie Melenhorst. "They are there if students need them. Otherwise the school does try to maintain some semblance of normalcy."
Teague disappeared shortly after heading home late at night from the Wendy's restaurant where she worked.
Wendy's Canada has a policy that forbids employees from leaving their place of work alone, said a spokeswoman. But unlike some other fast food chains, it does not ensure employees are driven home in taxis or picked up by parents.
The fast food chain is reviewing that policy.
"We are now in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures," said Sharon Reid, who added that the corporation closely guards many details of its policies to protect employee safety.