a southern Ontario First Nation are facing second-degree murder charges in the deaths of three people from the same community, provincial police said Thursday.
The development came after months of public pleas for information on the deaths of a group of close friends from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation – a case one officer said has caused deep wounds within the community.
“It saddens me to know that people who call this area home have been charged with ending the lives of three fellow community members in such a tragic way,” said Darren Montour, the acting deputy chief of the Six Nations Police Service, which assisted the provincial force with the investigation.
Officers began their probe on Nov. 4 after the bodies of 37-year-old Melissa Miller, 33-year-old Alan Porter and 32-year-old Michael Jamieson were found, along with an abandoned pickup truck, in a privately owned field in Middlesex Centre, Ont., 120 kilometres west of their home community.
Police said Miller was seven months pregnant at the time of her death. Officers said they have identified the cause of death, but they declined to share details on that or any other aspect of the investigation.
The announcement of the charges on Thursday came hours after the last of the three people accused in the case, Jamie Beaver, was taken into custody.
She faces one count of second-degree murder, while Nicholas Shipman faces three counts of the same charge and Thomas Bomberry faces two. Police did not explain the breakdown of charges and said the decision to lay second-degree murder charges is now part of the evidence that will soon go before court.
They also declined to comment on the timeline surrounding the deaths, a component of the case complicated by the fact that Shipman has been in police custody on an unrelated matter since Nov. 3.
Investigators would not comment on the relationships among the accused or between them and the homicide victims. Nor would they expand on the connection between the suspects and Kirsten Bomberry, a 36-year-old Six Nations woman arrested three weeks after the bodies were found and charged with three counts of accessory after the fact to murder.
Investigators had previously revealed that Miller and Porter were cousins, while Porter and Jamieson were “inseparable friends.”
Police said the investigation into the slayings remains active, with Montour saying there are other crimes in the community that need to be solved, but officers at the news conference declined to provide any details.
Montour said the joint investigation between the local force and the OPP has been essential, as the scope of the investigation and associated crimes has taxed the 34 officers currently working in Six Nations.
“With all of the violence that has gone on in this community in the last several years, us as a police service … are not capable to handle all of that on our own,” he said, adding OPP members have worked hard to overcome historical distrust between local residents and outside investigators.
Family members, who had been present at previous police updates into the case, were not on-hand Thursday and requested privacy in the wake of the arrests.
Bereaved relatives had consistently been issuing public pleas for information into the case, describing the pain of both losing loved ones and suspecting members of their home community were withholding information about the deaths.
“It’s tough going on without them, but it’s tougher knowing there’s killers in our community,” Alan Porter’s sister, Linda, said in a tearful video message released by provincial police last month.
“That’s what’s scary, because we’ve got kids out there. Who’s next?”
She said all three victims had children who are now growing up without their parents.