Francesca Matus, 52, and her American boyfriend Drew DeVoursney, 36, were found dead in the Corozal district of Belize on Monday.
Matus and former U.S. marine DeVoursney had been missing for approximately a week; the pair was last seen the evening of Tuesday, April 25 leaving a restaurant. Matus was due to fly back to Canada on a WestJet flight on April 26, but while she checked into the flight online, she never boarded the plane. On Monday evening, the couple’s bodies were found in a sugar cane field in the Corozal district with – according to DeVoursney’s mother – duct tape wrapped around their wrists.
Deaths of Canadian woman, American boyfriend in Belize investigated as homicides
Matus was a mother of two sons, and a real estate investor in Markham, Ont. She was originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and owned homes in both Canada and Belize. She habitually spent between five and six months of the year, usually during winter, at her Belize residence.
Several media reports as well as Facebook images describe Matus as approximately 5’1″ tall with shoulder-length brown hair. When she disappeared, she was reportedly wearing white denim shorts with a white long-sleeved blouse.
Missing Canadian woman and boyfriend found dead in Belize: reports
Her LinkedIn page describes her as an investor and property manager in the Toronto area, as well as the owner and president of Boardwalk Developments for the past seven years, though she is not listed on the website. Matus apparently met her boyfriend in Belize during the winter of 2016, and they’d been dating for several months.
Missing Canadian woman’s vehicle found abandoned in field in Belize
DeVoursney, a Marine, completed two tours in Iraq, according to his friend Brandon Barfield, who started a GoFundMe webpage last week for helping out the search efforts. Barfield, who used to live with DeVoursney said he relocated to Belize in the fall of 2016.
Francesca Matus and Drew DeVourney were found dead on Monday.
Brandon Barfield / Go Fund Me
Friends in the area say they were a well-liked pair. One friend of the couple, Nancy Rifenbark, reported the discovery to Global News on Monday evening.
“They were both found …They are dead,” she said via Facebook. Rifenbark was part of the search team Monday and was the last one to see the couple alive last Tuesday. Matus’ white SUV was found abandoned in a field on Sunday afternoon.
Matus’ Facebook timeline has been flooded with notes of condolences since the news of her death broke.
Canadian woman and her American boyfriend still missing in Belize
Their deaths are being investigated as homicides. Global News reached out to Global Affairs Canada to inquire about the investigation.
“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the Canadian citizen who passed away in Belize. Consular services are being provided to the family during this difficult time. Canadian consular officials continue to liaise with local authorities to gather additional information,” said Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Austin Jean.
The Canadian government has not issued a travel advisory for Belize, but warned Canadians earlier this year to “exercise a high degree of caution due to a high rate of violent crime throughout the country.”
Here’s what you need to know about travel to Belize
One year ago this week, the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire swept through the northern Alberta community, destroying several neighbourhoods. In all, the fire consumed nearly 2,600 dwellings, or 10 per cent of the structures in the city.
READ MORE: ‘The Beast’ is still burning east of Fort McMurray 1 year later
One year later, some areas of the city are busy with construction. Here’s a before and after look at some of the hardest hit neighbourhoods and places where dramatic images were captured:
Bare land and homes under construction along a street in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood, where terrifying dash camera video showed fire and ash raining down on evacuating vehicles the afternoon of May 3, 2016.
Video taken during the May 3, 2016 evacuation showing fire and ash raining down on traffic moving slowly though the Beacon Hill neighbourhood, which was one of the hardest hit during the May 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta.
One year later, blank lots and homes being rebuilt in the wildfire-ravaged Beacon Hill neighbourhood, where terrifying dash camera video showed fire and ash raining down on evacuating vehicles on May 3, 2016 in Fort McMurray, Alta.
New townhomes being built in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood.
The Fort McMurray Super 8 motel being rebuilt after burning down on May 3, 2016.
The Abasand neighbourhood, which was also destroyed by the wildfire.
