THUNDER BAY -- City police have identified the young victim, and some of the details surrounding the tragic events, in the Monday murder of an eight-year-old girl.
Officials with the Thunder Bay Police Service on Thursday confirmed that Brandi Marie Wingert, 8, was pronounced dead after being rushed to the hospital after a violent incident at a Donald Street home.
Police Chief J.P. Levesque said a 34-year-old woman was assaulted by her 38-year-old ex-boyfriend around 3 a.m. Monday. The woman was able to get out of her basement apartment, run across the street and have the residents of that house call 911.
The woman stayed at the neighbours and the male suspect left the apartment and attempted to break into the upstairs apartment.
“The residents of that apartment force him out. Then they call 911. He leaves the area. The people in the upstairs apartment go downstairs and find the young girl gravely injured,” said Levesque, adding that police arrived within three or four minutes of the 911 call.
“Our officers find the mother across the street and the two kids in the basement apartment and again finding Brandi seriously injured.”
A second child, Brandi’s 10-year-old brother, was found unharmed in the home.
The mother of the two children had non-life threatening injuries, while the young girl was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Police say the 38-year-old man, who is believed to be responsible for the assault and murder, was sought after the preliminary investigation at the scene.
The ex-boyfriend was not living at the Donald Street home at the time of the incident and there had been no prior incidents of violence reported to Thunder Bay Police.
However, Levesque said the police were called by the 34-year-old woman looking for police assistance as the couple had been in the process of splitting up.
“We did have some involvement of a domestic nature but not leading us to believe anything violent would happen,” said the chief, noting there was no restraining order against the suspect.
A post mortem examination was conducted on the eight-year-old victim. The cause of death is currently a matter between the family and the coroner.
Levesque said he doesn’t believe the young girl’s cause of death will be released to the public since the case won’t be going through the court process.
“I don’t know that serves any purpose to be honest. I don’t know that it’s fair to the family,” he said.
“I got some good advice when I first got on the job and that’s fight your morbid curiosity … I recognize people want to know what happened. We’re talking about a beautiful eight-year-old girl that had her life taken away from her. How she died I don’t think is all that relevant,” said Levesque.
The investigation led to a police standoff with the suspect later that morning.
Police say at about 7:30 a.m. they received a call about a suspicious vehicle that was parked at the end of Wharton Road, a short dead-end residential road off Oliver Road.
The Chrysler 300 matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle.
City police converged on Wharton Road. Full incident command was established and police then began attempting to communicate with a lone male occupied in the vehicle.
The stand-off with the man ended at about 11:30 a.m. when the man was taken into custody by the emergency task unit.
The man was then rushed to the hospital by paramedics where he was pronounced dead a short time later due to injuries police say were sustained prior to arrest.
The Special Investigations Unit is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the man’s death. The SIU is a provincial investigation unit that looks into the circumstances involving police and civilians that result in death or serious injury.
Police say they believe the deceased man was responsible for the both the assault of the man’s ex-girlfriend and the murder of the eight-year-old girl.
Neither of the children involved in this tragic incident were related to the 38-year-old ex-boyfriend.
In a release issued by city police about the case, police conclude by stating “Our thoughts and prayers are with Brandi Wingert's mother and family.”
The identity of the deceased 38-year-old man has not been made public and Levesque said he believes the SIU will release that information once their investigation is complete.
He couldn’t comment on any details of the Wharton Road standoff since it’s under the purview of the SIU.
“I’d like to clarify some things and it’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just I’m not allowed to do that, so I apologize,” he told reporters Thursday afternoon.
The chief also thanked the officers who have been working on the case and the other emergency responders who attended the scene.
“This has been an exceptionally difficult time for our members who are involved in this case. It’s affected them deeply. We are doing our best to help them get through this,” he said.
Police held a critical incident debrief for the officers involved Monday evening with the help of St. Joseph’s Care Group.
Levesque added this particular platoon of officers has been involved in a few critical situations in the last few weeks and it’s taken a toll.
“You keep putting rocks in the backpack, the backpack keeps getting heavier and for some of them I know it’s really, really struck a chord with them,” he said.