Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A rooming house with a deadly rep

City's third slaying victim of year a tenant

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Area residents and business owners call it Murder Mansion, and it claimed its third victim this week.

A tenant in the sprawling rooming house at 624-626 Balmoral St. was found beaten to death inside his suite by another tenant around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A police source confirmed the victim's identity as Ron McKinnon. An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of death.

"When (police arrived), the man had already passed away," said Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Eric Hofley.

He said officers responded to a 911 call from the rooming house.

McKinnon is the city's third homicide victim of 2013.

"Welcome to Murder Mansion. It's extremely, extremely bad," said Fred Redekop, owner of Fleet Autobody, next door to the rooming house. "I've had knives pulled on me in the mornings when I'm opening up."

Redekop said the 22-unit rooming house is known as a violent crack house where a handful of homicides have taken place in recent times.

"Families with kids don't live there," Redekop said.

McKinnon's death is the third homicide inside the rooming house in five years. Another man was shot several times there in December 2009. He was taken to hospital in critical condition but survived.

"This rooming house is certainly a place where we've had contact with," Hofley said.

Police yellow tape surrounded the home Wednesday. Officers had been there all night. Members of the WPS identification unit were on the scene Wednesday morning, probing for evidence.

Hofley said several residents of the rooming house were taken in for questioning, but police had no suspects in custody.

The building is owned by Shoal Lake resident Robert Shwaluk and his son, Jeffrey Shwaluk, who lives in Winnipeg.

Jeffrey Shwaluk said he was surprised by the fatal attack, adding the tenants are mostly older seniors who get along.

"I got rid of the gangs and hookers two years ago," he said. "Most of the tenants are now older, nice people.

"Everyone usually sits around and gets along with each other. I'm certain everyone (the other tenants) are heartbroken about this."

Shwaluk said McKinnon was between 50 and 60 years old, unemployed and had been living in the rooming house for between six months and a year.

Shwaluk said he installed eight surveillance cameras around the exterior of the building, adding he's certain whoever attacked McKinnon was caught on video while leaving.

"The police took all the video," he said.

In a telephone interview, Robert Shwaluk said he and his son bought the rooming house two years ago, adding they knew it had an unsavoury reputation at the time.

He said his son has made efforts to clean up the building and make it safer for tenants.

"He's been working as a security guard there to try and watch to see who is coming in," Robert Shwaluk said. "My son has been working quite diligently to clear that up.

"He's been trying... to observe the tenants and non-tenants that are coming in and out to try and make it a little bit safer place for the tenants that are there."

He said his son imposed rules on the tenants to make it safer and curtail the violence that dogged the building in the past, including mandating "quiet time" after 11 p.m.

Redekop said information he's received over the years as a neighbour to the building suggests the city has tried to demolish it and the Justice Department tried to shut it down because of drug-dealing.

Sex-trade workers had used the building in the past, but Redekop said the criminal activity and violence seemed to have quieted down in the last few months since the new owners purchased it.

MURDER MANSION: 624-626 Balmoral St.

Nov. 8, 2008, 4:30 a.m.: 39-year-old Philip Mayur is stabbed in the rooming house and dies later of his injuries. Kworo Ojulu, 26, and Ojullo Agwa, 42, are charged with first-degree murder.

Dec. 30, 2009, 4:30 a.m.: A man is shot several times inside the rooming house. Taken to hospital in critical condition, he is later upgraded to stable.

Jan. 18, 2009, 4 a.m.: Valerie Paypompee, 36, is fatally stabbed in a second-floor suite. Her boyfriend, Mulugeta Geddy Gillamichael, 34, is charged with second-degree murder.

Feb. 26, 2013, 4:30 p.m.: Ron McKinnon is found by another tenant, beaten to death in his suite.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2013 A6

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