Youth charged with 1st-degree murder in death of Choiceland, Sask., woman

The RCMP have charged a youth with first-degree murder in the death of a woman in Choiceland, Sask., last week.

On Friday, the RCMP announced that an unidentified 37-year-old woman had been declared dead at a home in the town and that another person, also unidentified, had been taken into custody.

In an update provided Monday morning, the RCMP said that, after some investigation, a youth has been charged with one count of first-degree murder in connection with the incident.

Because of the accused’s age, they can’t be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

RCMP have still not publicly identified the victim either. 

Monday’s update came shortly before the youth was scheduled to make their first court appearance, over the phone, at around 11 a.m. CST. 

Rob Mardell, the mayor of Choiceland, said the community has only about 350 residents and that he knows the families affected by the alleged murder.

“I went to the family to see if there was anything the community could do for them,” Mardell said on Friday. “And they said they already had a counsellor coming. I gave them my condolences and said if there was anything the community could do for them to just let me know.”

WATCH | Choiceland Mayor Rob Mardell speaks about the tragedy in his community: 

Choiceland, Sask., Mayor Rob Mardell

“When a tragedy like this occurs, it affects everyone.” 1:07

Mardell said every parent and grandparent in Choiceland knows every child in the town.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, it affects everyone.”

Mardell has been Choiceland’s mayor for more than a decade. This is not the first tragedy the town has had to weather over the last few years, he said. 

In November 2016, seven-year-old Nia Eastman was reported missing after her father didn’t drop her off as planned at her mother’s house in Choiceland. 

The girl’s body was found in a home in the community. RCMP later said autopsy results confirmed she was the victim of an apparent murder-suicide committed by her father, Adam Jay Eastman.

“This community has seen tragedy before, and we use everybody else to gather strength from and we lean on each other as much as we can,” Mardell said. 

“Hopefully we can, with time, get past this event as well.” 

Aaron Fox, the defence lawyer who represented Randan Fontaine, the 17 year old who committed the 2016 school shootings in La Loche, Sask., said murder cases involving accused youth offenders are no different in terms of how the RCMP approach the investigation. 

“They’re still going to try and gather as much information as they can about what happened and the people involved. Certainly the youth background, history, relationship, things like intellectual ability, alcohol or drugs involved — all of the usual things,” Fox said. 

While an accused may be initially charged with first-degree murder, the charge could change as more evidence is assembled, Fox said.

“That’s something that would be assessed and reassessed,” he said.

Choiceland is a small northeast Saskatchewan community with a population of approximately 350 people. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Another tragedy in a small town like Choiceland is coincidental and “a tough blow for sure,” Fox said. 

“This is horrific no matter where it occurs,” he said. 

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