Saskatchewan mass killing suspect committed similar attack in 2015, court file shows

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan stabbing suspect Myles Sanderson dead after going into ‘medical distress’ in custody: RCMP'
Saskatchewan stabbing suspect Myles Sanderson dead after going into ‘medical distress’ in custody: RCMP
WATCH: Saskatchewan RCMP confirmed at a news conference on Wednesday that Myles Sanderson, a suspect in one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history, died after being in police custody – Sep 7, 2022

The suspect in a mass killing in Saskatchewan on the weekend committed a similar stabbing attack seven years ago, according to court documents obtained by Global News.

Myles Sanderson was accused in 2015 of trying to kill Earl Burns by “repeatedly stabbing with a knife.” Sanderson also attacked Joyce Burns, wounding her, his court file indicates.

A hefty criminal file in the Saskatchewan courts names an Earl and Joyce as Sanderson’s in-laws. Earl Burns was killed at the James Smith Cree Nation on Sunday, while Joyce Burns is among the injured, according to a source.

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Nine others died and 17 were injured in the community, and in nearby Weldon. The body of Sanderson’s brother Damien, who was also wanted for one of the killings, was found Monday.

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Police finally arrested Sanderson, 32, near Rosthern, Sask., after officers rammed his vehicle and he surrendered. His capture came after earlier reports he may have been in Regina or at James Smith Cree Nation.

Court documents on the 59 criminal convictions that Sanderson accumulated in just over a decade chronicle the cycle of violence, arrests and re-offending that preceded last weekend’s tragedy.

Sanderson had been repeatedly accused of threatening to kill members of the James Smith Cree Nation and had stabbed two with a cheese knife in April 2018, the court file indicates.

Photos provided by RCMP show stabbing victims, from top left, Bonnie Burns, Carol Burns, Christian Head, Lydia Gloria Burns, and Lana Head. From bottom left, Wesley Petterson, Thomas Burns, Gregory Burns, and Robert Sanderson. THE CANADIAN PRESS.

The documents, compiled from courts in Regina, Prince Albert and Melfort, also contain court papers that describe an incident that foreshadows Sunday’s killing spree.

On January 26, 2015, Sanderson was charged in Prince Albert, Sask., with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons possession following the knife attack on his in-laws.

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He was also charged with breach of probation for failing to comply with a judge’s order in 2014 that he not consume alcohol and “keep the peace and be of good behaviour,” his court file shows.

Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, assault and threatening to kill Earl Burns. He was sentenced on Oct. 28, 2015, to two years, less a day and fined.

Sanderson also has a long history of domestic abuse. He has been charged with assaulting his partner, Vanessa Burns, at least five times since 2011, according to the court file.

In November 2011, when he was 21, Sanderson was charged with assaulting Burns and resisting arrest. However, the charge was later withdrawn and he was released on probation for six months.

Sanderson assaulted Burns again a year later when he was sentenced to two months in custody and 18 months probation.

He assaulted her again in January 2013 and was sentenced to two months imprisonment in a provincial correctional centre. As part of his probation conditions, he was ordered not to contact Burns. He was later charged with breaching those conditions.

Sanderson was also charged with assaulting Burns in 2015 and 2018.

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Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service and RCMP have identified those killed in the Sept. 4 attack as: Thomas Burns, 23; Carol Burns, 46; Gregory Burns, 28; Lydia Gloria Burns, 61; Bonnie Burns, 48; Earl Burns, 66; Lana Head, 49; Christian Head, 54; Robert Sanderson, 49; and Wesley Petterson, 78.

The names of the 17 people injured have not been made public.

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“The identities of injured persons will not be released,” the Coroner Service and RCMP said in a statement. “We can confirm one young teen was injured and the remaining injured are all adults.”

Despite his long record of crime and violence spanning his adult life, Sanderson was not considered an undue risk to society by the Parole Board of Canada as recently as February.

“To your benefit, you do seem to have maintained sobriety, obtained employment, engaged a therapist, were engaged in cultural ceremonies, had obtained a home for your family, and appeared to have been making good progress on reintegration,” the Board wrote.

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“It is the Board’s opinion that you will not present an undue risk to society if released on statutory release and that your release will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating your reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen,” the decision read.

Upon his release, Sanderson was instructed to refrain from alcohol and drugs, follow a treatment plan, avoid his victims and their families, and have no contact with his children, as well as an individual identified only by the initials V.B.

By May, however, Sanderson was listed by the Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers as “unlawfully at large,” and last seen in Saskatoon, about 200 kilometres southwest of the scene of Sunday’s mass killings.

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