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Police seeking potential witness in Howlett investigation

Looking for leads in the case of an Elmira woman’s suspicious death, police this week released photos of two potential witnesses they wished to talk to. Tracking down one of them and determining she had no connection to the case, they continue to search for an unidentified man.

The body of Erin Howlett, 28, was found in the Grand River in Kitchener a month ago.

On Monday, police went public with two photos, hoping the images of a man and a woman would lead them to a pair of possible witnesses. By midweek the woman was located and interviewed by police, removing her from the list.

“She was a possible lead but she was determined to have no involvement in this case,” said Waterloo Regional Police spokesman Olaf Heinzel.

Police are still looking to locate the man. Two grainy video-captured images were released to the public. He appears to have dark, short hair, a moustache and prominent eyebrows. He’s wearing a black T-shirt and cap, both with a white logo. The man is believed to be a resident of Waterloo Region.

“[The images] are taken from security footage and they were cropped from a larger frame, showing a broader perspective, in order to just show their faces. The initial footage wasn’t all that great to begin with, the quality was not as ideal as we’d like but we believe they were still recognizable to someone who might know them and certainly they would recognize

Erin Howlett
Erin Howlett

themselves,” Heinzel said.

He added that investigators are not disclosing the location where the footage was taken.

Police acquired the potential lead thanks to tips received from the public following an initial outreach to the community for any information. There is no word yet on how the man is connected, if at all, to Howlett’s suspicious death, but police say he is considered a potential witness and may have important information.

Officials completed a postmortem examination and further forensic analysis following the discovery of the young woman’s body. She was found by a group of teenagers who were swimming near the Walter Bean Trail next to Riverbend Drive in Kitchener at approximately 4 p.m. July 5.

Howlett was reported missing earlier that day by her family who had not heard from her in several days. She communicated with her family for the last time before travelling to Toronto for several days to complete an exam.

The circumstances surrounding the death remain under investigation and forensic results are being kept confidential due to the ongoing needs of the case. Since police indentified Howlett the week after her body was discovered, there has been an outpouring of support from the local community. Though police have seen tips come in from the public they need more information.

While police have removed from circulation the photo of the woman sought as a possible witness, the man’s likeness continues to be distributed around the region. There are no immediate plans to release the image outside of the local area. Images can be viewed on the police website at www.wrps.on.ca. Detectives ask that anyone who may have any further information on the case or can identify the man in the released images contact the homicide branch at 519-650-8500, ext. 8642 or leave anonymous information with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222 TIPS.

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