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Manitoba man charged with 1st-degree murder in deaths of partner, 3 children and partner's relative

Nancy Clearwater identified the 30-year-old woman killed as her daughter, Amanda Clearwater. The children killed were her grandkids, six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven and two-month-old Isabella Manoakeesick. Clearwater identified the 17-year-old girl killed as her niece, Myah Gratton. (Chelsea Cowell/Facebook - image credit)
Nancy Clearwater identified the 30-year-old woman killed as her daughter, Amanda Clearwater. The children killed were her grandkids, six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven and two-month-old Isabella Manoakeesick. Clearwater identified the 17-year-old girl killed as her niece, Myah Gratton. (Chelsea Cowell/Facebook - image credit)

A Manitoba man has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his 30-year-old common-law partner, their three young children and a relative of his partner, whose bodies were found in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

Ryan Howard Manoakeesick, 29, of Carman, Man., was identified by RCMP as the man accused in the deaths at a news conference on Monday afternoon. The deceased included his six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son and 2½-month-old daughter, and a 17-year-old relative of his common-law partner, Insp. Tim Arseneault said.

"Young, innocent lives were senselessly taken yesterday, and we grieve with all Manitobans," Arseneault said. "Our thoughts are also with the community of Carman, who are mourning the loss of an entire family."

All five victims and the accused lived together in the community of Carman, 75 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg. Autopsies started Monday and will continue on Tuesday, Arseneault said.

Nancy Clearwater identified the 30-year-old woman killed as her daughter, Amanda Clearwater.

The children killed were her grandkids, six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven and 2½-month-old Isabella Manoakeesick. Clearwater identified the 17-year-old girl killed as her niece, Myah Gratton.

The victims' bodies were found in three separate locations in southern Manitoba on Sunday.

A woman was found first, after officers responded to a report of a hit and run on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler, Man., at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. That woman, whose body was in a ditch just off the highway, was identified on Monday as Manoakeesick's common-law partner.

The approximate locations where the five people were found dead Sunday are marked here by red dots. One was on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler. The second was on Highway 248 north of provincial road 242, just east of St. Eustache. The third was a home in Carman.
The approximate locations where the five people were found dead Sunday are marked here by red dots. One was on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler. The second was on Highway 248 north of provincial road 242, just east of St. Eustache. The third was a home in Carman.

The approximate locations where the five people were found dead Sunday are marked here by red dots. Police were called to a hit and run involving a woman on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler. Then they responded to a vehicle on fire that involved three children on Highway 248 just east of St. Eustache. The body of a teenager was found at a home in Carman. (CBC Graphics)

About 2½ hours later and 70 kilometres north of Carman, officers went to check on a report of a burning vehicle and found the three children, who were pronounced dead, and Manoakeesick, who was taken into custody.

While initial police reports said a witness helped pull the three young children from a burning vehicle on Sunday, Mounties now say that information was not accurate. Police now believe the accused removed his children from the vehicle.

Further investigation led officers to a home in Carman, where they found the body of the 17-year-old inside. Arseneault said officers are no longer at the scenes on the highway, but they remain at the home in Carman.

Children's toys are seen in a yard in Carman on Monday, surrounded in yellow police tape.
Children's toys are seen in a yard in Carman on Monday, surrounded in yellow police tape.

Children's toys are seen in a yard in Carman on Monday, surrounded by yellow police tape. (CBC)

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew lamented the loss of the family at the news conference.

"There is no context, there is no explanation that can make this OK. This is pure darkness," he said.

"But I want to say to the people of Manitoba that we are not helpless in the face of darkness. We can take action and work together to protect the vulnerable. We can offer comfort. We can offer support. We can find support in faith."

Kinew spoke after Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who was emotional as she spoke about the deaths.

"It's heartbreaking to speak to it. I'm a grandmother, I'm a kookum. I have grandchildren, and I was thinking about them when I was sitting here, and that we have to prevent these things from happening to our families," she said.

"We only get one chance at life. We have to respect it. We have to ensure that our relatives respect life, so they don't end up in the systems — so we have a lot of responsibility as leaders, as mothers, as kookums, that we be responsible as to how we teach our children to be respectful."