SASKATOON – It was a fateful night many will never forget. Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of when 17-year-old Neil Stonechild was last seen alive, his body recovered on Nov. 29, 1990 after he froze to death in a field.
Now, one of the police officers accused of wrong-doing in the teen’s disappearance is breaking his silence, both in person and in the pages of a new book.
The book titled When Police Become Prey: The Cold Hard Facts of Neil Stonechild’s Freezing Death has already stirred up controversy after friends of Stonechild’s intervened, asking that a local bookstore cancel its release on Wednesday.
The author of the book apologized Tuesday for the oversight and said it was originally supposed to be available to readers on Nov. 12 to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the firings of Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger, former members of Saskatoon police.
“I think whenever I would have launched this book, people would have found some reason to protest. Why? To silence me, I will not be silenced,” said author Candis McLean.
For a decade, McLean researched the Stonechild case, writing the 357-book with the help of Hartwig. Although never convicted in the 1990 freezing death, Hartwig says he’s innocent.
Hartwig maintains that Stonechild was never in his custody the evening of Nov. 24, 1990, an allegation that he says has ruined his life.
“Don’t believe me, I don’t care if you do or don’t. Look at the evidence and then decide,” said Hartwig.
Not given a chance to see his day in court, Hartwig says the book vindicates him of allegations he calls unfounded and flawed and were followed by an RCMP investigation with tunnel vision.
He also maintains that testimony from a key witness that night was unreliable.
“I would say tell the truth, tell the truth,” said Hartwig.
A truth that Jason Roy says will be forever etched in his memory followed by years of guilt for not being able to do more for his friend Neil.
“The police officers rolled up in front of me in their car, he was in the back screaming for his life,” said Roy.
That was the last time Roy says he saw Stonechild alive. He learned of his friend’s fate days later.
“The moment I knew he was gone, I knew that there was something wrong with the police in the city,” said Roy.
Roy says he’s read a few pages of the book but insists the inquiry should have been the final chapter in the case.
“There’s a lot of evidence that shows that he was in the car that night that I saw Neil and for him to keep disputing that is just making himself look worse and worse. That’s my point of view,” said Roy.
Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill declined to comment on the matter or the book.
“As the chief of police, we distance ourselves away from any of the past controversy on that, the book that has been written has nothing to do with the Saskatoon Police Service and we’ve implemented the recommendations from the Stonechild inquiry and we’ve moved ahead,” Weighill said.