Deputy Chief Danny Smyth said investigators believe Sanderson, 23, was killed after an argument between her and Ellis became violent.
“Indigenous women and girls are too often the victims of serious crimes, and I think it’s important for our community to recognize this fact. I think it’s time we stand with the Indigenous community to denounce the violence,” Smyth told reporters in Winnipeg.
“Simone Sanderson mattered. She’s missed by her family and friends, and certainly our investigators have done everything in their power to ensure this investigation was done thoroughly and competently so that Simone Sanderson and her family can find justice.”
Sanderson was last seen alive on Aug. 26, 2012. Her body was found at the southwest corner of Burrows Avenue and Main Street on Sept. 2, 2012.
Days later, police declared her death a homicide, but have never said how she died until today. Smyth said the cause of death was blunt force trauma.
“In the early morning hours of Aug. 27, police believe Ellis was driving his vehicle in the area of Main and Burrows. It’s believed that he encountered Simone Sanderson on the street. Investigators believe that Simone Sanderson and Kyllan Ellis didn’t know each other prior to the encounter,” Smyth said.
Investigators believe the two got into a confrontation that escalated into physical violence, resulting in Sanderson’s death, Smyth said.
He added that Sanderson’s body was found in an empty lot on the southwest corner of Main and Burrows and was covered with cardboard.
Sanderson’s family is scheduled to hold a news conference at Burrows and Main on Thursday.
Family members dispute police investigators’ claims that Sanderson worked in the sex trade and was picked up by a john. They hired a private investigator in the hopes of uncovering their own leads in the 3½-year-old case.
Public helped solve case, police say
Sgt. Wes Rommel, the Winnipeg Police Service’s lead investigator on the case, said police first suspected Ellis’s involvement in Sanderson’s death in January 2014.
Earlier this month, Rommel said DNA evidence had been recovered “at more than one” location near where Sanderson’s body was found.
At that time, he released a description of a small, two-door, older model car that investigators believed the suspect was driving in the hopes that someone would come forward with information.
- Simone Sanderson homicide: Winnipeg police suspect sex trade john
On Tuesday, Rommel said Ellis has a car matching the description given.
He added that when Ellis was arrested on Monday night, police obtained a DNA sample from him that is currently being analyzed and compared to the DNA found during the investigation.
“I can certainly say that members of the public coming forward was critical in solving this case,” Rommel said.
“There is no doubt about that. Had that not occurred, we wouldn’t be here today.”