05/09/2013 01:25 EDT | Updated 07/09/2013 05:12 EDT

Winnipeg house probe linked to homicide, missing cases

A police investigation at a Winnipeg rooming house has been linked to Project Devote, a Manitoba task force looking into unsolved historical homicides and missing person cases in which foul play is suspected.

Members of the Winnipeg Police Service and RCMP began an investigation at the rooming house on Lorne Avenue, in Winnipeg's Point Douglas neighbourhood, on Tuesday. Investigators remain on the scene as of late Thursday.

RCMP confirmed that the probe is part of Project Devote, a joint police task force that is investigating the cases of eight missing persons and 20 homicide victims.

Each of the cases, some dating back to 1961, involves a victim of high or extremely high risk due to lifestyle. Almost all of the cases involve women.

"This particular investigation that we're working on falls under the mandate of Project Devote, so it'd be one of the persons that are under their carriage," RCMP Cpl. Miles Hiebert told CBC News.

The investigation is related to "a criminal offence that occurred in the province of Manitoba," according to a news release.

Hiebert said family members of at least one Project Devote victim have been notified of the current investigation.

Earlier Thursday, the home's caretaker told CBC News that officers have carried a number of boxes and plastic bags out of the basement. Police have said very little about what they are looking for at the house.

"One makes a leap, a conjecture, that because [police are] spending so much time in that house, they suspect that a murder may have taken place in there," said Sel Burrows, a neighbourhood activist.

Burrows, who is also on the board of the Point Douglas Neighbourhood Association, said at least three sex trade workers lived in the rooming house up until six months ago. It has been vacant since then.

Slain B.C. woman lived at house

Sources told CBC News that a woman who was recently found dead in British Columbia had previously lived at the Lorne Avenue rooming house with her husband, who has been charged in connection with her death.

Jennifer McPherson, 41, was most recently living on Hanson Island, B.C., and was reported missing by her family on May 1.

Her remains were found on the remote island on Monday and her husband, 37-year-old Traigo Ehkid Andretti, has been charged with second-degree murder.

McPherson and Andretti once lived at the rooming house. According to family members, they moved to B.C. about five years ago.

McPherson and Andretti were working at a fishing lodge on Hanson Island, located on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

Lana Andrews, who manages the lodge, said she and others are shocked with the news of McPherson's death and Andretti's arrest.

"I was just a little bit creeped out, considering I had spent quite a bit of time with them," Andrews told CBC News.

"You know, I spent time with Traigo alone, like, at the lodge when him and Jennifer would get in a little bit of a fight."