Manitoba

Manitoba man charged with 1st-degree murder in deaths of partner, 3 children and partner's relative

A Manitoba man has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his 30-year-old partner, their three young children and a relative of his partner, whose bodies were all found in various locations in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

Premier Wab Kinew decried killings, which included suspect's young children, as 'pure darkness'

A collage shows photos of several young people.
Nancy Clearwater said the people killed were her 30-year-old daughter, Amanda Clearwater, her niece, 17-year-old Myah Gratton, and her grandchildren: six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven and two-month-old Isabella Manoakeesick. (Chelsea Cowell/Facebook)

WARNING: This story contains details involving the deaths of children.

A Manitoba man has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his 30-year-old partner, their three young children and a relative of his partner, whose bodies were all found in various locations in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

Ryan Howard Manoakeesick, 29, of Carman, Man., was identified by RCMP as the man accused in the deaths at a news conference on Monday afternoon.

The deceased included his six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son and 2½-month-old daughter, and a 17-year-old relative of his common-law partner, Insp. Tim Arseneault said.

"Young, innocent lives were senselessly taken yesterday, and we grieve with all Manitobans," Arseneault said. "Our thoughts are also with the community of Carman, who are mourning the loss of an entire family."

WATCH | Mother, grandmother of victims speaks about the family she's lost:

Manitoba man charged with 1st-degree murder in deaths of partner, 3 children and partner's relative

2 months ago
Duration 3:27
A Manitoba man has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his 30-year-old partner, their three young children and a relative of his partner, whose bodies were all found in various locations in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

All five victims and the accused lived together in the community of Carman, 75 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg. Autopsies started Monday and will continue on Tuesday, Arseneault said.

Nancy Clearwater identified the 30-year-old woman killed as her daughter, Amanda Clearwater. 

A woman speaks to someone off camera.
Nancy Clearwater said she felt 'numb' after hearing the news that her daughter, niece and three grandchildren had been killed. (CBC)

The children killed were her grandkids, six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven and 2½-month-old Isabella Manoakeesick. Clearwater identified the 17-year-old girl killed as her niece, Myah Gratton.

"I'm numb. I don't know what to feel," Clearwater told CBC News. "She loved those kids. She loved those kids more than anything in the world.

"She was a damn good mom."

Police walk around the outside of a house.
Children's toys and a bike could be seen lying in the backyard of the home in Carman on Monday as forensic crews went in and out of the small bungalow. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

Neighbour Randy McFarlane said the family had been renting their house in Carman for at least a year, and he often heard Clearwater's kids outside playing. 

Children's toys and a bike could be seen lying in the backyard of the home on Monday as forensic crews went in and out of the small bungalow.

'It's going to cost you your family,' judge warned in 2019

Manoakeesick has a history of addiction and mental health issues, and was previously convicted of smashing an electronic display at a Winnipeg Tim Hortons while on methamphetamine, court records reveal.

At a court hearing in 2019, he received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to mischief for destroying the display by throwing glass coffee mugs at it, as employees locked themselves in a back office and called 911. 

Court heard the then-25-year-old struggled with mental health issues that included anxiety and depression. He was ordered to undergo addictions and mental health assessments and take part in any recommended treatment. 

A judge told him he had to get help before "things spiral completely out of control."

"If you don't do something, eventually it's going to cost you your family," he said.

Two men near a truck
Two men stand at a section of Highway 248 that was blocked off as emergency crews responded to one of the crime scenes on Sunday. (CBC)

Court heard Manoakeesick is a member of Garden Hill First Nation, but had been in foster care since he was eight. He was living with his common-law partner and their two kids at the time of the Tim Horton's incident.

RCMP Insp. Arseneault said officers are still working on piecing together a timeline of exactly what happened on Sunday — but said "until we have a clearer picture of what occurred and when, we will not be able to provide any details."

"We understand the what. Now we need to understand the why. That's what takes longer," he said. "We're getting to that, but that's going to take time and we want to get it right."

Manoakeesick remains in custody, he said.

