'We never forget': RCMP ID man charged in slayings of women years ago
John Cotter, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, March 24, 2016 1:42PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 24, 2016 6:32PM EDT
EDMONTON - Relatives of two slain aboriginal women whose remains were found years ago took some comfort Thursday in charges against a man RCMP suspect in their deaths.
Gordon Alfred Rogers of Red Deer, Alta., faces two counts of first-degree murder.
The body of Jeanette Chief, 48, was found in a river on June 6, 2007, four days after she was last seen in Lloydminster on the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary.
Violet Heathen, 49, was last seen in the same city in May 2009. Her remains were found by a hunter close to a nearby village six months later.
"Today is a sad, but joyous moment," said Chief's nephew, Tom Chief, as other grim-faced relatives from both families looked on.
"Jeanette was a beloved mother, caring auntie, loving sister and protective grandmother, who loved and cherished those around her."
A statement from Heathen's family was read by police.
She was a mother of seven sons and one daughter and was a grandmother to six children. Heathen liked to dance and loved horses.
"This has been an overwhelming event for the family," the statement said. "Violet was the type of person that could liven any room with her happy, carefree spirit.
"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."
Police say Rogers, 59, had a "weak" relationship with Heathen, but did not know Chief.
Both women were from the Onion Lake Cree Nation north of Lloydminster.
Investigators say the charges were the result of years of dogged police work on both sides of the boundary.
The breakthrough came when police found evidence that they said linked Rogers to both files.
"I think from my perspective, there is nothing more satisfying than solving a case where someone thought they got away with it," said RCMP Supt. Gary Steinke.
"We never forget. We never conclude these files and will always work to get the positive end, which is basically closure for the families and the safety of our communities."
Chief said his aunt's death tore their extended family to piece with unbearable feelings of anger, pain and loneliness.
He said the arrest has finally given the family some peace.
Chief said the family wants to express its gratitude to police for not giving up on the investigation.
Alberta Justice says Rogers does not have a criminal record. He is to appear in Lloydminster provincial court on April 5.