Red Deer man charged in murders of two Onion Lake women

A Red Deer, Alta., man is facing two counts of first-degree murder in the historical homicides of two indigenous women.

Gordon Alfred Rogers faces two charges of first-degree murder

RCMP Staff Sgt. Dale Rockel and Supt. Gary Steinke announce Friday they have arrrested a 59-year-old Red Deer man in the deaths of two indigenous women.

A Red Deer, Alta., man is facing two counts of first-degree murder in the historical homicides of two indigenous women from Onion Lake Cree Nation on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.

Gordon Alfred Rogers, 59, will make his first court appearance in provincial court in Lloydminster on April 5.

The body of Jeannette Chief was discovered June 6, 2007 in a river near Lloydminster by an individual who had ventured down to the water, RCMP said.
Violet Heathen, left, and Jeanette Chief are both from Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. (Supplied)

Chief, 48, was last seen in Lloydminster four days earlier.

Violet Heathen, 49, was last seen alive in Lloydminster on May 15, 2009.  Her remains were found in a rural area near Kitscoty, Alta. by a hunter about five months later.

Both Heathen and Chief were on the missing and murdered indigenous women list..

Police say Rogers had known Heathen for a few years, but was unknown to Chief.

"It's been a long road to reach this point and for the families of these two women it's been an extremely rough road," said Supt. Gary Steinke. "Our hearts go out to the family of Jeannette Chief and Violet Heathen."

Members of both families attended the news conference Friday.

Tom Chief, Jeannette Chief's nephew, reads a statement on behalf of the Chief family following an arrest in her death. (CBC)

"Today is a sad, but joyous moment," said Chief's nephew Tom Chief. "It is a time where those emotions can be released little by little, piece by piece. It took nine years but the families finally got justice."

"My auntie can finally be at peace."

Chief thanked the RCMP for continuing with the investigation over the years.

Staff Sgt. Dale Rockel said investigators refused to give up.

"An investigation remains open until it is solved. Simply put, we don't give up," he said.

"All I can say is that it was a collaborative effort, there was extensive sharing between Saskatchewan and Alberta RCMP's and that is what led us to being here today."

Statements from the Chief and Heathen families  

Tom Chief Statement: 

Today is a sad but joyous moment after receiving the news that a (man) has been charged and is in custody with the murder of the late Jeannette Wolfe Chief. Jeannette was a beloved mother, caring auntie, loving sister, and protective grandmother who loved and cherished those around her. 

Her son Justin Wolfe recalls his experience at losing his mother and states, my mother's death is still very much hard on all of us. The past nine years without her were the most difficult,  life-changing, hell-like experiences. Years of wondering, pain, hurt, and addiction have torn the family to pieces, and overwhelming feelings of happiness, anger, hurt, and loneliness are unbearable to overcome, but those feelings can finally be released,  little by little, piece by piece. It took nine years, but the families finally got justice. My auntie can finally be at peace. My mom was the heart of my family. She was a mother, grandmother, sister, auntie, and friend to all of those who loved her. (Whoever killed her) took a piece of us that will never be replaced. 

The late Jeannette Wolfe Chief's daughter Jocelyn would like, on behalf of the family, to express her gratitude to the RCMP investigators for continuing on the way they did on her mother's investigation. The family also wishes that the media respect the family from refraining from contacting any immediate members. 

Thank you.

Statement on behalf of the Heathen family:

We the family, at this time, would like to ask all media to please allow us some privacy, this has been an overwhelming event for the family. We would like to share a few things about Violet. 

Violet was the daughter of Sarah and Daniel Heathen, grew up in Onion Lake Sask., and was the middle child of eleven children. She loved horses growing up and also as an adult. She was the mother of seven sons and one daughter. She herself lost three children over the years. She was a grandmother to six children. 

Violet was the type of person that could liven any room with her happy, carefree spirit. Violet was very, very close to her nephews and nieces. 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, or much money. If she had anything to give she would give it to whoever needed it. 

She loved to have a good time and get up and dance, especially with her two favourite artists: Ernest Monias and Johnny Reid. Violet will always be remembered by her beautiful smile and happy energy. We know she is at rest peacefully with her dad, brothers, and sons. 

Thank you.

These statements have been edited for length and legal reasons.