Highway 63, where traffic moved slowly as tens of thousands of people were evacuated from Fort McMurray.
Highway 63 south of Fort McMurray.
Burnt trees lining along the Responders Way bridge over Highway 63 in Fort McMurray.
Video taken during the May 3, 2016 evacuation showing traffic turning off the Responders Way bridge onto Highway 63 southbound as flames move closer to downtown Fort McMurray, Alta.
2017 video recreation of traffic turning off the Responders Way bridge onto Highway 63 southbound in Fort McMurray, Alta.
READ MORE: One year after wildfire, was the evacuation of Fort McMurray called at the right time?
BELOW: Collection of images from showing more before and after images.
View link »
— With files from
Fort McMurray wildfire: Wood Buffalo mayor recounts tragedy and looks forward to future
Fort McMurray wildfire: 1 year later, delayed rebuild underway
Fort McMurray wildfire one year later: The rebuild by the numbers
Citizens of Nigeria and Turkey led the pack when it came to asylum claims filed in Canada in the first three months of 2017, new government data shows.
In total, the federal immigration department has reported that 8,960 people filed claims for asylum during the period between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2017.
Of those, 620 were from Nigeria and another 580 were from Turkey. Rounding out the top five countries of origin were Haiti (475), Pakistan (350) and Syria (315).
The number of claimants from the United States is on the rise, the data shows, growing from 60 claims from U.S. citizens in January to 150 in March, with a three-month total of 295 — well above many developing nations on the list. The were 265 claims made by Mexicans, who — as of December 2016 — no longer require a visa to enter Canada.
The numbers are not broken down by the location from where the asylum claimants filed their paperwork. Some may have crossed on foot illegally over the Canada-U.S. border, while others may have filed their claims at an airport, legal land border crossing, or inland at a government office.
READ MORE: Number of asylum seekers continues to rise, especially in Quebec
Regardless of where they apply, would-be asylum seekers go through extensive medical, security and background checks before their files are referred on to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).
The detailed breakdown was released this week as part of an answer to an Order Paper question tabled in the House of Commons in February by Conservative MP Candice Bergen.
The IRB, which examines asylum claims and determines which ones are valid based on a variety of factors, also released its totals for January through March in response to Bergen’s question.
The board reported that, of 8,204 new refugee protection claims registered in its offices in those three months, 436 (or 5.3 per cent) were accepted, or received a “positive” outcome.
Another 140, or just under two per cent, were rejected and a further one per cent were abandoned or withdrawn. The remaining 7,541 new claims in those first three months of 2017 are still pending, awaiting a decision.
READ MORE: Anyone crossing border illegally whose claim is rejected will be sent home, not back to U.S.
By comparison, the board had a total of 16,900 claims referred for processing in all of 2015, and 16,279 referrals in the first nine months of last year.
The IRB projected 17,500 files would be referred this year. But if the pace in the first three months of 2017 keeps up, the number of new claims this year referred to the board could be significantly higher.
The total number of asylum claims made in Canada has fluctuated widely over the years, according to the immigration department, with a high of 44,600 claims in 2001 and low of around 10,000 in 2013.
The number of refugees across the globe today is the highest since the end of the Second World War, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Quebec’s Crown Prosecutor’s Office has asked Public Security Ministry Martin Coiteux to order a police investigation into allegations made by police union president Yves Francoeur that two Liberal MNAs had blocked a criminal investigation.
READ MORE: 2 Quebec Liberal MNAs obstructed criminal investigation: Montreal police union president
Francoeur alleges the Liberal Party interfered with police work to influence an investigation against the two MNAs in the party, one of whom is still in office.
PQ @vhivon says yesterday’s justice committee attacked Francoeur’s credibility; call for investigation is about-face pic.twitter杭州桑拿/5Dh4KUBkG7
— Raquel Fletcher (@RaquelGlobal) May 2, 2017
He made the bombshell accusations during a radio interview last week with Paul Arcand.
