Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Arrest dashes hopes of missing man's kin

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A father still carrying a glimmer of hope for the safe return of his son was devastated to learn the RCMP have laid murder charges in the case -- even though his son's body still hasn't been found eight years after he went missing.

Don Kembel, the Alabama-based father of Derek James Kembel, said he received a call from police last Sunday about arrests made in connection with his son's February 2003 disappearance in Dauphin.

Kembel last saw his son in 2001 before leaving Canada for the United States, but kept in telephone contact with the young man.

He said the call from police snuffed out the possibility his son would ever return to his family.

"You don't want to give up all hope," said Kembel, 54, who is divorced from Kembel's mother. "It's real now... that he's gone."

Derek was last seen alive at a Dauphin bar. Kembel said he feared the worst after he got a call eight years ago from Derek's mother saying the 25-year-old carnival worker was missing.

"I thought so many terrible things," he recalled.

He said Derek, just five-foot-four, was picked on by others because of his diminutive stature.

Kembel said he doubts he'll return to Canada from Alabama if a trial takes place.

"It wouldn't solve anything," he said.

Barb Kembel, Derek's mother, said in a statement her family is experiencing a "very devastating time in (their) lives."

Some members of the family still live in the Dauphin area.

The statement described a young man who enjoyed hockey and travelling.

The statement also thanked the RCMP for the work of the investigative team.

"Derek had a huge heart and a trusting nature, and he is no longer able to enjoy life and the milestones that living brings. He was a young man who had so much living yet to do, and he was taken from us too soon and in a tragic way," said the statement.

"Our heartfelt thanks go out to the investigators, officers and special units that worked so tirelessly to provide answers that we have waited so long for."

Christopher Shewchuk, 29, has been charged with first-degree murder, while his father, Thomas Shewchuk, 60, faces a charge of accessory to murder after the fact.

The arrests have also impacted the family of the two accused men.

Anna Shewchuk, Christopher Shewchuk's mother and Thomas Shewchuk's wife, said the news came as a "total shock."

"I do love my husband and I do love my son," she said Wednesday, from her home in Winnipegosis.

"I don't believe it for a minute."

She said she's not abandoning her husband and son.

"I know sometimes when there's problems in families people turn against one another and this isn't the case here."

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 3, 2011 A3

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