It’s been over a week since Tammi St. Jean received a phone call from Manitoba RCMP informing her that her daughter and two grandchildren had been found dead, but she is still having trouble processing the devastating news.
“It’s like it’s not real. It can’t be real. It’s a nightmare, right?” St. Jean told CTV News by phone from her home in Calgary.
Mounties said a 32-year-old mother and her two children, a six-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy, were found dead on April 10 in a fire-damaged home in Portage la Prairie, Man.
St. Jean is identifying the victims as her daughter Shantelle Murphy and her two children, Isabella and Mason.
Murphy’s partner and the father of her two children, Trevis McLeod, 50, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder and one count of arson in connection with the deaths. The charges have not been tested in court.
McLeod was originally taken into custody on April 10, but was released because RCMP said they didn’t have enough evidence to hold him.
Mounties said McLeod was told to stay at a specific address in Portage. However, they warned the public on April 12 they were actively searching for him after he was spotted in Winnipeg.
Officers said Friday they had arrested him in downtown Winnipeg without incident.
He was scheduled to appear in a Portage la Prairie courtroom Tuesday, but his appearance was waived until May 16.
“I’m still having a little bit of trouble wrapping my head around how somebody could do that to his wife and his two kids. I just can’t imagine how he could do that to the babies, especially,” St. Jean said.
According to St. Jean, her daughter met McLeod through a mutual friend about seven or eight years ago in Calgary. St. Jean said she didn’t initially approve of the relationship because of their age difference.
“I didn’t think too much about him,” she said. “So I told her as much, that I wasn’t happy with that and I told her she could probably do much, much better. You know, as a mom, that’s what you do.”
However, the mother and grandmother said while she wasn’t very fond of McLeod, she never suspected he was a danger to Murphy or their children.
“I never saw anything when I stayed with them for a little bit in Ontario. I helped move them there, so I never saw anything of the sort and it never crossed my mind that he could do this to them,” she said.
That trip to Ontario nearly two years ago was the last time St. Jean saw her daughter and grandchildren.
From there, the family moved back to Winnipeg and then to Portage la Prairie, St. Jean said.
She said communication with her daughter became sporadic in recent months, and she believes McLeod is mostly to blame.
“I honestly don’t know the circumstances that they were living in or surrounding her at the time,” she said.
St. Jean remembers her daughter as a cheerful, outgoing person with a great sense of humour. She said Murphy had plans to continue her education so that she could help others.
“She wanted a better life for her and the kids,” St. Jean said.
She will remember her granddaughter Isabella as a chatty, energetic girl and her grandson Mason as always running and on the move.
“They were just full of energy and life,” St. Jean said.
A GoFundMe page has been launched to raise money to bring the remains of St. Jean’s daughter and grandchildren back to Alberta and to pay for family members to travel to Manitoba to attend McLeod’s trial.
St. Jean knows it will be challenging to be in the courtroom, but she hopes it will bring some small amount of closure to the devastating tragedy.
“I know that’s going to be a hard thing to do, but I need answers,” St. Jean said.
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