First-degree murder charges laid in death of homeless man found in burning bus shelter
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, April 25, 2014 9:59AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 25, 2014 10:57PM EDT
BERWICK, N.S. -- Two men were charged Friday with first-degree murder in the death of a homeless man whose body was found last year in a burned out bus shelter, a tragedy that senior Mounties say shook a small Nova Scotia town and, ultimately, brought it together.
Police say 26-year-old Daniel Wayne Surette of Berwick and 25-year-old Kyle David James Fredericks of Berwick District are scheduled to appear in court Monday in the death of Harley Lawrence.
Lawrence, 62, died on Oct. 23 in Berwick, a rural community of about 2,500 people in the province's Annapolis Valley, an agricultural area that runs along the Bay of Fundy known for its orchards and vineyards.
Police have released few details about Lawrence's death but they announced two arrests Friday morning. Police would not say at a news conference to announce the charges how Lawrence died.
But RCMP Supt. Darrell Beaton acknowledged that the circumstances of Lawrence's death have been difficult for the town.
"This community was shaken by the horrific circumstance surrounding the death of Harley Lawrence," he told a news conference.
"In the days and weeks following his death, the family of Mr. Lawrence, the citizens of Berwick and police were all focused on finding answers."
Insp. Chris MacNaughton said people have also been brought together by Lawrence's death.
"It has been a trying time for the Lawrence family and the community as a whole," she said. "As a police officer, I have seen how tragedy can bring people together as in this case."
In the days that followed Lawrence's death, a candlelight vigil was held in his memory at the bus shelter. People in the town said Lawrence was often seen sitting outside the local Tim Hortons or wandering down the street with his belongings in a large plastic bag.
Police said Surette was arrested in Berwick and Fredericks was arrested in the Halifax suburb of Lower Sackville without incident.
Both have been remanded to appear in court in Kentville on Monday.
People in the community said Lawrence began using the shelter for refuge as temperatures dipped last fall.
Ronald Lawrence has said his brother had a mental health problem that wasn't diagnosed, but it seemed to surface when he was about 25.
He attended the police news conference Friday night and expressed his support for the police investigation.
"It's nice to see the outcome of it so far. The RCMP were working very hard on this. It takes a lot of time and effort," he said afterwards.
"It shows the RCMP did their homework and had enough evidence."
Beaton said to the best of his knowledge, there was no relationship between the two accused and the victim.
MacNaughton said she couldn't comment on the relationship between the two accused.
She said both men are known to police, but she wouldn't elaborate. "We're not able to share any information on their background," she said.