An RCMP officer interacts with a driver at a police roadblock in James Smith Cree Nation, Sask., on Tuesday, September 6, 2022. A manhunt for the fugitive suspect in the Saskatchewan mass killing continues today after a tense police search yesterday came up empty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

Suspect in Saskatchewan stabbing dies in custody

A massive four-day manhunt came to an end north of Saskatoon on Wednesday as RCMP took into custody Myles Sanderson, a fugitive suspect in a deadly series of stabbings that left an entire region on edge and families immersed in grief.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said Sanderson died after he was taken into custody. RCMP were preparing to hold an evening news conference.

Sanderson was stopped by police near the town of Rosthern, Sask., RCMP said, after officers responded to a report of a stolen white Chevrolet Avalanche being driven by a man armed with a knife.

Officers caught up with the pickup truck, which ended up in a ditch up against thick brush off the southbound lanes of Highway 11. Police cruisers surrounded it and the 32-year-old was taken into custody.

Some family members of the victims arrived at the scene soon after and thanked RCMP.

“Now we can start to heal. The healing begins today now,” said Brian Burns, whose wife, Bonnie Burns, and son Gregory Burns were killed in the Labour Day weekend attacks.

Another son was also stabbed in the neck but survived. The teen stood on the side of the road weeping in the arms of family members as his father spoke.

“He was having rough sleeps at night knowing (Sanderson) was still out there. Hopefully he can get some rest now,” said Brian Burns.

Sanderson is facing charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and break and enter after the attacks on James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon that left 10 victims dead and 18 injured.

Another suspect, Sanderson’s brother Damien, was found dead in a grassy area near one of the crime scenes Monday. Police have said he didn’t kill himself and Myles Sanderson is also being investigated in his death.

RCMP released a full list of the victims’ names Wednesday, while court records showed Myles Sanderson had previously assaulted at least two of them.

Earl and Joyce Burns are Sanderson’s former in-laws. Earl Burns, 66, was killed and his wife remained in hospital, a family spokesperson said.

Court documents released Wednesday show Sanderson attacked Earl and Joyce Burns in Prince Albert on Jan. 15, 2015. He was handed a jail sentence of two years less a day.

The documents say he had repeatedly stabbed Earl Burns with a knife, and wounded Joyce Burns. The court records, from Melfort and Prince Albert courthouses, show Sanderson has a history of terrorizing residents of James Smith Cree Nation, with his jail sentences getting lengthier over time.

Other offences include assaulting his former partner and mother of his children. In 2015, he was given a six-month sentence. A Parole Board document shows he was given statutory release for his most recent prison sentence, but in May he was wanted for being unlawfully at large.

Earlier Wednesday in Saskatoon, other family members paid tribute to Bonnie Burns.

At an emotional news conference, her brother Mark Arcand’s voice wavered as he said Burns died on her property while trying to protect her children.

“Right outside of her home, she was killed by senseless acts. She was protecting her son. She was protecting three little boys,” Arcand said.

He said his sister had called for help and when a woman came to the home she was also killed.

“How can somebody do this to women and children? Words can’t express the pain that we’re feeling.”

Some younger children inside the home witnessed the attack and had to walk by the victims afterward, Arcand added.

“I think they had to pass by their mom, and that innocent lady, and their brother laying outside, and they were taken away to family within the community.”

An online fundraiser for victims and their families was closed Tuesday after surpassing its $100,000 goal. A separate GoFundMe page was created Wednesday for the Burns family and raised $9,000 in its first three hours.

Arcand said coming to terms with why the attacks occurred will take time.

“We don’t know. We want to leave it at that,” he said. “We need the RCMP to do their work, we need to let the professionals do their work and we need to support that work.”

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