A Red Deer mother found out the worst possible news of her life on Thursday that her 21-year-old daughter had been murdered.
Mounties are now on the hunt to find out who killed Jenna Cecilia Cartwright, whose body was dumped in the countryside. A passerby noticed the body on the edge of a rural road about four km northeast of Olds at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday and called police.
Lynda Cartwright, 51, told the Advocate late Thursday afternoon that she had received a visit to her Red Deer home earlier in the afternoon from RCMP, who informed her that her daughter had been murdered.
Cartwright has four other children, including a twin sister to Jenna.
“It’s devastating,” said Cartwright. “We want to find out who the killer is.”
Cartwright had last heard from her daughter, who lived in Red Deer and was single, on March 30. Jenna had left her a voice message for her mother to call her back at her grandparents’ house. Jenna’s two-year-old daughter was staying at that home, Cartwright said.
Cartwright later put out a missing person’s report to police because she said Jenna’s cousin hadn’t heard from her for some time.
“They are stuck like crazy glue,” said Cartwright. “And (Jenna) was always talking to her twin sister.”
In a news release put out by police in mid April, police said Jenna had a known history of substance abuse.
Cartwright said she understands her daughter liked to smoke pot and that in the last few months, had “taken an interest in meth.”
“When I saw her in March, she wasn’t drugged or anything,” said Cartwright.
Police said the identity of the female victim had been positively established through fingerprints. No name had been released late Thursday afternoon.
Olds RCMP called in for reinforcements, including RCMP’s Forensic Identification Section and the Calgary Major Crimes Unit. Police say the woman’s remains were sent to the Calgary medical examiner’s office, which did an autopsy on Wednesday.
Police say the autopsy results confirm it was a murder, but the cause of death is not being released.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Patrick Webb said RCMP homicide investigators have been busy lately. Besides the Olds area case, a body was discovered outside Okotoks and another one was found outside Beiseker.
Reached earlier, Webb said the body was that of a woman who had been reported missing.
The autopsy had given some timeline of how long the body had been there, but police are withholding that information right now, Webb said.
“There’s only a few people who know how this person died — the medical examiner, the RCMP investigators and the person who did it,” said Webb.
The investigation will include trying to formulate a timeline of the woman’s activities, Webb added.
He said that people in the Olds area should feel safe.
“It’s very rare to have a homicide happen in a particular rural location,” Webb said. “Right now, we have nothing to say that the average citizen should be concerned about being in danger.”
Residents in nearby Olds, a town of about 8,500, were saddened to hear the news that someone had been found murdered so close to town. When the Advocate interviewed people in Olds earlier on Thursday, the identity of the dead woman was not yet known.
Olds Mayor Judy Dahl said she’s concerned that people are committing serious crimes in rural areas.
“Is this an overflow from the big cities or is this transients going back and forth from B.C. and other cities?,” said Dahl. “It’s not the social behaviour we’re used to in small towns. I’ve lived in Olds for 25 years and this is out of our realm.”
Dahl said she wants to discuss the issue of major crimes at an upcoming regional meeting with municipal leaders including those from Mountain View County.
“We have to put out an alert,” she said.
Despite these concerns, Dahl added she “absolutely” believes that Olds is still a safe community.
Todd Johnson, co-owner of Paint Pot, a business in the heart of downtown, said he saw a police helicopter flying overhead early Wednesday afternoon. It’s an unusual occurrence, he said.
“When you see a police helicopter, you know something bad has happened,” said Johnson, who has lived in Olds all his life.
But he added, a number of serious crimes have happened within the town of Olds lately. In mid-April, two people were charged with aggravated assault after two males were stabbed in the downtown.
Last fall, a Calgary driver was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of an 18-year-old Olds College student, who was struck down and killed outside a downtown bar. This was the last time murder charges were laid in Olds.
Across the street at Itza Clip! Doggy Day Spa, owner Joanne Parker said she was saddened to hear of the woman’s fate.
“I didn’t think we were a big enough area to have that happen around here,” said Parker. “We’re just a small town.”
Lena Stang, a partner of Stang’s Health Centre, said she has lived in Olds for 39 years and since then, she’s seen the makeup of the Olds area changing.
“People are moving in from all over,” she said. “When people move in, crime can occur. Murder is a shock and you don’t expect to find it in a smaller area, but we’ve had things happen in our town because people are coming and going.”
Katie Oliver, customer service rep at the Black Forest Bakery, said Olds has always been a “safe, good town” which is why she’s always returned to live after being away a few times.
Bakery customer Norman Conrad was also shocked by the news.
“I don’t very often hear of things like that in this town,” said Conrad, a farmer west of Olds.
Anyone with information about the case or about the victim are asked to call Olds RCMP at 403-556-3324 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.