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‘A profound effect’ on remote Manitoba community: charges laid in 2021 double homicide

The Manitoba RCMP’s major crimes unit announced an arrest in a double homicide investigation Thursday morning.

The incident, which took place at remote Northlands Denesuline First Nation, has been under investigation for two-and-a-half years, police said, culminating in Monday’s arrest of Leon Paul Mercredi, 22.

Mercredi is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of Brent Denechezhe, 31, and Leona Tssessaze, 24, whose remains were found in the aftermath of a house fire on Sept. 9, 2021.

RCMP said the victims and the suspect were together at Brent’s home, when the suspect allegedly left during an argument and returned with a gun — at which point police believe the murders took place.

The suspect was seen leaving again, and returning moments later, police said. Shortly afterward, the house was seen engulfed in flames.

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Supt. Rob Lasson and Simon Denchezhe, Chief of Northlands Denesuline First Nation, spoke to media from the Mounties’ Winnipeg headquarters.

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Lasson said the arrest — which took place in Fond du Lac, Sask. — wouldn’t have happened without the help of the people of the Northlands Denesuline community, located at the extreme northwestern edge of the province.

“RCMP could not have done this without the community. When we engaged the community, the community responded wholeheartedly.

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“This double homicide has no doubt had a profound effect on a very tight-knit community…  I want to recognize the partnership and community support we received,” he said.

“I also need to take a moment and recognize the mothers of the victims. Both of these strong women have been engaged with us throughout this investigation and have offered us the utmost support.”

Lasson said police don’t believe anyone else is involved in the incident.

Chief Denchezhe said there are mixed feelings among residents, but there’s some sense of relief, and closure.

“We’re a very small community, isolated. But we are very resilient people. We come together to assist one another,” he said. “We assisted RCMP investigators. They needed our assistance, our people reached out, and the RCMP came through.

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“(The suspect is) a man who was from our community, a man we know, a man whose family is still living with us in our community — they’re part of the community. We cannot live in anger, we must move forward in healing, and we must do it together.”

Denchezhe and Lasson were joined at the press conference by Manitoba justice minister Matt Wiebe, families minister Nahanni Fontaine, Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, as well as Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak’s Heidi Spence and elder Roger Thomas.

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