The body of the 28-year-old Elmira woman was discovered in the Grand River near the Walter Bean trail off Riverbend Drive. A group of teens swimming in the river alerted police after seeing something suspicious in the water around 4 p.m. Friday.
It was at noon the same day that Howlett was reported missing, said Insp. Kevin Thaler, spokesperson for Waterloo Regional Police.
“I don’t think there was cause for alarm prior to this,” he said.
Thaler did not provide information on how long Howlett was suspected to be missing prior to the report being made. However, information circulated on social media by friends and family of Howlett indicate she had been missing since June 27 — more than a week before her body was pulled from the river.
A photo of a unique tattoo of a constellation of stars released by police Friday night helped identify the body.
An autopsy was conducted Saturday and police are still awaiting results that will help determine the cause of death, said Thaler.
The death has been deemed suspicious by police.
While awaiting the results the autopsy, police are working to piece together Howlett’s whereabouts and activities in the days and weeks leading up to the discovery of her body.
“Now the focus is exactly trying to determine her last known whereabouts, who she was with, was she out in the community, was she at someone’s apartment, at somebody’s residence, a house,” Thaler said.
“This is going to be resolved by information from the public for sure.”
With any suspicious death or criminal investigation, police allocate the greatest amount of resources at the outset of the investigation to ensure their work is thorough and no evidence is lost.
Eleven investigators had been assigned to Howlett’s case as of Monday.
“You invest heavily in the front end of an investigation to reduce the expense of a lengthy investigation. If information is lost early it’s often hard to recover or impossible to recover so things need to happen quickly,” Thaler said.
Three homicides in the region this year — and an ongoing homicide investigation from 2012 — are putting pressure on investigators. This compares to a total of four homicides in all of 2012.
“It is demanding,” Thaler said. “It’s a draw on resources when you have this many major investigations at the halfway point in the year.”
Police are asking anyone with information to call the homicide branch at 519-650-8500, ext. 8642, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
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