NEWS
09/18/2016 13:14 EDT | Updated 09/19/2017 01:12 EDT

27-year-old Cree woman's body found in Surrey, B.C.

The body of a young Cree woman who went missing nearly five months ago was found this week in a wooded area in Surrey, B.C.

Deanna Desjarlais, 27, was originally from Saskatoon. She had travelled to Vernon, B.C., in late April, and that's the last time her family heard from her.

Family friend Dana Morenstein says Desjarlais' relatives are absolutely devastated.

"It's such a tragic ending, but I guess it's good to have closure for the family," said Morenstein, who is currently a spokesperson for the grief-stricken family.

The Desjarlais family is now working to get Desjarlais' body home for a funeral, on top of struggling to find answers to how she may have died.

How missing report was handled

The Vancouver Police Department confirmed with the CBC that the RCMP is now investigating the case.

Morenstein said while family members are confident in the RCMP's current investigation, she's concerned with how Desjarlais's missing report was initially handled by the Vancouver Police Department.

"We never felt like they were taking her case seriously," Morenstein said.

"One of the detectives told us not to worry because they think she is in Saskatoon, and is probably living under a false name collecting welfare."

She added that the family also had a difficult time getting a hold of detectives for information,  and that they did not release a picture of Desjarlais to the public nor did they post a missing person's bulletin on the RCMP website.

"It was like they were dismissing her case, because she is an Indigenous woman," said Morenstein.

But while Desjarlais was still missing, the VPD, who were responsible for the case at the time, told the CBC they were making inquiries and tracking her travels to determine where she might be.

Family convinced Desjarlais was murdered

This week, Desjarlais's family learned from the RCMP that she was found in a wooded area without a path to it. At first, her badly decomposed body was difficult to identify, but eventually police were able to get a thumb print.

Morenstein said family members were at first worried her case would get swept under the rug.

But when Morenstein called the Surrey RCMP office, detectives said Desjarlais' death was in fact being investigated as suspicious. The B.C. Coroner's office also told the CBC it could not comment on the case and that the RCMP are currently investigating.

Wrote song about MMIW before she went missing

Morenstein said Desjarlais and her five siblings had a difficult life growing up.

"They were just dealt a really rough hand," said Morenstein.

But regardless of that tough life, her siblings and those who crossed paths with her say she was vibrant, humorous and kind.

Cheryl L'Hirondelle met Desjarlais at a women's group she led in Saskatchewan.

"She was bright, bubbly, vivacious, a comedian and very happy-go-lucky," L'Hirondelle said.

The seven women in the group decided to co-write a song dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women, after a woman from a previous group was found murdered.

"All of the women were quite torn up about it as you can imagine, so we decided to write a song about it," L'Hirondelle said.

The song is called Come my Sister Come, and L'Hirondelle says is about how they as sisters needed to stand together and band together for change.

Finding out about Desjarlais' death this week, the women in the group are also devastated.

"It would be wonderful for her family to get a sense of closure, that is so important. Hopefully people are touched by this enough, they know that this is wrong and must stop," L'Hirondelle said.

As for Morenstein, she says she will continue to put pressure on the police for answers, for justice for Desjarlais.