READ MORE: Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, Marc Bibeau investigated by UPAC: report
Francoeur told 98.5 FM the two politicians were allegedly linked to the Mafia and police had wiretap evidence.
“Yesterday Francoeur had no credibility, today he has so much a criminal investigation is being called” @JFLisee says pic.twitter杭州桑拿/upr2nLwAvv
— Raquel Fletcher (@RaquelGlobal) May 2, 2017
2 Quebec Liberal MNAs obstructed criminal investigation: Montreal police union president
Ex-Liberal accused of corruption may have had links to Couillard campaign
Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum found guilty of corruption, breach of trust
He said he doesn’t know why the two were never charged, adding that the case against them was solid.
READ MORE: Former Quebec deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau arrested in anti-corruption sweep
He also went on to say that recent media leaks of investigations into former Quebec premier Jean Charest were the result of police officers being frustrated with the obstruction.
WATCH BELOW: Quebec Liberal MNAs blocked investigation: police union president
The Crown Prosecutor’s Office admits Francoeur’s allegations are serious, but questions why he has yet to meet with the province’s anti-corruption squad.
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. —; The road to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will pass through Portage la Prairie, Man.
The southern Manitoba city will host Canada’s first mixed doubles curling trials from Jan. 2-7 at Stride Place. The tournament will determine which team will wear the maple leaf at the 2018 Games. It will feature 18 teams split into two pools of nine. The top eight will advance to a modified double-knockout playoff.
“This will be an historic event,” Peter Inch of Curling Canada said in a statement. “We know the community will embrace this event.”
Mixed doubles curling will make its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang,South Korea.
Winnipegger Reid Carruthers along with Joanne Courtney helped Canada qualify for the Olympic Games with a silver medal finish at this past weekend’s World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship. Thanks to the podium placing, Canada is now ranked first in the world.
“Our athletes have been working extremely hard in the past few years to make sure we’re at a level to compete for a medal in Pyeongchang,” national mixed doubles coach Jeff Stoughton said in a statement.
Seven of the 18 teams that will compete at the trials have already been decided. Joining Carruthers and Courtney at the event will be Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing, Chelsea Carey and Colin Hodgson, Rachel Homan and John Morris, Kalynn Virtue and Charley Thomas, Emma Miskew and Tyrel Griffith along with Marliese Kasner and Dustin Kalthoff.
The remaining 11 teams will be determined in the fall. Members of the four player teams Canada will send to the Olympics won’t be eligible to compete at the mixed doubles trials.
PORTLAND, Ore. – May Day protests turned violent in the Pacific Northwest as demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, threw smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails at police while elsewhere thousands of people peacefully marched against President Donald Trump’s immigration and labour policies.
From New England to the Midwest to the West Coast people chanted and picketed against Trump along with the traditional May Day labour rallies. Protesters flooded streets in Chicago. At the White House gates, they demanded “Donald Trump has got to go!”
In Portland, Oregon, police shut down a protest they said had become a riot and arrested more than two dozen people. Police in Olympia, Washington, said nine people were taken into custody after several officers were injured by thrown rocks and windows were broken at businesses in Washington’s capital city.
In Seattle, five people were arrested during downtown protests and in Oakland, California, at least four were arrested after creating a human chain to block a county building where demonstrators demanded that county law enforcement refuse to collaborate with federal immigration agents.
READ MORE: Montreal May Day protesters hurl gas canisters at police
“It is sad to see that now being an immigrant is equivalent to almost being a criminal,” said Mary Quezada, a 58-year-old North Carolina woman who joined those marching on Washington.
She offered a pointed message to Trump: “Stop bullying immigrants.”
The demonstrations on May Day, celebrated as International Workers’ Day, follow similar actions worldwide in which protesters from the Philippines to Paris demanded better working conditions. But the widespread protests in the United States were aimed directly at the new Republican president, who has followed aggressive anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail with aggressive action in the White House.
