First-degree murder charge in Steinbach slaying
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/08/2022 (210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
STEINBACH — Mackaylah Gerard-Roussin was a “beautiful, sweet girl” who made friends easily, loved to laugh and had big dreams for her future.
On Monday, RCMP announced a 20-year-old man had been charged with first-degree murder after a woman’s body was found on a remote ATV trail in rural southern Manitoba. First Nations advocacy organization Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak identified the slain woman as Gerard-Roussin, 20.
Gerard-Roussin’s aunt, Kelsey Henkel, said her family is “still trying to process this nightmare.”
“Mackaylah was an amazing young woman with a heart of gold and the most contagious laugh,” Henkel told the Free Press via Facebook Messenger. “She had a lot of people who loved her so much, and we are all just shocked and devastated right now.”
Her niece and the suspect had been friends for awhile, she said.
“We are relieved and happy with the first-degree murder charge,” said Henkel.
Steinbach RCMP received a call “indicating that a homicide had occurred” at about 1:40 p.m. Saturday, and went to a residence on Creekside Drive in the city about 60 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg to investigate, police said Monday.
Officers reported a male suspect had already fled the home and further investigation suggested he had a woman’s body in his vehicle, police said.
Officers from the Steinbach, Stonewall, Sprague and Headingley detachments, along with traffic police, began an intensive search, while Winnipeg police checked the suspect’s residence in the capital city.
RCMP officers searching east of Steinbach found the suspect’s vehicle in La Broquerie and pulled it over on Highway 52, west of the town.
Officers arrested the suspect, but the vehicle caught fire, RCMP said. It’s unclear what led to the fire.
The local fire department doused the flames and officers found no human remains in the vehicle.
Investigators later received information that directed police to a remote all-terrain vehicle trail south of Woodridge, where officers located a woman’s body. The community is about 56 kilometres southeast of Steinbach.
RCMP confirmed the suspect and Gerard-Roussin knew each other.
“I would like to express our sincere condolences to the friends and family… Our hearts are with you as you mourn the loss of your loved one,” MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a statement Monday.
Family and friends had been looking for Gerard-Roussin, who was last heard from Aug. 25 and had failed to show up for work, said Henkel.
Henkel posted an appeal on social media Saturday, saying “it’s not like (Mackaylah)” to not be in touch with family or miss a shift.
Gerard-Roussin worked as a bank teller, she said.
At the time of the post, Henkel said Gerard-Roussin, who would reach out to her every day, was believed to be with a man in Steinbach.
A family member has set up a GoFundMe page to support the woman’s parents. The web page describes Gerard-Roussin as a “beautiful, sweet girl” who had big dreams for her future, and a smile that lit up any room.
“She was loved by so many. She made friends everywhere she went,” her great-aunt Crystal Woods wrote. “It’s with heavy hearts that we are asking friends and family to help support us at this time.”
On Monday afternoon, police officers were seen outside a home at 111 Creekside Dr. in Steinbach.
Investigators removed evidence from the home’s garage and placed it in an unmarked van. Another unmarked SUV and an RCMP SUV were parked in the driveway.
A woman who lives across the street said she first noticed police vehicles at the site around 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
The neighbour said she saw officers speaking with a man and woman outside the home and thought there might have been a domestic incident, but when officers remained overnight, she began to suspect it was something more.
“I sat there all day just kind of wondering what was happening and then the police were there all night. I was concerned and worried,” the woman said.
The family moved into the home around two years ago, she said.
“It’s a great neighbourhood, nothing ever happens here… Mostly you see people out walking their dogs.”
She described the area as quiet and filled with young families who keep to themselves.
“It’s terrifying to know that that happened to such young people, that makes me very sad.”
On Sunday, Josh Benoit, 20, of Winnipeg, was charged with first-degree murder, which indicates Crown prosecutors and police believe his alleged crime was premeditated.
Benoit was scheduled to appear Monday in provincial court in Winnipeg.
Major crimes and forensic officers are still investigating.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
Updated on Monday, August 29, 2022 4:28 PM CDT: info added
Updated on Monday, August 29, 2022 4:47 PM CDT: Adds images.
Updated on Monday, August 29, 2022 5:11 PM CDT: pushed writhru, added ID to bottom, added victim's image
Updated on Monday, August 29, 2022 6:57 PM CDT: Full writethru, adds photos, maps, updates formatting
Updated on Tuesday, August 30, 2022 9:04 AM CDT: Minor edits