Cooper Nemeth's friends mourn death of Winnipeg teen

The death of Winnipeg teenager Cooper James Nemeth, whose body was found a week after he went missing, has devastated those who knew him, including friends, classmates and fellow hockey players.

'Everything from now on is never going to be the same,' says close friend of slain boy

Winnipeg police have arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the death of 17-year-old Cooper Nemeth, whose body was found a week after he was last seen alive. 2:46

Friends of Cooper James Nemeth say they are devastated by the Winnipeg teen's death.

The 17-year-old's body was found on Saturday night behind a house on Bayne Crescent in East Kildonan, police announced on Sunday.

"He's never going to be forgotten," Kelsey Schneider, one of Nemeth's best friends, told CBC News on Sunday afternoon.

Friends of Cooper James Nemeth say they are devastated by the Winnipeg teen's death. 1:07

"Everything from now on is never going to be the same — graduation, every event we're ever going to have is not going to be the same because Cooper's not there anymore. Everything."

Nemeth, 17, had been last seen in the early morning hours of Feb. 14. (Supplied)
Trevor Dudeck, another best friend, described Nemeth as a "happy" guy.

"Great, funny guy, always dancing and having a great time, and always happy," Dudeck said.

Nicholas Bell-Wright, 22, faces a second-degree murder charge in connection with Nemeth's death.

Police said Bell-Wright was connected to a public housing building on Treger Bay that officers had investigated on Friday.

The owner of the Bayne Crescent home, where Nemeth's body was discovered, was not involved in the homicide but called to report suspicious activity, according to police.

Winnipeg police announce an arrest in the death of Cooper Nemeth, 17, who had been missing for a week before his body was found. 2:03

'A senseless loss,' says school principal

Also known by the nickname "Cip," Nemeth was a Grade 12 student at River East Collegiate and a centre with the River East Marauders AA hockey team.

River East Collegiate principal Diana Posthumus sent a letter to students' parents on Sunday, explaining the latest developments.

"Cooper's death is a senseless loss that is devastating to us all," Posthumus wrote. "He was a young man with many friends who touched the lives of many."

She added, "He will be dearly missed by his Kodiak family here at River East Collegiate. He had a passion for sport and his loss will also be felt by many in the hockey community, particularly those he had such close bonds with on the Marauders hockey team. He was looking forward to graduation in June and beginning a new chapter in his life."

Kelly Barkman, superintendent with the River East Transcona School Division, said grief counsellors will be at the school in the coming days to provide support to students, staff and parents.

Players with the River East Marauders AA hockey team wore labels bearing Nemeth's nickname, "Cip," on their helmets during a game Tuesday night. (CBC)
Marauders head coach Barry Rochelle declined to comment on Sunday. Last week, he described Nemeth as a talented hockey player who never missed a game and was "the life of the dressing room."

"When he's in there it's a different team. We miss him, that's for sure," Rochelle said, his voice breaking, during a game on Feb. 16.

Nemeth's aunt, Laresa Sayles, tweeted at around 2 a.m. Sunday that the search for her nephew had been called off and the family would release a statement in the coming days.

Friends searched for days

Friends, teammates and even complete strangers joined family in the search for Nemeth, who was last seen leaving a party with another man in the Valley Gardens area in the early morning hours of Feb. 14. According to police, witnesses said the pair was seen getting into a vehicle and driving away.

Both Schneider and Dudeck said they and a group of other friends started looking for Nemeth hours after he was last seen, and they continued searching around the clock over the past week.

"Everybody took their lives off for this. Nobody went to work, nobody went to school. Nobody really cared either; they just went and did it," Schneider said.

The friends said they were searching on the northern outskirts of the city on Saturday night when they heard police had blocked off an area of Bayne Crescent, then learned that Nemeth's body was found.

Police were at a home on Bayne Crescent near Tu-Pelo Avenue on Sunday morning, melting snow to look for evidence. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"It hit us all super really hard. It was insane," said Schneider.

Schneider said everyone then gathered at the Gateway Recreation Centre, where family search efforts were being co-ordinated, and "we just stayed there until four [o'clock]."

"It was a crazy night," Dudeck said.

A smudge ceremony and traditional drum circle for Nemeth is taking place Monday at 6 p.m. at the Gateway Recreation Centre.

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