Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Suspect is avid sailor, free spirit, says cousin

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TED Herntier is described by family and friends as a free spirit with a thirst for adventure who loves exploring the world through his prized possession, a blue-and-white sailboat he christened "Wish You Were Here."

But plans for his latest tropical vacation were halted this week when RCMP officers showed up at his workplace to charge him with an unsolved Manitoba murder.

"He was one hour away from leaving," his cousin, Jessi Hunter, told the Free Press Friday. Herntier, 40, was working his final shift on the oil rigs in Arcola, Sask., before heading out to British Columbia to meet a woman he'd befriended during a previous trip to Mexico.

"They were then going to go away together, I think back to Mexico," said Hunter, who lives in Edmonton.

The trip was supposed to follow a typical pattern for Herntier -- spend a few months working the oil rigs to save some cash and hit the high seas. He would pocket close to $7,000 a month, which was plenty to finance a luxurious lifestyle for a man who was divorced, had no children and had paid off his debts, including a residence in the Swan River area.

"He's definitely a different character. He likes to have fun, loves his boat, he's really independent," Hunter said. "He'd work the rigs in B.C., Saskatchewan, even a few times in Alberta, just to pay for travel. He's been doing that for about six or seven years now."

Family members said Herntier once served in the navy.

Hunter learned of his cousin's arrest from his own father, who was also working in Arcola and was living with Herntier. "The police just showed up, the undercover ones, and arrested him on the spot. Everybody was wondering what the heck happened," Hunter said.

Herntier documented his adventures through his Facebook page, which included status updates and photographs that had his friends jealous to join him.

"Mother, mother ocean. I have heard you call. I wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall. You have seen it all, you have seen it all," he wrote on April 3 while documenting a sail he was planning from Florida to Cuba.

"Waiting for a break in the weather to cross the Florida straight (sic) to Cuba. Oh well, bartender, another beer," he wrote on April 7. Several similar posts about sandy beaches and beautiful sights followed over the next several weeks until a less enthusiastic post on May 25.

"Called back to work in Canada. Don't want to go, but my baby needs a new mainsail. The Bahamas will have to wait."

Herntier has no prior criminal record in Manitoba, according to court records. He has four siblings, and several step-siblings.

"I just can't see this. I love (Ted). He taught me a trade, and because of him I can support my family," a relative told the Free Press in an email Friday.

One of Herntier's brothers is a Winnipeg police officer.

Herntier clearly had no inkling his arrest was coming. Last month, he spoke of being near the end of his latest work rotation and looking forward to his upcoming travels.

"I sure do miss the ocean. Wish I was hangin' on my boat, sippin' on a rum, reading a good book," he wrote. His most recent Facebook post came Wednesday morning, just hours before his arrest.

"One shift left... Vancouver Island, watch out, I will be there Friday."

Herntier was in the process of being escorted back to Manitoba on Friday, where he will be detained in custody and appear in court early next week.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2010 A3

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