'This is pure darkness': premier

The victims' bodies were found in three separate locations in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

Amanda Clearwater was found first, after officers responded to a report of a hit and run on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler, Man., at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Her body was located in a ditch just off the highway, RCMP said.

About 2½ hours later and 70 kilometres north of Carman, officers went to check on a report of a burning vehicle and found the three children, who were pronounced dead, and Manoakeesick, who was taken into custody.

A map of southwestern Manitoba shows the locations of Winnipeg, Carman, Winkler and St. Eustache with red dots for locations nearby.
The approximate locations where the five people were found dead Sunday are marked here by red dots. Police were called to a hit and run involving a woman on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler. Then they responded to a vehicle on fire that involved three children on Highway 248 just east of St. Eustache. The body of a teenager was found at a home in Carman. (CBC Graphics)

While initial police reports said a witness helped pull the three young children from a burning vehicle on Sunday, Mounties now say that information was not accurate. Police now believe the accused was the one who removed his children from the vehicle. 

Further investigation then led officers to a home back in Carman, where they found the body of the 17-year-old inside. Arseneault said officers are no longer at the scenes on the highway, but they remain at the home in Carman.

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew lamented the loss of the family at the news conference.

"There is no context, there is no explanation that can make this OK. This is pure darkness. But I want to say to the people of Manitoba that we are not helpless in the face of darkness," he said.

WATCH | Insp. Tim Arseneault explains timeline of the RCMP's response to the deaths:

Timeline of police response to suspicious deaths in southern Manitoba

2 months ago
Duration 0:30
Insp. Tim Arseneault explains the timeline of the RCMP's response to the deaths of five people in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

"We can find support in community. I know there are signs today that even in the midst of this darkness, that there is light in our province. 

"That witnesses called for help. That people at the schools stepped up to have some tough conversations with children who are wondering where their classmates are. And that we had the first responders on the scene."

Kinew spoke after Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who was emotional as she spoke about the deaths.

"It's heartbreaking to speak to it. I'm a grandmother, I'm a kookum. I have grandchildren, and I was thinking about them when I was sitting here, and that we have to prevent these things from happening to our families," she said.

"We only get one chance at life. We have to respect it. We have to ensure that our relatives respect life, so they don't end up in the systems — so we have a lot of responsibility as leaders, as mothers, as kookums, that we be responsible as to how we teach our children to be respectful."

WATCH | Manitoba premier urges people to support one another in wake of tragedy:

'This is pure darkness': Wab Kinew on tragedy in Carman, Man.

2 months ago
Duration 1:35
Manitoba Premier urges people to support one another after a man was charged in the deaths of his partner, their three young children and his partner's relative.

Terry Osiowy, superintendent of the Prairie Rose School Division, said crisis response teams are in place at Carman Collegiate and Carman Elementary School, where the victims were students.

"Both buildings are relatively quiet right now. What we're feeling is probably everybody's just in a state of shock and disbelief that a tragedy like this could hit our community," Osiowy said.

A man in grey hair and a blue sweater stands to the right of centre, looking to the left. He is in a boardroom with two flags hanging limp on stands in the background.
Terry Osiowy, superintendent of the Prairie Rose School Division, says his advice to parents helping their children to cope with the tragedy 'is just to be open and honest and hear them. They need to feel safe.' (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

His advice to parents helping their children cope with understanding what happened "is just to be open and honest and hear them. They need to feel safe."

If parents are struggling, they are urged to reach out to either of the schools, he said.

WATCH | Mounties provide details of investigation at Manitoba RCMP headquarters:

RCMP give update on investigation into deaths of 5 people in southern Manitoba

2 months ago
Duration 32:57
Manitoba RCMP Insp. Tim Arseneault provides an update on the ongoing investigation into the deaths of five people in southern Manitoba on Sunday. Premier Wab Kinew, Justice Minister Matt Wiebe, Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine and Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, will also be in attendance.

Support is available for anyone affected by these reports. You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at caitlyn.gowriluk@cbc.ca.

With files from Karen Pauls, Ian Froese, Sarah Petz and Darren Bernhardt

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