Red Deer man charged with murder in historic homicides of women near Lloydminster
EDMONTON – A 59-year-old Red Deer man has been charged in connection with the deaths of two indigenous women that date back nearly a decade.
On Wednesday, a day after being arrested in Edmonton, Gordon Alfred Rogers was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Violet Heathen and Jeanette Chief.
“It has been a long road to reach this point for all the investigators involved in these two cases,” Alberta RCMP Supt. Gary Steinke said. “But for the families of Jeanette and Violet, it has been an extremely rough road.”
WATCH: Superintendent Gary Steinke said Gordon Alfred Rogers, 59, of Red Deer, charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Violet Heathen and Jeanette Chief.
According to the RCMP, Jeanette Chief was last seen in Lloydminster on June 2, 2007 after having left the Onion Lake Cree Nation a day earlier.
Four days later, the 48-year-old’s body was found at a river outside the border city by a person who had ventured down to the water.
“Jeanette was a beloved mother, caring aunty, loving sister and protective grandmother who loved and cherished those around her,” her nephew, Tom Chief, said at an RCMP news conference in Edmonton on Thursday.
“Her son Justin Wolfe recalls his experience of losing his mother and states, ‘My mother’s death was still very hard on us, and the past nine years without her was the most difficult, life-changing and hell-like experience.'”
A mother of seven, Jeanette Chief is remembered as being the heart of her family. Her disappearance and unsolved death tore at those who mourned the loss.
“Years of wondering, pain, hurt and addictions has torn the family to pieces. And overwhelming feelings of happiness, anger, hurt and loneliness are unbearable to overcome,” her nephew said.
Violet Heathen was last seen in Lloydminster on May 15, 2009.
After not hearing from her for approximately two weeks, Heathen’s family reported her missing to the Onion Lake RCMP. Six months, later on Nov. 7, the 49-year-old’s remains were found by a hunter near Kitscoty, Alta. And her body was positively identified on Dec. 22, 2009.
Heathen was also from Onion Lake and was a mother of eight.
In a statement, her family described her as being “a giver, though she never had much herself.”
RCMP officers from both Alberta and Saskatchewan worked on the case.
With help from specialized historical homicide units in both provinces, a link between the two cases was established and Rogers was identified as a person of interest.
Staff Sgt. Dale Rockel with the “F” Division Major Crime North unit acknowledged how hard not having answers can be for families of missing and murdered women.
“As time passes, we know it can be difficult to understand how an investigation can still be considered ongoing,” he said on Thursday. “While charges have been laid in the deaths of Jeanette Chief and Violet Heathen, there are still many other families seeking answers into the disappearance or death of their loved ones.”
“There’s nothing more satisfying than solving a case where somebody thought they got away with it,” Steinke said. “We never forget, we never conclude these files. We’ll always work to get to the positive end, which is closure for these families and safety for our communities.”
Police said Rogers had known Violet Heathen for a few years, but Jeanette Chief had not known him.
He is scheduled to make his first appearance in provincial court in Lloydminster on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 10 a.m.
Rogers was not known to police prior to these investigations.
With files from Sarah Kraus.
© 2016 Shaw Media