POLICE believe they have solved a cold case, charging a father and son in connection with the murder of a Dauphin carnival worker eight years ago.
Derek Kembel, 24, was last seen leaving a Dauphin bar on Feb. 28, 2003.
On Tuesday, the RCMP historical case unit charged Christopher Robin Shewchuk, 29, with first-degree murder and Thomas Ronald Shewchuk, 60, with accessory to murder after the fact.
Mystery still surrounds the case, however. Police are not saying how or why they believe Kembel was murdered. And Kembel's body has not been found.
"The last season he worked for me, he was all happy, he had some money saved up and he was all excited and he said, 'I guarantee I'm going back,' " said Bob Mills, owner of Canuck Amusements, where Kembel worked for about three seasons. The carnival company is based in Selkirk and travels extensively in Western Canada and Ontario.
The 5-foot-4, 160-pound Kembel was nicknamed "Leprechaun" by co-workers.
Mills said he talked to RCMP and Kembel's mother about the missing employee.
"They wanted to know if I had heard from him, because supposedly he never took his wallet or any ID," said Mills.
He said he didn't automatically link Kembel's disappearance to foul play. "Guys like that, all of the sudden they fall in love with someone, and they take off."
Kembel first joined the carnival as a worker for one of the private games operators after the company stopped in Dauphin one year, but was later hired by Mills to set up rides, operate them, and tear them down.
With no father present, Mills said the young man had no role model, and was prone to getting into trouble. But after spending three seasons on the road with Mills -- who became a kind of father to him -- Kembel became a model employee.
"He was turning out to be a good guy. He was one of the employees that you want to see. He was all excited to come back to work. He loved working out on the road."
When the touring season ended in 2002, Mills said Kembel went back to his home in Dauphin, where his mother ran the local bus depot. A few weeks before the carnival was to get back on the road, Kembel called to tell Mills he was coming back, and would meet up with him soon.
"He never showed up for work," Mills said. "After a week or two the mother phoned wanting to know if I'd seen him."
Mary Shewchuk, Thomas Shewchuk's mother and Christopher Shewchuk's grandmother, told the Free Press she was devastated to hear of the charges.
She said her son, who worked in construction but battles health issues, regularly helped around her Winnipegosis home with chores like shovelling. She said her son and his wife moved into a home in Winnipegosis about two years ago but kept a family farm outside Dauphin, which is about 380 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
"They wanted to get out of there and leave it for Christopher," she said.
She said she hadn't spoken recently to her grandson, but believed he also worked in construction.
Both Christopher Shewchuk and Thomas Shewchuk are in custody, said police.
An RCMP spokesman said Christopher Shewchuk was arrested in Winnipeg Sunday and is to appear in Winnipeg court. Thomas Shewchuk was arrested in Winnipegosis and was scheduled to be in court in Dauphin Tuesday.
-- With files from the Brandon Sun