Family and friends in the community were grieving this week following the discovery of an Elmira woman’s body in the Grand River July 5.
Police are treating the death of Erin Howlett, 28, as suspicious.
“Right now, the focus is on trying to re-trace her steps prior to her death. In the days and weeks prior to her death who was she in contact with? What was she doing? Where did she go? Anything like that would be helpful for police to know,” Waterloo Regional Police spokesman Olaf Heinzel said this week.
On June 27 Erin Howlett told her family she’d be leaving for Toronto. She was trying to make a career change, her brother Dane Howlett said, and headed to the city for an exam. When she didn’t return after the long weekend her family reached out to friends and social media. They became concerned when she failed to return their messages.
“We don’t know if she ever made it there or not,” Dane Howlett said. He had spoken to her on the previous Sunday during a regular family dinner.
Her body was found at approximately 4 p.m. July 5 in the Grand River, a few hours after she was reported missing, by a group of teenagers who were swimming near the Walter Bean Trail next to Riverbend Drive in Kitchener. They immediately called the police.
The following day, police identified the woman as Howlett, in part using a distinctive constellation tattoo. Deemed suspicious, her death was turned over to the homicide squad.
While the investigation continues, family and friends have been coping in the aftermath of the news.
Howlett will be remembered for her “zest for life” her brother said. She was a strong baseball player and worked as a waitress at Elmira’s Sip ‘n Bite Restaurant for several years where she was popular with customers.
“In that time she got to know a lot of the community, made a lot of new friends. Even I’m surprised at the number of people who thought well of her and considered her a friend – she touched the lives of a lot of people,” said Dane Howlett.
“Erin’s a wonderful girl, just a wonderful person. We believe her story is something the community would like to know. Certainly, if we can shed more light on her story it’s possible we’ll get some more answers: what happened?” he said at The Robin’s Nest, one of Erin Howlett’s favourite Elmira spots, on July 10.
Her death has triggered an outpouring of support in the community and on social media. The Facebook page, In Loving Memory of Erin Howlett, continues to fill up with messages from friends.
“I wish I would have told you how much I love you. Your positivity was infectious as was your sense of humour,” posted Krysta Cronin.
A funeral was held on Friday at Lions Hall in Elmira. Howlett felt strongly about women’s empowerment and her family asks that any donations in her memory be made to Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.
“The outpouring of love and support from this community has touched my family deeply,” Dane Howlett said.
Police are seeing many people come forward with information but they need more, Heinzel said.
“Investigators are still in need of additional information, so anyone who has any knowledge of her activities, no matter how small they may think that piece of information is, we would encourage to contact investigators.”
WRPS are waiting for the results of further forensic analysis to determine a cause of death.
Police are looking for more information on Howlett’s activities between June 20 and the time of her discovery on July 5. Tips can be called in by contacting the homicide branch at 519-650-8500, ext. 8642 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.