Home » The Canadian Press » Manitoba RCMP Make Arrest in Killing of Woman Nearly 17 Years Ago

Manitoba RCMP Make Arrest in Killing of Woman Nearly 17 Years Ago

January 29, 2024 2:47 PM | The Canadian Press


By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

Julie Courchaine

Cpl. Julie Courchaine, RCMP media relations officer, speaks to the media during a press conference announcing the arrest of Kevin Charles Queau in the 2007 murder of Crystal Saunders at Manitoba RCMP Headquarters in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski)

WINNIPEG — Police said Monday advances in DNA technology and an extensive investigation helped in the arrest of a Vancouver man in the killing of a Manitoba woman nearly 17 years ago.

Kevin Queau, a 42-year-old from Vancouver, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Crystal Shannon Saunders, whose body was found in 2007.

“While investigators worked tirelessly and brought the investigation to a successful conclusion, at the end of the day this does not bring back Crystal,” Supt. Rob Lasson with RCMP major crime services said Monday.

“Crystal was a mother. She was a daughter and a friend to many that needlessly lost her life to violent crime.”

Saunders was 24 when she was last seen in Winnipeg on April 18, 2007. An off-duty RCMP officer found her the next morning near St. Ambroise, some 80 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, when he was checking his traplines in the area.

Lasson described Saunders as someone who was well-liked and friendly. He also said she struggled and was exploited.

Kevin Queau

Kevin Queau (RCMP HANDOUT)

“Unfortunately, Crystal was a vulnerable person and someone took advantage of that,” said Lasson.

An unknown man’s DNA was found on Saunders’ remains. But it was considered “insufficient” at the time to be placed in the national DNA databank, so the crime was unsolved for years.

Lasson said police caught a break in 2014, when advancements in technology found a link to the DNA sample.

Queau had been convicted of previous offences outside of Manitoba.

“We have to continually reassess and resubmit our DNA profiles until it meets a threshold that’s substantive enough for the lab to be confirmed to say it’s a match … and sometimes that can take years,” said Lasson.

He added the investigation came together in the past 14 months after discussions with Manitoba prosecutors.

Investigators had to rely on some “very complex investigative techniques” to gather evidence beyond the DNA sample, said Lasson. He did not elaborate on the techniques.

“That gave us the evidence to put us over the edge, to secure a charge,” he said.

Queau is originally from Winnipeg and went to school in the Manitoba capital but has also spent time in Ontario and across Western Canada, RCMP said. He was arrested without incident in the Vancouver area on the weekend.

Police said there is no evidence to suggest he is a suspect in any other homicide, but they are continuing to examine any possible connections between Queau and other unsolved crimes.

Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine offered her strength to the Saunders family, who did not attend the RCMP news conference announcing the arrest.

“It will have a ripple effect in the community as well in that this retraumatizes and retriggers missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit families, not only here in Manitoba, but certainly across the country,” Fontaine said.

Anita Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Manitoba Métis Federation affiliate group Infinity Women Secretariat, said the organization is preparing to offer support to the woman’s family. Previous reports suggested Saunders was from Sagkeeng Anicinabe Nation, but police clarified Monday that her family identifies as Métis.

“We struggle with still identifying who some of these (missing and murdered) people are, because they’re identified as Indigenous and not nation-focused,” said Campbell.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that there are ongoing supports after, because it doesn’t stop right now.”

Lasson said Saunders’ mother was overwhelmed with sadness and appreciation after investigators told of the arrest.

“We sincerely hope that the arrest of Kevin Queau and the second-degree murder charge he now faces, offers some solace to those who knew and loved her,” he said.

“She has not been forgotten, nor will she ever be.”

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