Timeline: Claresholm, Alberta highway murder-suicide
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Authorities in Claresholm, Alberta, a town about an hour north of Lethbridge, respond to reports of shots being fired on Highway 2, near Township Road, at around 3:30 a.m. RCMP officers close the highway, one of the busiest highways in southern Alberta, and say that there had been a suspicious incident.
Officers on the scene discovered two men and a woman dead and two others suffering from critical injuries. They found two vehicles – a green Pontiac Sunfire and an SUV – in the northbound lanes of the highway.
Police said four of the victims – all in their early 20s – were inside the SUV. The vehicle’s windows had been blown-out.
Investigators determined a man shot the four victims before killing himself. One male and one female passenger were pronounced dead on the scene. Another male died at Foothills Hospital in Calgary, after being transported by air ambulance.
The other female victim – the sole survivor of the shooting – was taken to hospital by ambulance and treated for her injuries.
By that evening the victims had been identified and the story of the day’s tragedy had begun to unfold.
Loved ones identified the two male murder victims as Mitch MacLean, 20, and Tanner Craswell, 22. They were both student baseball players with the Lethbridge Bulls and they were on their way to Calgary International Airport to fly home to Prince Edward Island for the Christmas holidays.
The female murder victim was 21-year-old Tabitha Stepple of Lethbridge. It was later learned the shooter was her ex-boyfriend Derek Jensen.
The woman who survived the shooting was 21-year-old Shayna Conway, also from the Island and Craswell’s girlfriend. She would be the only one who could tell police how the events unfolded.
They had all been out celebrating Craswell’s 22nd birthday the night before, when Stepple offered to drive them to the airport.
MacLean’s girlfriend, Kevynn Weibe, spoke to Global News that night. She told reporter Jayme Doll she heard that Jensen followed Stepple’s SUV from Lethbridge.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Friends of the shooter confirm to Global News he was 21-year-old Derek Jensen. His friends expressed their disbelief on Facebook, saying he had been planning to move to Edmonton to find work or to go to school.
RCMP say they had spoken briefly with Shayna Conway, but were exercising patience to allow her to deal with the horror of the day before.
Her sister, Courtney Crosby, said “She can just remember screaming and yelling for help, and calling for Tanner. She knew that he was dead because he couldn’t come and help her.”
Jensen had broken up with Tabitha Stepple around Halloween. Meanwhile Mitch MacLean’s girlfriend said Craswell, MacLean and Conway did not know their killer.
In Prince Edward Island, those who knew Mitch Maclean and Tanner Craswell react to the terrible news that the promising young baseball players had been slain.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
RCMP release a detailed account of Derek Jensen’s shooting rampage on southern Alberta’s Highway 2.
Mounties say Jensen was searching for his ex-girlfriend, Tabitha Stepple, and followed her SUV after spotting it at a 7-11 in Claresholm.
Shayna Conway, who was driving the vehicle, got out of the car to see who had hit the vehicle.
Jensen shot Conway outside the vehicle. Stepple and Tanner Craswell were murdered where they sat. MacLean tried to escape. Police found him alive in a ditch, but he succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
“Derek Jensen and Tabitha Stepple did reside together and had been involved in a domestic relationship. They had separated recently,” police told the Calgary Herald.
“There was no domestic relationship violence reported to either the RCMP or Lethbridge Regional Police Service regarding their separation or domestic relationship.
Neither Derek Jensen nor Tabitha Stepple were known to police.”
Authorities say Jensen gunned down the victims with a 9mm handgun before shooting himself. He also had a loaded 12 guage shotgun and a loaded Winchester rifle in his Pontiac Sunfire.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Plans are made to remember the victims of the December 15 shooting rampages.
In Prince Edward Island, students at Charlottetown’s Colonel Gray High School play a memorial game of catch in honour of Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean. Both attended the school before moving to Alberta to play baseball.
Family of the three murder victims announce funeral plans. Tabitha Stepple will be laid to rest in Lethbridge on Wednesday. Memorial services for MacLean and Craswell are to be held Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Shayna Conway undergoes 12 hours of surgery. Surgeons removed a bullet from her left thigh and closed up two bullet wounds in her side and leg. Her swelling reduces. Doctors said she was doing well following the operations, but it was unknown at the time if she would make a full recovery.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Shayna Conway’s family offers their gratitude to people across Canada who have shown their support, six days after the 21-year-old survived the shooting rampage near Claresholm, Alberta.
The family says she’s expected to make a full recovery in about three to four weeks.
“Their prayers are going out not only to the three people who were in the car with Shayna, but even with Derek’s parents and all that they’re dealing with and processing right now because of the actions of their son and the grief that they’re feeling,” Rob Dale, a friend of the Conways, said on their behalf.
A trust fund has been set up for survivor Shayna Conway at TD Canada Trust:
Cheques can be made out to Scott Conway or S. Conway.
Because Shayna is unable to sign paperwork, they cannot receive cheques in her name.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The first of the three murder victims is laid to rest. About 850 people turned out in Lethbridge to mourn Tabitha Stepple, whose ex-boyfriend, Derek Jensen, shot her and three others before killing himself.
Teresa Kleinfeld remembered her sister fondly, saying she touched everyone she met. The slain woman’s terrier was listed as the honorary pallbearer and was there for the service.
Family and friends remembered MacLean as a true competitor and one of the best baseball players from the Island.
His love of the sport came up numerous time during the memorial.
MacLean’s mother, Dianne MacLean, remembered her son with a poem titled “Last Time at the Plate.” John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” played as pallbearers dressed in baseball uniforms led the coffin out of the church.
“Words cannot adequately express the debt of thanks we owe to so many who have surrounded us with love and supported and comforted us in countless ways this week,” said the statement.
“Your stories, your laughter, your tears, your offers to help … have warmed our hearts and lifted our spirits.”
Friday, December 23, 2011
As a pre-Christmas snow storm moved into the province, about 600 people packed into the Church of the Holy Redeemer, in Coveshead, for the funeral of 22-year-old Tanner Craswell – the last of the three murder victims to be laid to rest.
Craswell (pictured with girlfriend Shayna Conway) was remembered as a wholesome young man, loved by everyone.
His family didn’t speak at the service, but passed on a written message to mourners.
“Tanner touched the lives of so many people,” the message read. “The family would like each of you here today to consider yourself an honorary pallbearer for him.”
A verse on the back of the program beneath a photo of Craswell walking towards a baseball diamond read: “If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.”
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Shayna Conway makes a big step on her road to recovery, walking for the first time since the shooting. Family friend Rob Dale says Conway was able to take a couple of steps with the help of support rails. “She’s able to put pressure on her leg, to push down on it,” Dale says. “She’s not able to lift it on her own yet, but still that’s better than a couple of days ago.”
He says her recovery has been quicker than anyone had anticipated, noting doctors have taken her off intravenous pain medication.
Conway hopes to have recovered enough to attend a memorial next month in Lethbridge for friends Mitch MacLean, Tanner Craswell and Tabitha Stepple.