By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Pat Murphy was driving to work on a Monday morning earlier this month when he got a devastating phone call.
The mother of his daughter, Shantelle Murphy, called to tell him the 32-year-old woman and her two young children had been found dead in a house fire in Portage la Prairie, Man.
Murphy recalled the conversation with The Canadian Press in a phone call from Cranbrook, B.C., where he lives.
When he thinks back to that moment, he said, the shock still clouds his memory.
“It’s so fuzzy for me. Just hearing it, I didn’t know what to do or say.”
RCMP in Manitoba say officers responded to the fire in the small city, about 85 kilometres west of Winnipeg, early on April 10. Once firefighters put out the flames, three people were found dead inside the home.
Police say an investigation determined the three had injuries that were not connected to the fire. Mounties confirmed their deaths to be the result of a homicide. RCMP have not released the cause of death.
Family identified the three as Murphy, her six-year-old daughter, Isabella, and her three-year-old son, Mason.
Police have charged Trevis McLeod, 50, with three counts of second-degree murder and one count of arson. He was arrested and taken into custody Friday after Winnipeg police officers found him in the city’s downtown.
McLeod was the woman’s partner and the children’s father.
Murphy said his daughter and McLeod started dating about six or seven years ago after they met in Calgary.
He met McLeod less than a handful of times, but had concerns about abuse, he said.
“I though there might be, but nothing could be proved,” he said. “There was never really any sign of it, but it was (a) father’s instinct.
“I tried for years to get her away from him.”
The charges against McLeod have not been proven in court.
Shantelle Murphy grew up in Calgary and Airdrie, Alta., before she moved around with McLeod.
Murphy said his daughter’s life was filled with many happy memories.
“(She was) just a beautiful little girl when she was younger. Always bubbly (and) happy. Just full of life.”
He said she passed that on to Isabella and Mason. He recalled the two as being “always curious” about the world around them.
Murphy last spoke with his daughter about seven months ago while she was living with McLeod and the kids in Ontario.
He said the two had a great conversation and she appeared to be in good spirits.
“It was wonderful. We chatted for an hour and laughed.”
McLeod is also facing assault charges in Portage la Prairierelated to a separate matter the same day as the fire. He has been ordered to refrain from contacting five people.
Court records from 2004 show McLeod has a history of domestic violence in a previous relationship. A woman filed for a protection order for herself and the son she had with McLeod after he threatened her with violence during an argument, the documents say.
McLeod also has convictions in Alberta for assault, mischief, not following court orders and driving while impaired.
An online fundraiser has been started to help pay to bring the family’s bodies back to Alberta.
Murphy said there will be a celebration of life for his daughter and grandkids at a later date.
“We’re dealing with something that never should have happened. It should never have gotten to this point.”
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.