WATCH: Pro, anti-Trump protesters face off in Seattle during May Day march
Trump, in his first 100 days, has intensified immigration enforcement, including executive orders for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a ban on travellers from six predominantly Muslim countries. The government has arrested thousands of immigrants in the country illegally and threatened to withhold funding from jurisdictions that limit co-operation between local and federal immigration authorities.
In Chicago, 28-year-old Brenda Burciaga was among thousands of people who marched through the streets to push back against the new administration.
“Everyone deserves dignity,” said Burciaga, whose mother is set to be deported after living in the U.S. for about 20 years. “I hope at least they listen. We are hardworking people.”
In Shemanski Park in Portland, Oregon, before the violence broke out hundreds of people, including some families with children, gathered and watched dancers in bright feathered headdresses perform to the beat of drums.
Friends Marian Drake and Martin Anderson watched from a nearby park bench as they held balloons supporting the International Workers Union.
“Things are so screwed up in this country. You’ve got a city right here that’s full of homeless people and you’ve got a president …whose budget is going to cut 40 per cent to the EPA and end Meals on Wheels. We don’t like those kinds of things,” Anderson said.
In cities large and small, the protests intensified throughout the day.
READ MORE: May Day protester waving U.S. flag beaten, dragged away after disrupting march in Cuba
Teachers working without contracts opened the day by picketing outside schools in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Activists in Phoenix petitioned state legislators to support immigrant families.
In a Los Angeles park, several thousand people waved American flags and signs reading “love not hate.”
Selvin Martinez, an immigrant from Honduras with an American flag draped around his shoulders, took the day off from his job waxing casino floors to protest. “We hope to get to be respected as people, because we are not animals, we are human beings,” said Martinez, who moved to Los Angeles 14 years ago fleeing violence in his country.
The White House did not respond to requests for a response to the May Day demonstrations.
WATCH: May Day march in Portland, Oregon descends into violence and looting
Several protesters, like 39-year-old Mario Quintero, outed themselves as being in the country illegally to help make their point.
“I’m an undocumented immigrant, so I suffer in my own experience with my family,” said Quintero at a Lansing, Michigan, rally. “That’s why I am here, to support not only myself but my entire community.”
In Miami, Alberto and Maribel Resendiz closed their juice bar, losing an estimated revenue of $3,000, to join a rally.
“This is the day where people can see how much we contribute,” said Alberto Resendiz, who previously worked as a migrant worker in fields as far away as Michigan. “This country will crumble down without us.”
He added, “We deserve a better treatment.”
In Oakland at a later march, more than 1,000 people marched peacefully representing labour groups along with Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino and other immigrants.
While union members traditionally march on May 1 for workers’ rights around the world, the day has become a rallying point for immigrants in the U.S. since massive demonstrations were held on the date in 2006 against a proposed immigration enforcement bill.
In recent years, immigrant rights protests shrank as groups diverged and shifted their focus on voter registration and lobbying.
Taxin reported from Los Angeles. AP writers Lisa Baumann in Seattle, Steve Peoples in New York, Jessica Gresko in Washington, D.C., Kristen De Groot in Philadelphia, Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami, Sophia Tareen in Chicago, Deepti Hajela in New York, Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, Lisa Adams in Charlotte, North Carolina, Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon and Crystal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island contributed to this report.
Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said Monday his government plans to stay the course when it comes to its finances, even if there’s a chance the province’s credit rate could be further downgraded.
Ceci was in Toronto where he had a meeting with three credit rating agencies: Standard and Poors, DBRS Ltd. and Moody’s Investor Service.
He said he was given no indication that the province’s credit rating would be downgraded.
Ceci said the talks focused on the provincial government’s plans to return to a balanced budget by 2023 or 2024.
“They were asking for further elaboration to understand the fundamentals we built our plan on, and what it was built on,” Ceci said.
“All three of the credit agencies indicated they would take the next two to five weeks to further assess their response.”
Alberta finance minister defends debt growth from credit rating agency criticism
Ceci said even if there is another downgrade, Alberta still has a good credit rating that is higher than other provinces in the country.
