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First-degree murder charges laid in deaths of five family members in Manitoba

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A 29-year-old Manitoba man has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder after he allegedly killed five members of his family, including his three children.

A family friend confirmed to CTV News Winnipeg the five family members were 30-year-old Amanda Clearwater, six-year-old Bethany, four-year-old Jayven, two-and-half-month old Isabella and 17-year-old Myah-Lee Gratton.

The investigation started Sunday morning when RCMP were called to Highway 3 for reports of a hit-and-run. RCMP said on Monday a 30-year-old woman – who was living common-law with the suspect – was found dead along the highway.

Then around 10 a.m., officers were called to a vehicle on fire on Highway 248. Their three children were inside the car and were all pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators originally reported a witness pulled the kids from the vehicle, but have since learned it was the suspect who pulled them out.

The suspect was arrested at the scene of the fire.

The investigation took police to a home in Carman where another female was found dead. Police said it was the family's 17-year-old niece. 

Investigators confirmed all of the victims lived together in Carman.

RCMP have charged 29-year-old Ryan Manoakeesick with five counts of first-degree murder. RCMP continues to investigate.

The charges against Manoakeesick have not been proven in court.

Insp. Tim Arsenault with the RCMP's major crime services said this is an unimaginable tragedy.

"Our thoughts are also with the community of Carman who are mourning the loss of an entire family," said Arsenault.

"Young innocent lives were senselessly taken yesterday and we grieve with all Manitobans."

Investigators are still working on putting together a timeline of when everything happened and Arsenault said autopsies happened Monday and are scheduled to continue Tuesday. 

A yard in Carman, Man. is cordoned off by police tape on Feb. 12, 2024. (Source: Joseph Bernacki/CTV News Winnipeg)

'Darkness will not win'

Both Premier Wab Kinew and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick spoke at the news conference Monday.

Kinew said sacred bonds were broken this weekend and the events have cast darkness across Manitoba.

"But I want to say to the people of Manitoba that we are not helpless in the face of darkness. We can take action, work together to protect the vulnerable. We can offer comfort. We can offer support," said Kinew.

The premier called on Manitobans to pray for the family and the people of Carman.

"We will remember that this is a good place where darkness will not win. So in times like this, it's important that we remain united and work together for the collective good of our province."

He thanked the RCMP and all first responders who dealt with the tragedy Sunday.

Merrick said she was saddened to hear the news of the innocent lives being taken.

"I'm very heartbroken with the loss of our women and the loss of young ones…it's heartbreaking to speak to it," said Merrick.

She noted she herself is a grandmother and she was thinking of her own family when she heard what happened.

"We have to respect life. We only get one chance at life. We have to respect it."

‘It’s just devastating’

Carman Mayor Brent Owen says the community is devastated by the weekend’s tragic events.

“It was terrible news. I can’t imagine how something like this could happen in our small community,” Owen told CTV News Winnipeg in an interview Monday.

The mayor said nothing like this has ever happened in the small town before, and folks are coming together to support one another.

“It’s just devastating. As a parent, it’s unimaginable,” Owen said.

“We are a small community, and we’re a very proud community. We’ll rally. We’ll get through this. Hopefully, there’s lots of support for everyone involved.”

Carman Mayor Brent Owen is pictured during a Feb. 12, 2024 interview with CTV News Winnipeg.

In a statement to CTV News Winnipeg Monday afternoon, Terry Osiowy, the superintendent of the Prairie Rose School Division, which represents two schools in Carman, said they are offering their deepest sympathies to all who are impacted by this.

"To ensure that our school division provides support for our students and staff, Crisis Response Teams were put in place for Carman Collegiate and Ecole Carman Elementary School," he said.

"Our division is committed to supporting our students, staff, and community through the many challenging times that this tragedy will bring us."

- With files from CTV's Katherine Dow, Kayla Rosen and Joseph Bernacki

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