Nova Scotia RCMP have charged the father of Cassidy Bernard's young twin daughters with second-degree murder in her death. The young mother was found dead in her home in We'koqma'q First Nation in Cape Breton on Oct. 24, 2018.
Dwight Austin Isadore, 20, of Wagmatcook First Nation is also facing two counts of abandoning a child. He was arrested Monday in the nearby community of Baddeck and remains in custody, police said at a news conference Tuesday.
The infant girls were found inside the home at the same time Bernard's body was discovered. They were dehydrated, but not harmed.
Police would not release any details about the homicide Tuesday and refused to comment on the cause of death.
Residents in We'koqma'q, a tight-knit community of about 850 people, have long believed the 22-year-old woman's death was a homicide although police did not confirm it until Tuesday.
The community even took the exceptional step last November of pledging a $100,000 reward for any information that led to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Bernard's death.
Friends, family and community members have also staged multiple marches in memory of Bernard, and to raise awareness of her case.
Frustration about the lengthy wait for an arrest and update on the investigation was evident at the news conference, with several community members expressing their concerns to RCMP Sgt. Glenn Bonvie, who spoke on behalf of the force.
Cassidy's mother, Mona Bernard, who found her daughter's body, has described the wait as "heartbreaking." She is raising her twin granddaughters, whom she has said are happy and healthy despite the loss of their mother.
Speaking after the press conference, We'koqma'q Chief Rod Googoo said he and others in the community are feeling "great sense of relief" now that RCMP have laid charges for the "heinous crimes."
He said while others questioned why the investigation took so long, he believes RCMP had to wait for forensic evidence to be analyzed and said he believed they were trying to ensure they "got it right."
"It's been a long ordeal for all of us here. It seems like it's been a lot longer for the family. I can't thank the RCMP enough, for the resources they put into this investigation," he said.
"She was so young. We lost such a beautiful child. It impacted everybody — from the elders down to the children. Anyway, it seems like a lot of that weight has been lifted off our shoulders now."
Googoo said there are now cameras set up around the community as Bernard's death has affected people's sense of security. He said it's not clear whether the reward had any impact on the outcome of the investigation and that would be up to CrimeStoppers to determine.
Janey Michael, who is president of the We'koqma'q Native Women's Association, said she's thankful a second-degree murder charge has been laid and she doesn't want it downgraded to manslaughter. She said the community will be helping Mona Bernard raise her granddaughters.
"It will never bring closure to a community. We lost a young vibrant woman, a mother, a new mother. There will be healing but we'll always remember Cassidy. She'll always be in her hearts and mind."
RCMP said Isadore appeared in Port Hawkesbury provincial court Tuesday morning. He was also already facing several other changes dating back two years, including failing to comply with court orders.
A week after Bernard's death, on Nov. 2, 2018, he's alleged to have threatened to physically harm a woman via social media and damage her vehicle. Two days later, on Nov. 4, 2018, he was charged with possession of hydromorphone in Eskasoni.
Isadore was also charged with threatening to damage someone else's vehicle in Wagmatcook on Oct. 31, 2017 while in possession of a long-barrel rifle. He was charged with threatening the same person with a baseball bat on Aug. 3, 2019.
Where to get help:
- A national, toll-free 24/7 crisis call line has been established to provide support for anyone who requires emotional assistance related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. For immediate emotional assistance, call 1-844-413-6649. You can also access long-term health support services such as mental-health counselling and community-based cultural services through Indigenous Services Canada.
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