He also pointed out things are starting to turn around in the province, and added that the NDP government has been controlling spending.
“We’re restraining operating growth below population growth and inflation, and as the economy recovers, I told them, revenue will gradually return to normal levels in the coming year. That’s what I shared. Budget 2017 maps outline clearly how we’re cutting the deficit down,” Ceci said.
In April 2016, Moody’s Investor Service and DBRS both downgraded Alberta’s credit rating.
Then in May 2016, Standard & Poor’s changed the province’s rating from double-A-plus to double-A.
The death of a man who was repeatedly pepper sprayed at a New Brunswick prison was preventable, Canada’s correctional investigator has found in a damning review that concludes unnecessary force was used.
READ MORE: RCMP re-open investigation into the death of pepper sprayed Dorchester inmate
Matthew Ryan Hines, who was serving a five-year sentence at Dorchester Penitentiary for offences including robbery, died on May 26, 2015.
In a report released Tuesday, Ivan Zinger said the repeated use of pepper spray at very close range appears to have contributed to Hines’s rapid onset of medical complications.
Zinger found correctional staff used unnecessary physical and chemical force, even as Hines was “clearly and fully” under control by the guards, and failed to properly respond to the ensuing medical emergency.
“In this case, everything that could go wrong in a use-of-force intervention went wrong,” said Zinger.
He said those factors ultimately led to the 33-year-old’s death by acute asphyxia due to pulmonary edema – a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs.
READ MORE: Minister Ralph Goodale says no tolerance for ‘inappropriate use of force’ in prison
A statement from the Hines family said they were grateful for the thorough investigation. They said Hines struggled with mental illness since he was an adolescent, and they said it is important that Canadians “understand the truth of what happened to him.”
“The commitment that (the correctional investigator’s office) has shown in the investigation of Matthew’s death has given us hope that no one else will suffer as Matthew did,” the statement said.
The statement also noted that his family was initially told that he died of a seizure.
Zinger’s report said Correctional Service Canada provided misleading and incomplete information to the public and the family about the circumstances surrounding Hines’s death.
The report also raises questions about the adequacy of the service investigating and disciplining itself.
“Although the internal investigation identified 21 legal and policy violations in the staff response, subsequent staff disciplinary proceedings were inherently flawed and self-serving,” said Zinger.
READ MORE: Dorchester jail death raises issues of use of force, health care: investigator
“Corrective measures taken after the fact failed to reflect the nature and gravity of staff errors and omissions that contributed to this tragic, and, by my estimation, avertable death.”
Correctional Services Canada has said one person was fired and three others were disciplined.
Zinger’s report makes 10 recommendations, all of which have been accepted by Correctional Service Canada.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he supports the recommendations. He said the Hines family and the wider public deserved to know how and why he died.
“We can do more to prevent deaths in custody,” Goodale said in a statement.
“Moving forward, I am confident that implementing the recommendations, along with the changes (Correctional Services Canada) has already undertaken, will mean greater accountability, transparency, and most importantly, safety for all Canadians.”
The recommendations include several aimed at addressing systemic gaps in how Correctional Service Canada staff respond to medical emergencies.
It also directs the service to immediately develop a separate intervention plan for front-line staff in recognizing and responding to medical and mental-health emergencies.
Last September, the investigation into Hines’s death was reopened by the RCMP.
Bride-to-be Anu Phillips had everything planned for her big day, but little did she know she’d also receive a new life-saving organ.
The Texas woman underwent surgery for a kidney transplant on March 19, six days before walking down the aisle with her husband Jeswin James.
“[The transplant] gave me more life to actually enjoy. Now I can travel, have children — and that was actually my main concern,” Phillips told ABC News. “I’m happy that my husband doesn’t have to experience the daily struggles that I was going through in taking care of me.”
READ MORE: ‘Perfect’ stillborn baby without brain becomes eye donor
ABC notes that Phillips was discharged from Medical City Dallas hospital just 24 hours before her wedding.
