CARMAN, Man. — A Manitoba father has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his young children, including a two-month-old daughter, their mother and a teenage relative.
The details emerged at an RCMP news conference Monday, where Premier Wab Kinew became emotional talking about the loss of an entire family, calling it "a dark time" for the province.
Kinew told the news conference he knows what it's like to hold an infant in his arms, to grasp the hand of a young child, to be there with a teen thinking about grad ceremony clothes and to share a laugh with his wife at the end of the day.
"I think people from all walks of life, in every part of this province, understand these bonds, because these bonds are sacred," Kinew told reporters in Winnipeg.
"And this time is difficult for us right now because these sacred bonds have been broken in our province."
Ryan Howard Manoakeesick, 29, was charged in the deaths of his 30-year-old common-law partner, the couple's six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son and infant daughter, as well as the mother's 17-year-old niece.
Police did not release the names of the victims.
RCMP Insp. Tim Arseneault said it was an "unimaginable tragedy" to lose an entire family. The five died Sunday at multiple crime scenes in and around Carman, 85 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.
The investigation began when police were called to an area outside of the town of about 3,000 people early on Sunday morning for a report of a hit-and-run on Highway 3.
The mother of the children was found lying dead in a ditch.
More than two hours later, and 70 kilometres to the north, officers were called to a report of a burning vehicle. RCMP said Manoakeesick was seen by witnesses pulling the three children from the vehicle.
The children were pronounced dead and police took Manoakeesick into custody at the scene.
Further investigation led officers to the home in Carman, where they found the body of the teenager.
In Carman, police tape blocked off the front and backyard of the family’s white bungalow, where the suspect and the five victims lived.
Forensic crews could be seen going in and out. Police vehicles were parked in front of and behind the house.
Children's toys and a bike were strewn about the lawn.
Randy McFarlane, who lives a few houses down, said the home was a rental property. The family had lived in the house in the quiet neighbourhood for more than year, he said.
"You never hear anything like that here and you don’t expect it to be next door," McFarlane said.
The children would play in the yard, McFarlane said, and he never had any interactions with the mother. Occasionally he would hear her yelling into a cellphone and said something "seemed off."
Carman Mayor Brent Owen said the whole community has been affected by the tragedy. He did not personally know those who died, despite being familiar with about 80 per cent of the town's residents.
"It's just absolutely horrific," he said.
The Prairie Rose School Division said crisis response teams were put in place for the Carman Collegiate and Ecole Carman elementary school. The local United Church kept its doors open for people to pray.
Police continue to work to piece together how the deaths unfolded, Arseneault said, adding autopsies were scheduled.
"Young innocent lives were senselessly taken yesterday and we grieve with all Manitobans," Arseneault said.
— With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone in Saskatoon
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 12, 2024.
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press