Gatineau student found dead behind CEGEP campus
An 18-year-old CEGEP student has been identified as Gatineau's first homicide victim of the year after her badly beaten and burned body was discovered in a wooded area behind the CEGEP de l'Outaouais campus Tuesday afternoon.
The victim has been identified as Valerie Leblanc, a Gatineau resident who studied human sciences at the junior college.
Police say her body had obvious signs of trauma.
"We're dealing with a body that has marks of violence and also burn marks on the body," said Sgt. J.P. Lemay, of the Gatineau police.
Passersby made the discovery while they were out for a walk at about 1:15 p.m.
Two students told reporters they came across a body and smoke coming from the bushes, but they dismissed it as a mannequin being used as part of a simulation for CEGEP's police academy.
The pair returned to school, but said they were bothered by what they saw. They told friends about it, and went back to the woods to see if anything had changed.
At about 3:15 p.m., smoke was still visible from the woods. At that point, they called police.
"We were really uncomfortable with what we saw exactly because maybe we can't believe it was a mannequin, but there was some chance it was real too," said one of the students who found the body.
Police say Leblanc had just recently broken up with her boyfriend. Investigators have spoken to him, and say there is no evidence to suggest he is a suspect.
"We're looking at all options right now. I'm not saying that we're dealing with a predator, I'm not saying that. But we're getting ready for any option," said Lemay.
Young female students at the junior college say they're worried for their safety and can't believe something like this could happen so close to campus.
"I'm definitely not going to walk alone through the woods and the pathways and stuff and if I'm going to go anywhere, make sure somebody's with me," student Candace Figiel-Hickey told CTV Ottawa.
Officials from CEGEP de l'Outaouais say they're doing everything they can to make sure students are safe, including an increase in campus security and police presence.
"We are in frequent contact with police and we are doing whatever we can to keep the place safe," said Pascal Laplante, a spokesperson for the school.
Counsellors have been brought in to help staff and students deal with the death.
An autopsy on Leblanc's body will be performed in Montreal.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Karen Soloman