Family of mother and kids killed in Portage la Prairie devastated by loss: ‘It’s just a nightmare’

The mother of a Portage la Prairie woman who was killed along with her two young children says the family is grappling with the loss and remains in shock that her daughter’s husband has been charged with their deaths.

Tammi St. Jean says it was her 32-year-old daughter Shantelle Murphy who was found dead along with her six-year-old daughter Isabella, and three-year-old son Mason following a fire at their Portage la Prairie home April 10.

Read more: Three found dead following house fire in Portage la Prairie, man in custody, RCMP say

Murphy’s husband, 50-year-old Trevis McLeod has since been charged with three counts of second-degree murder and arson.

“It’s been extremely devastating and a hard blow for our family,” St. Jean told Global News over the phone from her home in Calgary Tuesday.

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Family in Portage la Prairie homicide remembered

“It’s just a nightmare for me. I just still can’t wrap my head around this.”

McLeod’s arrest came nearly a week after the killings. Police say he avoided capture in Portage and fled to Winnipeg, where he was eventually arrested after calling to turn himself in late Friday.

Police said Tuesday McLeod remains in custody.

Read more: Portage la Prairie man accused of killing his family arrested in Winnipeg: RCMP

St. Jean says dealing with the shock and grief of losing her daughter and grandchildren was compounded knowing their alleged killer was on the loose.

“I was kind of really grateful that you had that winter storm there because I believe that is what kept him confined to the Winnipeg area. I was afraid he was going to run out of province,” she said.

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“When we heard the news that he was caught, it was like a blessing to us. It was like we won a small battle there.”

‘A wonderful mom’

St. Jean remembers her daughter as an excellent mother who was “a ray of sunshine growing up.”

“She always had a smile. She woke up cheerful and bubbly, and she went to bed at night the same way, cheerful and bubbly,” she said.

“She loved her kids very dearly and would do anything for them. She was always hugging and kissing them and telling them how much she loved them, you know, playing with them — she was just a wonderful mom.”

Read more: Portage la Prairie man wanted in the killing of his family had been in police custody: RCMP

She said Shantelle would often brag about her children when she connected with her mom over the phone.

“Isabelle was a nonstop talker, she talked all the time, she was really good with her words,” she said.

“And Mason, of course, was a handful. He was into everything, and she was constantly running after Mason, once he started walking and there was no stopping that little guy.”

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Isabella and Mason Murphy. Submitted/Tammi St. Jean

St. Jean says she last saw her daughter and grandchildren in June 2020 when she helped the family move from Winnipeg to London, Ont.

Although they’d fallen out of touch recently, St. Jean said she’d been trying relentlessly to contact her daughter.

Read more: Portage la Prairie homicide suspect last seen at Millennium Library in Winnipeg: RCMP

She said she knew the family had moved back to Manitoba, but phone numbers she had for Shantelle no longer worked.

“I was just hoping and praying that she would reach out to me because I didn’t know exactly where she was or where she was living,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Portage la Prairie homicide suspect last seen at Millennium Library in Winnipeg: RCMP' Portage la Prairie homicide suspect last seen at Millennium Library in Winnipeg: RCMP

Portage la Prairie homicide suspect last seen at Millennium Library in Winnipeg: RCMP

“I really don’t know their circumstances. I don’t know if they had access to the phone or if she had access to the phone. Maybe he had a phone and he wouldn’t let her call. I don’t know.

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“We’re still very much in the dark about that.”

St. Jean said she got along with McLeod the few time she’d met him, but wasn’t “overly fond of him.”

Read more: Man wanted in fatal Portage la Prairie house fire believed to be in Winnipeg

“We didn’t know a lot about his history, and I didn’t realize that he had a history of violence when I was there and I spent the time with her,” she said.

“There was no indication of mistreatment or any sort of violence towards her or the kids.”

‘The world won’t be the same without them’

The family is now working to have Shantelle and the kids’ remains returned to Alberta for a service with friends and family.

She says she’ll likely fly to Manitoba to watch McLeod’s trial, when it starts.

Read more: Portage La Prairie holds vigil for mother, children killed in triple homicide

In the meantime St. Jean says she was glad to see a vigil for Shantelle and the kids held outside their Portage la Prairie home over the weekend.

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A group of people held candles and laid teddy bears and stuffed animals outside the small blue house on on 7th Street SE.

Click to play video: 'Portage La Prairie holds vigil for mother, children killed in triple homicide' Portage La Prairie holds vigil for mother, children killed in triple homicide

Portage La Prairie holds vigil for mother, children killed in triple homicide

“It’s so heartwarming that the community pulled together like that for Shantelle and the two kids. They definitely didn’t deserve what happened to them,” she said.

“They were good people and great souls, very loving and caring.

“The world won’t be the same without them.”

— with files from Michelle Karlenzig

Click to play video: 'Portage la Prairie man wanted in the killing of his family had been in police custody: RCMP' Portage la Prairie man wanted in the killing of his family had been in police custody: RCMP

Portage la Prairie man wanted in the killing of his family had been in police custody: RCMP

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