Daughter of woman who died after burns says Melissa Cook struggled with drug use after losing family – CBC.ca | Directory Mayhem

A woman from the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, whose Death Police are investigating, will be remembered as a generous and caring woman who lapsed into substance abuse while struggling to cope with family losses.

Melissa Cook, 41, died in hospital on August 20 from severe burns. Winnipeg Police are investigating her death, which was ruled a homicide by the chief medical examiner.

“My mother was a very beautiful woman. She always had a smile on her face no matter what,” said Cook’s daughter, Naturelle Cook.

Cook “always had open arms for everyone,” her daughter said.

“My mother was a happy woman before she started using drugs.”

The 18-year-old said Cook had a history of substance abuse, which contributed to her losing custody of her children. Cook used “on and off” when she was pregnant with Naturelle’s little sister, but her use got worse as more of her children entered the care of Child and Family Services, Naturelle said.

When Cook last spoke to her daughter, she promised that she would sober up. (Submitted by Naturelle Cook)

In 2013, Cook’s 10-month-old son died in foster care. A few months later, she was with her then-partner, whom Naturelle describes as “the love of her life,” when he died of a drug overdose.

Cook’s mother died in 2015 and her father died in 2016.

“She didn’t know how to manage her emotions, so she turned to drugs, and she was a very addicted user,” Naturelle said.

Naturelle said her mother was assaulted in June over a drug debt. Cook was badly burned but was reluctant to talk about her injuries and how she got them, her daughter said. She did not see a doctor until the end of July.

The last time Naturelle and her family saw Cook was when she was in the hospital in August, but they were unable to speak to her because Cook was in a coma.

The last time Naturelle spoke to her mother was in July 2021, when she encountered Cook outside the Swan River grocery store. Naturelle bought her some food and asked why she was abusing drugs.

“She told me everything. She told me that she was struggling with the losses and fighting without us… when we were in foster care,” she said.

“She cried to me. I cried to her and I asked her, I said, ‘Mom, are you going to get sober?’ And she said, ‘Yes, my girl.’”

Naturelle said she believes Cook was trying to seek treatment to stop her drug abuse because a few months later she received a package from her mother addressed to her and two of her younger siblings.

“It had three lockets that she had made … and in her letter she kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, my children, I’m sorry.'”

Naturelle never had a chance to tell her mother that she believed her and eventually forgave her.

“I live with this guilt every day,” she said.

Melissa Cook’s family want answers about her death. (Submitted by Naturelle Cook)

While discussing treatment, Cook said she had no help or resources, her daughter said.

Her mother said she felt alone.

“I think if there are more resources to help people … who want to get help, then I think that would be very beneficial,” Naturelle said.

Nelson Genaille, Chief of the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, knew Cook when he worked as a social administrator and remembers her as an outgoing person.

More needs to be done to ensure people have support, he said – especially when people are reluctant to ask for help or speak out about their experiences.

Partnerships between rural communities and big cities like Winnipeg would help support people moving, he said.

“Maybe that interaction between authorities needs to happen a little more for us to be able to pursue a case [between different locations]’ said Genaille.

Winnipeg Police released this photo of Melissa Cook asking the public for more information. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service)

Police said Cook had lived in Winnipeg since April. Having no home in Winnipeg, she spent time in the Siloam Mission and in camps across the city.

Police said they delayed their public request for more information about Cook’s death because they tried to find another photo of her but ended up releasing a photo they said most closely resembled her appearance before her death .

Naturelle said her family took Cook’s death very seriously.

“We thought we hadn’t lost our mother so early,” she said.

She hopes that eventually they will get more answers about what happened to her.

“My mom was a happy woman before she got into substance abuse”

Melissa Cook will be remembered as generous and caring by her family. The 41-year-old struggled with substance abuse while trying to cope with family losses. She died in August from severe burns. The police are looking for help in solving her murder.

Support is available for anyone affected by MMIWG or the latest reports.

An independent national toll-free number is available 24 hours a day to provide support for anyone needing assistance: 1-844-413-6649. The service is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.

Individuals can also access immediate psychological counseling and crisis intervention services through the Hope for Wellness Helpline by calling 1-855-242-3310 or online at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

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