Linnea Veinotte was super smart, with a doctorate in genetics and a dream she shared with her husband, Matt, the high school sweetheart she had met in Lunenburg, N.S., as a teenager and later married.
The couple had two boys, ages five and six. And they had a plan, one they had hatched after Linnea was offered a job in the student learning centre at St. George’s University in Grenada: to keep their house in Glen Haven and head off for a family adventure in a sleepy Caribbean island paradise.
Veinotte had taught on contract at St. George’s and, as her husband would later write in a Facebook post, what drew them back down south this past fall was not the “work,” but the “wonderful people.” On that front, Linnea Veinotte fit right in. The 36-year-old was a good listener with a great big heart, a mom, and the type of person that could only ever see the good in people.
On Friday, yellow police tape marked off the area where her partially decomposed body was found, buried in a makeshift grave near a rutted dirt road on the south end of an island paradise. The sky above the crime scene was mostly blue, the surrounding vegetation lush and green.
“The family are devastated,” said Sylvan McIntyre, an assistant-superintendent with the Royal Grenada Police Force. “Grenada is a safe place.”
‘The family are devastated. Grenada is a safe place’
Veinotte was last seen on Sunday, Dec. 6. She left the house at 8 a.m., wearing green running shorts, a purple tank top and her Adidas, with the family dog, Nico, in tow. The plan was to go for a jog around Lance Aux Pines, a well-appointed residential community in St. George, home to students, professors, expats and affluent Grenadians.
Residents later said they heard the sound of screeching tires — and a loud thump. Nico was discovered at the scene, bleeding. But the dog’s owner and the vehicle that had struck him, described as a dark-coloured SUV, were gone, triggering an island-wide search that culminated with Friday’s grisly discovery about 15 kilometres away.
“We wouldn’t even want to create a hypothesis at this point, as to what may have happened, because it can impede the process of the investigation,” McIntyre said. “The investigation is filling in the blanks.”
He has been a police officer for 31 years, and in his 31 years he has never come across a case quite like the one involving Linnea Veinotte. People just don’t go missing in Grenada, an island nation of 110,000, about 3,500 km from Veinotte’s Maritimes home.
Soon after midnight Friday, Akim Frank, a man McIntyre describes as a “person of interest,” turned himself at police headquarters. The mysterious SUV had been found. Frank was not its owner, but police say he had access to the vehicle.
Back in Nova Scotia, Veinotte’s friends and family are reeling with the news of her death. The 36-year-old was the daughter of Rev. Doug Moore, a Lutheran pastor in Fredericton, N.B.
Moore spoke this week of Veinotte’s “big heart,” a popular refrain among those whose lives she touched. Her mother, Karen, had flown to Grenada Monday to be with the grandchildren and support her son-in-law.
Matt Veinotte is an avid sailor. In Linnea he found a partner, early on in life, who wasn’t afraid to be pushed from place to place, on a breeze. She graduated from Acadia University before moving to Vancouver to study at the University of British Columbia. While there, she worked in a cancer research lab before moving back east to do post-doctoral work in microbiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Grenada was the next stop.
Veinotte released a statement late Friday, thanking police and local volunteer searchers for their efforts over what has been excruciating week, and mourning the loss of his “beautiful Linnea, mother, wife, daughter, sister, and a friend to so many.”
Frank, the man being held over her disappearance, is wearing dark sunglasses in his Facebook profile photo. He holds a study Bible in his left hand, while flashing the peace sign with his right. An individual with the same name, who would be the same age as Frank is today, was featured in a news report published in Grenada Today’s web edition in 2008.
In the report Senior High Court Judge Madam Justice Clare Henry urged Islanders to pray for the nation’s directionless youth, including an Akim Frank, then 18, who was sentenced to prison “for the offence of burglary, and six months for the offences of causing harm, stealing and wounding.”
Grenadian authorities can detain an individual for up to 48 hours without charging them. The punishment for murder in Grenada is life imprisonment, though death by hanging remains on the books as a punitive option.
“Our record has shown that there has been crime against foreigners — but that it’s not prevalent here,” McIntyre said. “We still don’t know how to characterize what happened here, exactly.
“Whether it was a crime, or whether it some kind of an accident, that we cannot say.”