A Canadian drifter with an extensive criminal background is now accused of becoming a Winnipeg serial killer.
Shawn Cameron Lamb, 52, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Tanya Nepinak, Carolyn Sinclair, and Lorna Blacksmith, police announced Monday morning. Police are also investigating whether the accused could be involved in other unsolved cases of murdered or missing women, the source says.
All three women worked in the city’s sex-trade industry. Police said the bodies of Sinclair and Blacksmith have been located – reportedly in dumpsters and wrapped in plastic – while the search for Nepinak’s remains is ongoing.
Court records obtained by the Free Press show police believe Nepinak was killed Sept. 13, 2011, Sinclair was killed Dec. 18, 2011 and Blacksmith was killed Jan. 12, 2012.
Lamb has an extensive criminal history over the past 10 years, according to court documents obtained by the Free Press. They include dozens of convictions for robbery, carrying weapons, uttering threats, fraud, forgery, assaulting police officers, possessing stolen property, break-and-enter and breaching numerous court orders.
Lamb is originally from Sarnia, Ont., but was living in the West End when the three women were killed, Insp. Rick Guyader said Monday. Lamb had since moved to Sutherland Avenue in the North End and that was where he was arrested.
Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill said Lamb was identified as a suspect in a serious sexual assault last Thursday. After he was arrested on that case, evidence came to light that tied him to the three killings.
"Sometimes you get a break in the case and that’s what happened here," McCaskill said
Homicides in other cities probed
Guyader said a team of 24 investigators – 10 from the Winnipeg Police Service and 14 from the RCMP – are part of the ongoing investigation into the possibility other homicides may be linked to the same suspect..
McCaskill said Lamb has travelled extensively across the country and that investigators will be in contact with other police agencies to see if he is connected with any unsolved homicides in other communities.
Guyader said Lamb is not a truck driver, as some suspected was involved in the disappearance of the missing women across the country. McCaskill said Lamb knew Nepinak and met the other two women on the street.
Guyader said he could not confirm that any of the three women were involved in the sex trade. McCaskill said it’s irrelevant how the murdered women made their living.
"They are victims and they should never have been," McCaskill said.
Search for one victim's body ongoing
The body of Sinclair, 25, was found in March in a dumpster in a back lane off Notre Dame Avenue and Toronto Street. Sinclair had been missing for three months at the time, and court records indicate she was killed almost immediately after disappearing. Participants at a vigil held in Sinclair's honour in early April said the young woman was a mother, sister and daughter, and had been dismissed by media and police as a sex-trade worker.
In May, her sister Amanda Sinclair said Carolyn, who lived near Ellice Avenue and Maryland Street, had struggled with prior violence against her and was pregnant when she died. "I can't understand how someone could do that," Amanda said.
Blacksmith, 18, had last been seen January 11 in the West End. Court records indicate she was killed the very next day. Her body was discovered last Friday on Simcoe Street, reportedly in a dumpster and wrapped in plastic.
Nepinak, a 31-year-old mother of two, was last seen around Sherbrook Street and Ellice Avenue on Sept 13. Court records indicate that is the day police believe she died. The search for her body is ongoing.
McCaskill said Monday efforts are being made to locate Nepinak’s body but the evidence is enough to satisfy the Crown Attorney’s office that Lamb should be charged with her murder as well.
'We don't think we dropped the ball": police chief
Guyader said Lamb was a person of interest in the disappearance of all three women but he was never questioned before his arrest last week.
McCaskill defended the WPS investigation into the missing women, adding until Lamb’s arrest last week there was no evidence to suggest a serial killer was at work in Winnipeg but many people speculated there was one.
"We never said there was no serial killer, we said we had no evidence to suggest there is one," McCaskill said. "Now we have that evidence."
"I don’t think we dropped the ball on this," McCaskill said, adding the case will be subject to close scrutiny and there will likely be instances where a different decision should have been made.
"I don’t know of any errors in this investigation at all," McCaskill said. "The most important thing at the end of the day is that we do the best we possibly can and get that evidence before the courts."
Guyader would not disclose where else Lamb has travelled across the country or why he travelled so much. Guyader said the bodies of Blacksmith and Sinclair are too badly decomposed to determine a cause of death or to know if they had been sexually assaulted, adding however that forensic work is being done to answer those questions.
Guyader said the families of all three women were spoken to by investigators in person late Sunday. McCaskill said AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak was briefed this morning.
McCaskill said there is no evidence at this point to suggest that Lamb had an accomplice.
In addition to the three killings and last week’s sex assault, Lamb is also accused of an Oct. 30, 2011 sexual assault, sexual interference and procuring of a child under the age of 18 to work in the sex-trade. He is also accused of failing to abide by a previous court order by abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
However, court records show Lamb wasn’t arrested on those charges until late May. It’s not immediately clear if, or when, he was granted bail. However, he was obviously released at some point since he was arrested in the community last Thursday.