“Before the wedding, she was on dialysis for the past five years, so every day when she woke up, she was very tired, very weak,” James told ABC News. “After the transplant, she’s energetic. My wife, she’s healthy, she’s happy, she’s full of life.”
WATCH: Canadian teen has first triple-organ transplant of its kind
A long journey
According to Fox 4 News, the 28-year-old had been on a waiting list since 2012 for end stage renal disease (kidney disease). She was matched with a donor just six days before she tied the knot.
“The opportunity for her was to get a really good kidney, and we had to make a decision on can we get her the kidney and get her in and out of the hospital and get her to that wedding on time,” Dr. Matthew Mulloy said to the TV station.
READ MORE: Heart recipient plays in charity hockey game honouring Calgary organ donor
Medical City Dallas shared the couple’s story on their Facebook page, just days before the end of Donate Life Month in April.
“[This month is] designed to raise awareness about the importance of registering as an organ donor and how people who do so can transform sickness and injury into a second chance at life. Anu Phillips is a perfect example — she received a life-saving kidney transplant the same week as her wedding,” the hospital wrote on the social media site.
When organ donations save lives
In March 2015, former Marine Chris Dempsey donated his liver to then-stranger Heather Krueger who was diagnosed with stage 4 liver disease, SELF reports. Two years later, the two started dating and eventually tied the knot.
“He had told me at the beginning of everything, ’You owe me absolutely nothing for this,’” Krueger told the Today Show in 2016.
“‘We can go our separate ways if that’s what you want.’ It was kind of like, we do have this special bond, but is this just because I’m sick that I’m feeling this way? You had to kind of separate that, but after the surgery, I realized it went beyond that… I realized how kind of a person, how special, how selfless and different he is.”
READ MORE: Every French citizen presumed to be organ donor under new law
In a somewhat similar vein, a Pennsylvania bride walked down the aisle with a man who got her father’s donated heart in August 2016, The New York Times reports. A decade earlier, the bride’s father was tragically killed in a mugging.
“The murder and the wedding happened within a three-block radius,” bride Jeni Stepien told the paper. “And I was just thinking, ‘My dad is here with us, and this man is here with us because of us.’”
How to donate organs in Canada
According to Canadian health officials, in the past 10 years, the number of deceased organ donors has gone up by 44 per cent, but the number of people seeking transplants has also risen. And as the population continues to age, the need for organ and tissue donations will also increase.
READ MORE: Ontario hits milestone with more than 340,000 registered organ donors in 2015-16
Only a fraction of Canadians are registered donors and registration only takes a few minutes.
“Organ donation is not only lifesaving but life giving,” Dr. Peter Nickerson, medical director of transplantation for the Canadian Blood Services said in a statement. “As an example, a kidney transplant will prolong the recipient’s life and vastly improve the quality of that life. Suddenly, someone who was tied to a dialysis machine has the freedom to travel, the energy to do what they want and the desire to again live life fully.”
The deaths of a Canadian woman and her American boyfriend who had been missing for days in Belize are being investigated as homicides after they were found strangled, the local police said Tuesday as the pair’s friends and families were struggling to come to grips with their loss.
The bodies of Francesca Matus, 52, of Toronto, and Drew DeVoursney, 36, from Georgia, were found Monday afternoon in a sugar cane field in the country’s Corozal district.
Police said Tuesday the bodies were found in an “advanced state of decomposition” with duct tape around their right wrists. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday at the Northern Regional Hospital in Belize and police confirmed the deaths were due to strangulation. Police added they continue to collaborate with the U.S. embassy and Canadian consulate in Belize and the investigation is ongoing.
WATCH: Belize police provide update after bodies of Canadian woman, American boyfriend found
The pair had been missing since last Tuesday when they were last seen leaving a local bar around 11 p.m. Dozens of Canadian and American expats were involved in the search, scouring the beaches, waterways and the bush.
