Gordon Alfred Rogers of Red Deer is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jeanette Chief and Violet Heathen, who were both from Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.
On June 6, 2007, a fisherman setting bait traps under a bridge in a rural area about 16 kilometres north of Lloydminster came across the remains of a woman. The body was of Jeanette Chief, 48, of the Onion Lake First Nation. The fisherman found her body near the small town of Hilmond. Chief was last seen alive on June 2, 2007, at around midnight in a Lloydminster bar.
Heathen, who was 49, was last seen in the same city in May 2009, and her remains were found that December near the village of Kitscoty, Alta.
Police have said Rogers, who is 60, was living in Red Deer at the time of the deaths and had known Heathen for several years, but did not know Chief.
At a news conference last year after charges were laid in the two deaths, Jeanette Chief’s nephew, Tom Chief, said the family was grateful to RCMP for giving them a sense of justice after so long.
“Years of wondering, pain, hurt and addictions has torn this family to pieces,” Tom Chief said.
“(Rogers) took a piece of us that will never be replaced … Jeanette was a beloved mother, caring auntie, loving sister and protective grandmother, who loved and cherished those around her.”
RCMP Insp. Gibson Glavin read a statement on behalf of Heathen’s family, describing her as a mother and grandmother who loved horses and “could liven any room with her happy, carefree spirit.”
“We know she is at rest peacefully,” the family’s statement said. “This has been an overwhelming event for the family. Wherever she went she had lots of friends. She was always there to give a helping hand. She was a giver, although she never had much money. If she had anything to give, she would give to whoever needed it.”
According to police last year, RCMP were able to “identify a nexus between the two cases” after “extensive” investigations by Alberta’s historical homicide unit and Saskatchewan’s historical case unit identified Rogers as a person of interest. The collaborative efforts between the two units led to the arrest of Rogers in Edmonton.
Crown prosecutor Jeff Rudiak said he expects Rogers to enter guilty pleas for second-degree murder in both deaths. Rogers’ next court appearance is set for Sept. 8 in Edmonton.
Rogers had lived and worked in the Lloydminster area prior to living in Red Deer.
He was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing was held in May.
Rogers made an appearance at the Court of Queen’s Bench in St. Paul, Alta., on June 5, and his case was sent to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton.
— With Saskatoon StarPhoenix files
Published on June 8, 2017