Man convicted in Mountie slayings knew Roszko wanted to kill officers

One of the men convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005 told an undercover police officer he knew James Roszko planned to kill the Mounties.

One of the men convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005 told an undercover police officer he knew James Roszko planned to kill the Mounties.

Dennis Cheeseman made the confession while he was being secretly taped by an undercover officer. Cheeseman and his brother-in-law, Shawn Hennessey, both pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Jan. 19 and are to be sentenced on Friday.

The tape of Cheeseman's confession was released by Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench on Wednesday and obtained by CBC News.

In it, Cheeseman says he and Hennessey were aware on that day in March 2005 that Roszko planned to go back to his farm, where RCMP officers were investigating a Quonset hut that housed a marijuana grow-op and auto parts "chop shop."

"Well, obviously, we knew, we knew that he was going back to kill RCMP officers," Cheeseman is heard telling the officer. 

"He said he was pretty much going to take care of business.  Like, he was, that he was gonna pretty much try and burn down the Quonset hut, burn down his trailer, and then just leave. And then Shawn pretty much tried telling him, why don't you just leave?"

Roszko didn't leave. Hours later, he shot and killed RCMP constables Brock Myrol, Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon and Leo Johnston, and then killed himself.

Differs from details in agreed statement of facts

In the agreed statement of facts, the men admitted to supplying Roszko with a rifle belonging to Hennessey's father, and driving Roszko to his farm in the early hours of March 3, 2005, but said only that they knew that an armed confrontation with police was "a real possibility." They said Roszko had ranted and raved about police, and said he was going to burn down the Quonset hut.

Cheeseman's admission was the result of an elaborate 16-month undercover operation by RCMP.  It ended in July 2007 when Hennessey and Cheeseman were charged with first-degree murder.

Project Kourage used tactics known as a "Mr. Big" sting, where police pretend to be criminals in order to coax a confession from someone they believe might be guilty.

The details were revealed in a preliminary hearing in 2008, but can only be made public now. There is a publication ban on the identity of any of the RCMP officers who were involved in the undercover operation.

Hennessey targeted first in probe

When the investigation started in March 2006, officers targeted Hennessey, but it didn't work because Hennessey was too suspicious.

In October 2006, they turned their attention to Cheeseman, staging more than 40 different scenarios, which used more than four dozen undercover officers, to make him believe he was a part of a criminal organization with members he could trust.

It started when a female undercover officer pretended to be interested in Cheeseman.  

The RCMP even staged a fake Christmas party they went to as a couple.  It ended with Cheeseman going to a strip club with two of the male officers.

The RCMP paid $100 to tip the doorman to get in. Money was spent to pay for private lap dancers for Cheeseman and an undercover officer, and loonies were tossed towards strippers on the stage.

The bogus criminal organization ran a number of fake scams, such as stealing cigarettes and extortion.

Everything led up to the day when Cheeseman met Mr. Big, the supposed head of the fake criminal organization.

Meeting in British Columbia

Cheeseman met him in Kelowna, B.C., where he grilled Cheeseman about giving Roszko a ride and a gun.

On the trip back to Alberta, Mr. Big's supposed right hand man convinced Cheeseman to confess under the guise that the criminal organization needed to know about any potential problems they would need to clean up if he was to work for them.

The confession, which was made in a vehicle pulled over at a rest stop, was secretly taped.

RCMP were able to get the information they needed from Hennessey by using undercover officers to convince him that a satellite had captured his car dropping off Roszko that night, and that Mr. Big had a contact in California who could make the evidence go away.

With files from Janice Johnston and Ronna Syed