On Sunday afternoon, Matus’s car was found in a sugar cane field about 15 kilometres from the bar.
READ MORE: Francesca Matus: What we know about the Canadian found dead in Belize
Belize police Det. Zamir Noh said the bodies were discovered late Monday afternoon in another sugar cane field “nowhere close to the truck.” He said autopsies were being conducted Tuesday, but declined to offer further details.
“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the Canadian citizen who passed away in Belize. Consular services are being provided to the family during this difficult time,” Austin Jean, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, told Global News Tuesday.
“Canadian consular officials continue to liaise with local authorities to gather additional information.”
The Canadian government has not issued a travel advisory for Belize, but instructed Canadians earlier this year to “exercise a high degree of caution due to a high rate of violent crime throughout the country.”
WATCH: Belize police say discovery of Markham woman and her American boyfriend being treated as homicide investigation. Catherine McDonald reports.
Friends and family said Matus and DeVoursney had been dating for several months.
Matus was scheduled to return to Canada last Wednesday, but when her friend, Joe Milholen, arrived at her house to take her to the airport, her car was gone and the house locked up. Milholen said he later found her packed suitcases, passport and travelling money inside the house.
Matus had been in Belize since December, said her cousin Ivana Pucci, enjoying life on her waterfront property. She used to spend winters in the central American country and return to the Toronto area for summer and fall to be with her mother and her two twin sons, aged 22, Pucci said.
READ MORE: Missing Canadian woman and boyfriend found dead in Belize
“She loved it there and felt safe,” Pucci said. “She did tell us it was lawless there, but she felt safe in her little community.”
Her boys, brother and mother are grieving together in the Toronto area, Pucci said.
Matus grew up in Sault Ste. Marie as part a sprawling Italian-Canadian family, Pucci said. She moved to Toronto after college and became a mortgage broker, which she still did for half of the year. She loved the water and boating in Belize, she said.
Francesca Matus’ cousin/family spokesperson Ivana Pucci tells Global News “we are gutted” on the discovery of Francesca’s body in Belize
— Catherine McDonald (@cmcdonaldglobal) May 2, 2017
“She was 52 in a 35-year-old body,” Pucci said. “She really was such a beautiful person – both inside and out – and she did not deserve this,” Pucci said. “Nobody does.”
Pucci didn’t know much about Matus’s relationship with DeVoursney, but said she appeared to be happy.
In Georgia, DeVoursney’s mother, Char, said she learned about her son’s death from the U.S. embassy in Belize. They told her the pair had been murdered and found with duct tape around their wrists, she said.
“I’m not able to really do anything, kind of just sit and think and cry and that’s all I’m capable of at the moment,” she said.
Her other son, David, was at the Atlanta airport Tuesday morning with DeVoursney’s best friend, Brandon Barfield, waiting to board a flight to Belize.
“He’s going to go bring my boy home,” Char DeVoursney said through tears.
Drew DeVoursney was a big man with a big heart and a big smile, his mother said. The six-foot-six former marine had overcome post-traumatic stress disorder while serving two tours in Iraq, she said.
About four years ago, he bought a piece of property with Barfield in Belize – with nothing on it – and went down in December with the idea of starting his own dive company, his mother said.
“He’s a real adventure boy, that’s what I call him, my adventure boy because he’s done so many different things,” Char DeVoursney said.
DeVoursney went to college in North Carolina on a soccer and academic scholarship, but never finished.
“Then 9/11 happened and he went straight into the marines,” she said.
He ended up going to Afghanistan for two years after he left the marines as a contractor to help soldiers learn how to use technology on the battlefield.
“I’ve dreaded news of his death, but that was when he was in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Char DeVoursney said as she sniffled.
She said her son was having trouble getting work in Belize, so he decided to return home.
“He was supposed to come home next week and was signed to start school with his brother where he was going to learn to operate heavy machinery,” she said.
“Now he’s coming home in a way I’ve always dreaded.”