Mother of two, first responder, among those killed in Canada stabbings

·2 min read

By David Stobbe and Kanishka Singh

JAMES SMITH CREE NATION, Saskatchewan (Reuters) -A mother of two, a 77-year-old widower and a first responder were the initial victims identified in a stabbing spree in Canada that killed 10 people and wounded at least 18 others.

Canadian police said on Monday they found one of the suspects in the mass stabbing spree dead while the other suspect, his brother, remained at large.

Police are still trying to determine a motive for Sunday's attacks, mostly in a sparsely populated indigenous community, that shocked a country where mass violence is rare.

The incidents took place in the James Smith Cree Nation and village of Weldon in the province of Saskatchewan, police said. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3TIFx2F)

Hours before the stabbings, Lana Head, a mother of two daughters, posted on Facebook that she had "so many good memories to cherish."

Head's friends and family were shocked by her death and paid tributes on social media. "Not the way I wanted her to leave this world," said Melodie Whitecap, Head's childhood friend who had planned to visit her before the stabbing.

Head's former partner also spoke to local media and implied the stabbings might have been related to drugs and alcohol.

"It's sick how jail time, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives," Michael Brett Burns, Head's former partner, told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. A statement by indigenous leaders also indicated the attacks might have been drug related.

Ivor Burns and Darryl Burns from the James Smith Cree Nation told Reuters their sister, Gloria, was among the dead. They blamed drugs and alcohol as well.

"We have 10 people dead, including my sister. She was butchered ... with her friend and a 14-year-old boy, all three of them," Ivor Burns said in an interview.

However police told a press conference on Monday that the youngest victim was born in 1999.

Gloria was a first responder, who went to a crisis call, and died after being caught up in the violence, Darryl Burns said.

Police had not identified a motive but noted "it appears that some of the victims may have been targeted, and some may be random."

An online fundraiser was launched to pay funeral, rehabilitation and counseling expenses for victims and their families.

Residents in the village of Weldon in Saskatchewan identified one of the victims in the community as Wes Petterson, a 77-year-old widower.

"He was just a lovely man," said Doreen Lees, 89, of Weldon.

James Smith Cree Nation is an indigenous community with a population of about 3,400 people largely engaged in farming, hunting and fishing. Weldon is a village of some 200 people.

(Reporting by David Stobbe in James Smith Cree Nation, Kanishka Singh in Washington; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg Manitoba; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)