Man accused of first-degree murder more than two years after Manitoba double homicide

WINNIPEG — Manitoba RCMP have charged a man with first-degree murder, more than two years after a double homicide on the Northlands Denesuline First Nation, a remote fly-in community of some 900 residents in the province's far north.

News of the arrest has provided some comfort to the tight-knit community following the deaths of Brent Denechezhe, 31, and Leona Tssessaze, 24, in September 2021, said Chief Simon Denechezhe, the community's chief.

"We live with the loss of these two vibrant young people every day, but now we can stop wondering," the chief said Thursday.

"Without the questions, we can process the pain."

RCMP said the victims and a man were together inside Brent Denechezhe's home, when they got into a disagreement and the man left and returned with a gun.

"The house was then seen engulfed in flames," RCMP Supt. Rob Lasson told reporters.

After the fire was extinguished, the remains of the victims were found. Autopsies showed the two died from injuries from a firearm, Lasson said, and a lengthy investigation ensued.

The probe stretched into Saskatchewan, where police arrested Leon Paul Mercredi this week in the community of Fond Du Lac. Mercredi, 22, is originally from Northlands Denesuline First Nation.

Lasson said the investigation continued and progress was made with help from the community.

"In these investigations of a serious nature, we need to gather significant evidence to get that charge of first-degree murder, and that's why it took so long."

In a written statement read at Thursday's press conference, Ellen Tssessaze remembered her daughter as someone who loved her family and enjoyed cooking.

"I don't want people to live in anger. I want healing. I want Leona's legacy to be remembered as how she was — when we think of her, we smile."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2024.

The Canadian Press