The family of a woman who died suddenly over the Easter weekend, leaving her three children without a mother, say they are devastated and want answers after her husband disappeared and is now the focus of a Canada-wide warrant in connection with her death.
Julie Racette, 34, died after she was taken to hospital from her home on Ottawa Avenue, in Winnipeg’s Chalmers neighbourhood, in the early morning hours of April 11.
“It’s unbelievable that she’s actually gone, it’s hard sometimes to process,” said her older sister, Chasity Almas.
“I just saw her and she’s gone.”
Almas said she last saw her sister on Good Friday, the day before her death.
“We did a social distance meeting, the boys played in the yard for a little bit, and then I spoke to her again around 11 p.m. that same night and then I got the phone call informing me that she was in an ambulance,” said Almas.
On Monday, over a week after her death, police issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for Racette’s husband, Wayne Leslie Melnychuk, 42, who they say is now wanted for manslaughter.
Police said an investigation into Racette’s death began on April 11 and that officers determined over the course of the next week that she had been killed.
Melnychuk was reported missing on Sunday April 12, Almas said, after he left her home around noon and didn’t return.
Almas said she doesn’t know much yet about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death.
“There was a version of the story that was given to me, and that story did not seem believable,” she said.
Almas is now taking care of her three nephews, ages two, 11, and 14.
“Honestly, my mind has not processed anything, because I have three boys that are my top priority,” she said.
Almas said her sister had been with Melnychuk on and off for about 15 years, and the couple were married three years ago.
She said the family won’t be able to have a funeral because of limits on gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but plans to hold a celebration of life once it’s safe to do so.
“She had a lot of friends and a lot of people who loved her and are devastated by her death,” said Almas.
‘She was a good mom’
While Almas hopes Melnychuk is found and the family can get closure, she’s trying to stay strong for her sister’s kids.
“I have to take care of her children, that’s what she would have wanted,” she said.
“She would have wanted her boys to be taken care of by somebody who loves them and who would raise them the way that she would raise them.”
The family has started an online fundraiser for Racette’s sons. Almas said her sister, who worked in customer service, did everything for her boys.
“She was a good mom, she was a great sister, she had a great sense of humour, she would do some crazy things just to make you laugh,” she said.
Police described Melnychuk as five foot seven inches tall, with a medium build, brown hair and brown eyes and warned the public not to approach him, if spotted.
Anyone with information with regards to Melnychuk’s whereabouts is asked to call 911.
Any other information for investigators can be sent to the Winnipeg police homicide unit at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).
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