The body of Erin Howlett was recovered from the river near the Walter Bean Trail next to Riverbend Drive in Kitchener by Waterloo Regional Police on Friday after teens swimming in the river reported something suspicious in the water, police confirmed Sunday.
Investigators are deeming the death suspicious.
Cause and time of death and how long the body was in the water have yet to be determined. An autopsy was conducted Saturday and police were still awaiting results Sunday.
Police released an image of the victim’s tattoo on Friday, hoping the public would help in identifying the woman.
Kaleigh Mason, a friend of the deceased, said that when she saw the image of the tattoo, she feared the worst.
“The tattoo of the woman who was found (Friday), it has the same star,” said Mason, a friend of Howlett since childhood.
She added that Howlett had been missing since June 27 and that her family notified police at that time.
Information circulated by friends and family over social media indicated Howlett was believed to be travelling to Toronto with an unknown person the day she was last heard from.
Sgt. Dave Reibel could not confirm details related to Howlett’s disappearance. He added that there are no suspects under investigation at this time.
Despite Mason’s suspicions about the tattoo, hearing the news of her friend’s death was shocking.
“This is the biggest tragedy that our town has ever seen,” Mason said. “When someone is killed like this, it’s horrible.”
Howlett was well-known in her community, having an outgoing personality. She also worked as a waitress at the popular family restaurant Sip ‘N Bite in Elmira.
“… She loved meeting new people,” Mason said. “She was very outgoing, always talking to everybody.”
Growing up together, Mason recalled the two of them playing at the St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School playground as children, singing and dancing and sharing a secret handshake.
“She was always having fun,” Mason said.
Police are continuing the investigation and encouraging the public to help.
“We’re trying to gather as much information as we can as to what she was doing in the weeks and days leading up to July 5,” said Sgt. Dave Reibel.
Anyone with information about Howlett’s whereabouts, companions or activities between June 20 and July 5 is asked to contact the Homicide Branch at 519-650-8500, ext. 8642 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
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