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Saskatoon police find human remains on first day of search for Megan Gallagher in St. Louis area

Star Phoenix logo Star Phoenix 2022-09-30 Thia James
Family members, police and safety personnel assembled near St. Louis, Sask. to search for Megan Gallagher. © Provided by Star Phoenix Family members, police and safety personnel assembled near St. Louis, Sask. to search for Megan Gallagher.
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ST. LOUIS, Sask. — The search for Megan Michelle Gallagher’s remains along the South Saskatchewan River in an area just outside of St. Louis, Sask. resulted in the discovery of human remains on Thursday.

Searchers located the remains around 2:30 p.m., Saskatoon police said in a media release. The forensic identification unit will process the scene, the Saskatchewan Coroners Service has been notified and testing will take place to determine the identity.

Fifty searchers began their work in the area just after 9 a.m. on Thursday, and by midday had covered an area four kilometres away from the start point. Conservation officers were out with a boat.

 Family members, police and safety personnel assembled near St. Louis, Sk to search for Megan Gallagher in an area that has been identified to be of interest. To date, eight people have been arrested in connection with her disappearance. Photo taken near St Louis, Sask. on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. © Matt Smith Family members, police and safety personnel assembled near St. Louis, Sk to search for Megan Gallagher in an area that has been identified to be of interest. To date, eight people have been arrested in connection with her disappearance. Photo taken near St Louis, Sask. on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

The area was home to some of her ancestors, her father Brian Gallagher noted. After the Northwest Resistance, Metis people were forced to leave, including his ancestors — the Dumonts — who were among the people who went to St. Peter’s Mission in Montana. His grandmother was seven when Metis people were able to return, he said earlier that afternoon.

“The days leading up to (the search) have been long and exhausting, I think, is the easiest way to put it,” Brian said, adding that he’s grateful to the people who have supported the family since her disappearance.

“It does help get you through these things,” he said.

Earlier in the day, police Staff Sgt. Grant Obst of the Saskatoon police major crime section shared the investigators’ theory of what happened to her and pointed to the charges laid so far: first-degree murder, aggravated assault, unlawful confinement and offering an indignity to human remains.

“We believe Megan was unlawfully confined, killed and then disposed of,” he said at a media conference in Saskatoon.

Investigators believe she was killed in Saskatoon and her body was taken shortly after her death to the area police are searching, he said.

 Megan Michelle Gallagher. Photo provided by Saskatoon Police Service. © Saskatoon Police Service Megan Michelle Gallagher. Photo provided by Saskatoon Police Service.

Megan was last seen on Sept. 20, 2020 in Saskatoon. In January 2021, police announced they were investigating her suspicious disappearance as a homicide.

“I think the last time that we gathered, a question was asked with respect to ‘Is there a gang angle to this?’ and … I mentioned at that time there was a minor gang angle. I can tell you that I think that’s becoming a little more significant. Everyone knows we have street gangs in Saskatoon; this may be associated to that,” Obst said when asked about a potential motive.

He said he believes the decision to dispose of her body at the St. Louis location was “random.”

Megan was not a member of a gang nor was she affiliated with a gang, Brian said.

Police planned to search an area of the river and riverbank downstream from St. Louis for four days. Obst described the work as labour- and resource-intensive, with several agencies assisting.

Investigators have consulted forensic anthropologist Ernie Walker, the Water Security Agency, and the Saskatoon fire department. Calgary city police canine teams that are trained in evidence detection, as well as Saskatchewan conservation officers, several civilian search and rescue personnel, and Saskatchewan Highway Patrol are also helping.

“Our goal, obviously, is evidence recovery; more importantly our goal is to hopefully bring Megan home so that the family can at least have some closure in that sense,” Obst said.

Based on preparatory research, the search areas to be focussed on have been narrowed down, he added.

Obst said there are no guarantees, but based on the science and data, police were able to identify two large specific parts of the river — which are close together — as the most likely places to find evidence.

St. Louis is located 128 kms northeast of Saskatoon.

Shortly after the Thursday media conference, police arrested an eighth person in connection with the investigation. Robin Tyler John, 34, was arrested at a correctional facility on Beardy’s & Okemasis Cree Nation, where he was serving an unrelated sentence, police said.

He was taken to Saskatoon police detention and is expected to appear in court on Monday, charged with unlawful confinement and aggravated assault.

John was convicted for causing the impaired driving collision that killed 17-year-old Quinn Stevenson when the teen was on his way to work on Aug. 3, 2013. John’s blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when he ran a red light and hit Stevenson’s car.

Last year, John was charged with several firearms offences and sentenced to four years and three months in prison with 423 days’ credit for time spent on remand.

Another man, Thomas Richard Sutherland, 42, is charged with unlawful confinement and aggravated assault and was arrested Tuesday at a correctional centre in Saskatoon, where he was serving an unrelated sentence.

Two people are charged with first-degree murder: Robert “Bobby” James Thomas, 27, and Cheyann Crystal Peeteetuce, 29. Both made first appearances in court earlier this week.

Four other people are charged with offering an indignity to human remains — or improperly interfering with a human body, buried or not — in connection with the investigation: John Wayne Sanderson, 44, Ernest Vernon Whitehead, 41, Jessica Faye Badger (Sutherland), 42, and Roderick William Sutherland, 44.

More arrests and additional first-degree murder charges are expected, police said.

tjames@postmedia.com

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