Man charged in 2015 MMIWG-related killing of Krystal Andrews

Manitoba RCMP have arrested a 37-year-old man in connection with the killing of Krystal Andrews, a young mother found dead in God's Lake First Nation in 2015.

Michael William Okemow, 37, of Gods Lake Narrows, charged with 2nd degree murder

Krystal Andrews, 22, was found dead in God's Lake First Nation in 2015.

Manitoba RCMP have arrested a 37-year-old man in connection with the killing of Krystal Andrews, a young mother found dead in a remote Cree community in 2015.

Michael William Okemow, from Gods Lake Narrows, Man., has been charged with second-degree murder. He was arrested Tuesday in Winnipeg.

"Krystal's life was taken tragically and far too soon," said Manitoba RCMP Assistant Commissioner Scott Kolody at a news conference Thursday.

He was the last person who was with Krystal.— God's Lake Chief Gilbert Andrews

"To the family of Krystal, we are so sorry for your loss and we sincerely hope that this arrest will help you on your road to healing."

Andrews, 22, was last heard from Nov. 8, 2015 when she called her fiancé to say she was on her way home from a friend's house following a Halloween social.

Her body was found the next day along a trail in a wooded area in God's Lake First Nation, a Cree community 545 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Manitoba RCMP say she died from a "serious assault," and that they found DNA evidence that eventually linked Okemow to her death.

God's Lake Chief Gilbert Andrews said many in the small, tight-knit community of around 1,500 people suspected Okemow from the beginning.

"He was the last person who was with Krystal," he said. 

Many remain frustrated and angry it took more than two years to lay charges, the chief said.

"Personally, to me, I think it could have gone a lot quicker… but the RCMP had to go through their process."

Terry White hugs his daughter Khloe at a Winnipeg vigil for his fiancée in November 2015. He and Andrews were to be married in 2016. (CBC)

Police were taking statements on Andrews' death up until last month, said Chief Superintendent Mark Fisher, the officer in charge of criminal operations for Manitoba RCMP. More than 200 interviews were conducted.

"More hours than we can count were spent on this investigation all with the hope of reaching the result that we have here today — an arrest," Fisher said. 

Okemow has a history in the criminal justice system dating back to 2004, provincial records show. His past convictions include aggravated assault, forcible confinement and probation violations. 

2nd killing in 5 years

The killing is the second in five years in the Gods Lake Narrows, which includes both a reserve (God's Lake First Nation) and a non-reserve community (called Gods Lake Narrows).

Leah Anderson was last seen leaving to go skating in Gods Lake Narrows on Jan. 4, 2013. The 15-year-old girl's body was found two days later on a snowmobile trail. She had been beaten and disfigured so violently that people initially believed she had been mauled by dogs.

The investigation into Leah's death is ongoing, said RCMP Thursday. Last July a man was arrested in connection with her death but he was later released without charge.

Okemow is neither a suspect nor a person of interest in Leah's death, RCMP said. 

Both Anderson and Andrews were profiled in CBC's Missing and Murdered, a database that chronicles the lives and last days of Indigenous girls and women who have either disappeared or been found dead under suspicious circumstances. 

Leah Anderson, 15, was last seen leaving to go skating in Gods Lake Narrows on Jan. 4, 2013. Her body was found two days later on a snowmobile trail. (Supplied by family)

Devastating loss

Andrews's loss was devastating to her family, CBC heard after her death.

She was set to marry her high school sweetheart, Terry White, in 2016. The couple had been together for nine years, had two children and fostered three others.

Her family attended the police news conference Thursday in Winnipeg but declined to speak with reporters.

In 2015, Beverley Andrews, her mother, said Krystal was kind and loving to everyone.

"She had a lot of friends, she had a lot of family," she said.

Andrews went by "Krystal" with friends, family and online, but her given name was spelled Crystal.

Okemow remains in custody. 

Corrections

  • This story, and previous CBC News stories, reported Krystal Andrews' age at the time of her death as 23. In fact, she was 22.
    Mar 22, 2018 8:03 PM CT

With files from Jillian Coubrough