WARNING: This story contains details involving the death of children.
A Manitoba man has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his 30-year-old partner, their three young children and his partner's relatives, whose bodies were all found in different in southern Manitoba on Sunday.
Ryan Howard Manoakeesick, 29, of Carman, Man., was identified by RCMP as the man charged in the deaths at a news conference Monday afternoon.
The deceased included his six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son and 2-month-old daughter, as well as a 17-year-old relative of his common-law partner, Insp. said Tim Arseneault.
“Young, innocent lives were senselessly taken yesterday, and we grieve with all Manitobans,” Arseneault said. “Our thoughts are also with the community of Carman, who are mourning the loss of an entire family.”
HOURS |Insp. Tim Arseneault explains the timeline of the RCMP's response to the deaths:
The five victims and the accused lived together in the community of Carman, 75 kilometers southwest of Winnipeg. An autopsy began Monday and will continue Tuesday, Arseneault said.
Nancy Clearwater identified the 30-year-old woman killed as her daughter, Amanda Clearwater.
The children killed were her grandchildren, six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven and 2-month-old Isabella Manoakeesick. Clearwater identified the 17-year-old girl killed as her granddaughter, Myah Gratton.
“I'm numb. I don't know what to feel,” Clearwater told CBC News. “She loved those kids. She loved those kids more than anything in the world.
“She was a good mother.”
Neighbor Randy McFarlane said the family had been renting their Carman home for at least a year, and he often heard the Clearwater children outside playing.
Children's toys and a bicycle could be seen lying in the backyard on Monday as forensic teams went in and out of the small bungalow.
“This will cost you your family,” the judge warned in 2019
Manoakeesick has a history of addiction and mental health issues and was previously convicted of breaking an electronic display at a Winnipeg Tim Horton's while taking methamphetamine, court records show.
In a 2019 court hearing, he received bail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for destroying the screen by throwing coffee cups at it after employees locked themselves in an office and called 911.
The court heard the then 25-year-old had mental health problems including anxiety and depression. He was ordered to undergo addictions and mental health evaluations and participate in any recommended treatment.
A judge told him he needed to get help before “things get completely out of hand”.
“If you don't do something, eventually it will cost you your family,” he said.
The court heard Manoakeesick is a member of the Garden Hill First Nation but had been in foster care since he was eight years old. He was living with his common-law partner and their two children at the time of the Tim Horton's incident.
RCMP Insp. Arseneault said officers are still working on creating a timeline of exactly what happened Sunday, but said that “until we have a clearer picture of what happened and when, we won't be able to give no details”.
“We understand the what. Now we need to understand the why. That's what it takes the most,” he said. “We're getting there, but it's going to take time and we want to get it right.”
Manoakeesickre remains in custody, he said.
“This is pure darkness”: Prime Minister
The bodies of the victims were found in three separate locations in southern Manitoba on Sunday.
Amanda Clearwater was found first, after officers responded to a report of a hit and run on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler, Man., at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Her body was located in a ditch off the highway, RCMP said.
About 2 hours later and 70 kilometers north of Carman, officers went to check on a report of a burning vehicle and found the three children, who were pronounced dead, and Manoakeesick, who was taken into custody.
While initial police reports said a witness helped pull three young children from a burning vehicle Sunday, Mounties now say that information was incorrect. Police now believe the accused was the one who got his children out of the vehicle.
Further investigation then led officers to a home in Carman, where they found the body of the 17-year-old inside. Arseneault said officers are no longer on the scene on the highway, but they remain at the home in Carman.
Manitoba Premier Wab Kin expressed the family's loss at the news conference.
“There's no context, there's no explanation that can make this okay. This is pure darkness. But I want to tell the people of Manitoba that we are not powerless in the face of darkness,” he said.
WATCH | Manitoba's premier is asking people to support each other in the wake of the tragedy:
“We can find support in the community. I know that today there are signs that even in the midst of this darkness, there is light in our province.
“Witnesses called for help. That people in schools stepped up to have some tough conversations with kids wondering where their classmates are. And that we had first responders on the scene.”
Kinew spoke after Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who became emotional as she spoke about the deaths.
“It's heartbreaking to talk to him. I'm a grandmother, I'm a kookum. I have grandchildren and I was thinking about them when I was sitting here and that we have to prevent these things from happening in our families,” she said.
“We only have one chance in life. We have to respect that. We have to make sure that our relatives respect life so that they don't end up in systems, so we have a lot of responsibilities as leaders, as mothers, as kookums. , that we are responsible for how we teach our children to be respectful.”
FRIEND | Mounties provide details of the investigation at Manitoba RCMP headquarters:
Terry Osiowy, superintendent of the Prairie Rose School Division, said crisis response teams are on site at Carman Collegiate and Carman Elementary School, where the victims were students.
“Both buildings are relatively quiet right now. What we're feeling is that maybe everyone is just in a state of shock and disbelief that a tragedy like this could strike our community,” Osiowy said.
His advice to parents helping their children understand what happened “is just to be open and honest and listen to them. They need to feel safe.”
If parents have difficulty, they are asked to contact one of the schools, he said.
Support is available to anyone affected by these reports. You can speak to a mental health professional through Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It's free and confidential.
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