Mounties in Manitoba are being recalled from time off to bolster investigators who have worked flat out on five homicides since New Year's and another sudden death Monday.
At a pace of nearly one death a day, the homicides are from locations across the sprawling expanse of the province.
The RCMP's only specialized homicide investigators, located at the Winnipeg headquarters' serious-crime unit, are working around the clock to keep pace with the mounting investigations, RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said Monday.
"January has been quite a kick-start for us. There were four deaths in four days, which is quite concerning," she said.
Forensic units based in Brandon, Thompson, The Pas and Dauphin have every investigator working at least one death.
At least half a dozen officers were recalled from holidays or time off to bolster the duty rosters, Karpish said. The officers under the biggest pressure are homicide investigators in Winnipeg.
"Each homicide involves teams of investigators who are homicide investigators. These guys are very busy. They're all over the place in the province and some have gone without sleep," said Karpish.
With outdoor crime scenes, there's an added layer of complication and urgency because weather conditions can quickly degrade a crime scene.
"When you're working a homicide, it's not unusual to go 20 hours straight, day and night. Especially in the (initial) hours of an investigation, you have to work pedal to the metal," the RCMP spokeswoman said.
The RCMP investigated 19 homicides in 2012 compared with a record 37 homicides in 2007.
"We have had some bad years where statistics go off the charts and 2007 was off the charts," Karpish said.
Six deaths, including five homicides, were reported in rural and northern Manitoba between Dec. 30 and Jan. 6:
-- Jan. 1, the RCMP serious-crime unit in Winnipeg was called to Black River First Nation for a homicide. The victim was Peter Richard Bird, 25, of Black River.
-- On Jan. 2, a 14-year old boy was charged with second-degree murder after a Dec. 30 homicide in southern Manitoba.
-- On Jan. 3, a man's body was found beside a burning car at Long Plain First Nation. Three male suspects, aged 20, 21 and 47, were taken into custody, all believed to be from Long Plain.
-- Also on Jan. 3, a 24-year-old man died in Moose Lake on Mosakahiken Cree Nation following a house disturbance. Investigators later declared his death a homicide and charged Lott Campbell, 32, of Moose Lake, with second-degree murder.
-- On Sunday, Yellowhead RCMP were called to Keeseekowenin First Nation after a house disturbance. A man, Terrel Stewart Shorting, 34, was found dead. Terris Ronald Mintuck, 50, of Keeseekowenin First Nation, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder.