There was a large show of support at provincial court in Saskatoon Thursday morning for the family of Megan Gallagher as one of the accused in connection with her death made his first court appearance.
Gallagher was last seen on Sept. 19, 2020. Saskatoon police announced in January 2021 that they were treating her disappearance as a homicide.
Ernest Whitehead, 41, appeared in court wearing a black t-shirt with a white cross on the back. When asked by the judge if he had any questions, Whitehead tried to address the court gallery before the judge cut him off.
Whitehead is charged with indignity to human remains. He was remanded.
On Thursday Saskatoon police announced another suspect who was wanted on a charge of indignity to human remains was arrested by the RCMP Wednesday night.
Police say Roderick William Sutherland, 44, was taken into custody in the area of Prince Albert following a tip from the public.
He is expected to appear in court on Friday morning at 9 a.m.
Police have issued arrest warrants for two others who are wanted on charges of indignity to human remains.
The wanted suspects are John Wayne Sanderson and Jessica Sutherland.
Megan’s father Brian Gallagher and step-mom Debie Gallagher were in attendance.
Brian said Megan’s birth mother was unable to attend due to health issues related to her daughter’s disappearance.
Megan’s sister also wasn’t able to make it as she continues her journey across Canada raising awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“The silence has been killing us. It has been so devastating to so many people. And it’s not just our family. There are so many families out there suffering the same realities,” Brian said after court.
Brian thanked the Saskatoon Police Service for its work.
He added that there is still information out there and encouraged those who know something to come forward.
“There is a homicide that happened and people out there still have information. They need to come forward. They need to speak.”
Brian said his family wants Megan to come home.
“We know we’re not going to have her back in person, we can’t hug her anymore … we can’t hear her voice” he said.
“I was looking for pictures the other day and I realized my whole life I didn’t take enough pictures.”
“I didn’t take any voice recordings and I wanted to hear her voice too. And I couldn’t. That’s the reality of what we’re living and that’s the reality of what withholding information is doing,” Brian said.
Brian said out of all the friends and family that came to court Thursday, there are probably thousands others who wanted to attend but couldn’t.
He thanked those who could come on short notice.
“My heart just pumps for you. Thank you very much.”
Shirley Isbister, president of Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI) said the Gallagher family is “living every parents’ worst nightmare.”
Isbister said she came to court on Thursday to support the family through the process.
“They have these names. They’ve been charged with a charge. What will come in the future, it will never be justice,” Isbister said.
“Unless Megan was home, there, then you might talk justice. But that’s not going to happen,” Isbister said.
On the issue of missing and murder Indigenous women and girls, Isbister said “people need to realize we’re not a disposable commodity.”
Isbister said she was happy when the province started putting up posters and billboards for missing people.
She said social media also helps spread the word and now people have to start coming forward.
“When you see incidents happening, you have to stop it. You have to stand up for our girls and report it,” Isibister said.
Isbister added there are “so many” incidents of violence that aren’t reported because women don’t think they’ll be believed.
“Our police force is starting to change that and they’ve made lots of strides forward. Now we need to be able to help our girls know that it’s OK to come forward,” Isbister said.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Vice-Chief Aly Bear also showed her support on Thursday and has a personal connection to the family and Megan.
“Megan was a friend. We played hockey growing up,” Bear said.
“The turnout today was really beautiful because it’s the community that showed their support and their love for the family,” Bear said.
Bear said it was important for the family to have the support of so many family and friends and others on Thursday.
“Sometimes you feel like the justice system doesn’t care because it’s hard and it’s cold and they don’t have empathy but that’s why it’s important that the community shows up to have that empathy.”
Global News reached out to Saskatoon police for an update on the investigation but a spokesperson said additional information aside from what has been released would not be provided with two people now before the courts and the investigation continuing.
Major crimes investigators continue to ask for information in regards to this case.
Anyone with information about the investigation or the whereabouts of the other suspects are asked to contact police at 306-975-8300 or Saskatoon CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.