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Police name dead man suspect in Lake homicide

Canadian Press logoCanadian Press 2017-11-14
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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Police have named a dead man as the only suspect in a young Newfoundland woman's disappearance, as her mother pleaded for people to come forward with information in a presumed homicide that has gripped the province for months.

Cortney Lake, a 24-year-old mother of a young son, vanished June 7 after getting into a truck near her home in Mount Pearl, near St. John's.

"As Cortney's mother, I cannot accept that we may never find her," Lisa Lake told reporters during a press conference Tuesday, breaking into tears. "I am begging today for anyone, anybody who can help us find Cortney please, please come forward."

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said Philip Smith, her ex-boyfriend, was the only suspect in the homicide. The 25-year-old man was found dead Nov. 1 in the woods near Bellevue Beach, about an hour west of St. John's.

Police said Smith's death was neither suspicious nor criminal in nature but haven't confirmed multiple reports he had killed himself. Investigators said they found no clues about Lake during a search of the area after Smith's body was recovered.

Inspector Tom Warren, who is leading the probe, said investigators have conducted more than a hundred interviews, received hundreds of tips and reviewed "countless hours" of CCTV footage.

He said police believe Lake got into Smith's pickup truck just before 8 p.m. on June 7 and that in August, Smith admitted in an agreed statement of facts that he was the person who picked up Lake that day.

Warren said investigators believe there are individuals "who have withheld information," and have asked them to come forward.

"I'm hoping with (Smith's) passing, that people who have either withheld information or who have refused to speak with us will now come forward," said Warren.

The haunting case has inspired total strangers to help look for the missing woman, amid a social media campaign with the hashtag #HelpFindCortney.

Lake's relatives led extensive ground searches, but her body has not been recovered.

Her mother said the family wants to give her a proper burial.

"My daughter deserves that. We need that," she said.

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