Nicholas Bell-Wright, 22, arrested in Cooper Nemeth death
'Everything from now on is never going to be the same,' says grieving friend of 17-year-old
Winnipeg police have charged a 22-year-old man with second-degree murder following the death of 17-year-old Cooper Nemeth.
Police arrested Nicholas Bell-Wright in the early morning hours on Sunday in The Maples, a neighbourhood in Winnipeg.
Nemeth's body was found Saturday night behind a house on Bayne Crescent in East Kildonan, police told reporters on Sunday.
Bell-Wright does not have an extensive criminal record but was involved in an assault around two years ago, Smyth said.
"It's fair to say this was drug-related," Smyth said.
Nemeth was missing for one week before police converged upon the Bayne Crescent home on Saturday night. Officers remained there on Sunday morning, melting snow to look for evidence.
The owner of the home was not involved in the homicide but called police to report suspicious activity.
Smyth said police do not believe Nemeth was killed at the Bayne Crescent home.
Bell-Wright is connected to a public housing building on Treger Bay that police investigated on Friday, Smyth said.
'It's hard to believe,' says homeowner
The homeowner who found Nemeth's body, Roshan Pothumulla, said he and his wife were watching television when they heard a noise outside at around 8 p.m. Saturday.
"I looked and I saw the dumpster and two legs sticking out from the … bin," he told CBC News.
"I thought it was somebody making a joke with me, put a dummy inside, like, fooling around."
Pothumulla said he phoned police immediately. Officers arrived at the scene and told him what he saw was not a dummy.
"I'm sorry about the family and what happened to him," Pothumulla said. "It's hard to believe."
Nemeth's aunt, Laresa Sayles, tweeted around 2 a.m. Sunday that the search for the teen had been called off and the family would release a statement in the coming days.
She followed that tweet with another that had a photo of Nemeth and the hashtag #ripcip — "Cip" being Nemeth's nickname.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ripcip?src=hash">#ripcip</a> <a href="https://t.co/1fKIaRR70z">pic.twitter.com/1fKIaRR70z</a>—@laresasayles
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Nemeth was a Grade 12 student at River East Collegiate and a centre with the River East Marauders AA hockey team. His teammates and coach said they last saw Nemeth at a game on Feb. 13, hours before he went missing.
In a letter to parents sent Sunday, River East Collegiate principal Diana Posthumus called Nemeth's death "a senseless loss that is devastating to us all."
Kelly Barkman, superintendent with the River East Transcona School Division, said grief counsellors will be at the school starting Monday to provide support to students, staff and parents.
"He's never going to be forgotten," Kelsey Schneider, one of Nemeth's best friends, told CBC News on Sunday afternoon.
"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."
Missing for one week
Nemeth was last seen in the early morning hours of Feb. 14.
According to Sayles, he had a hockey game the evening before and went to a friend's home on Amelia Crescent following the game with a man Sayles said was 22 years old and known to police.
Nemeth and the man then went to a party at a home on Amelia Crescent, where police say he was last seen before his body was found at the Bayne Crescent home one street over.
Hundreds of people had searched for Nemeth over the past week, including family members, friends and even volunteers who did not know him.
Flyers with the teen's photograph were posted around Winnipeg, and the city's Gateway Recreation Centre became the meeting place for those who wanted to look for him.
'Please come home,' father pleaded
Family members, including Sayles, were emotional as the search got underway last week, saying the teen had a "tough year," having been diagnosed with ADHD, depression and anxiety.
"I just want you to come home so [your parents] can hug you and tell you they love you," Sayles said at the time.
Later in the week, Nemeth's parents, Brent and Gaylene Nemeth, made an emotional plea for any information that could lead to his whereabouts.
"Cooper, if you can see this, your friends need you, your team needs you, we need you," his father said, crying.
"We love you, Cooper. Please come home. We can figure everything out. It doesn't matter; we'll take care of it."
'Derek and Brittany'
On Wednesday, Winnipeg police asked the public for information that could lead investigators to two people who may have been with Nemeth shortly before he vanished.
Police gave few details about the pair other than their first names — Derek and Brittany — and a description of the car they were believed to be driving, a white four-door Honda Civic. No licence plate number was given.
"I can tell you that investigators are still working diligently through that, but at this point in time investigators believe that Mr. Bell-Wright acted alone," Smyth said on Sunday.
Homicide unit called in
On Friday, the Winnipeg Police Service's homicide unit was brought in to help with the investigation.
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At the time, Nemeth's family asked the public to avoid "rumours and speculation," saying the unit was brought in because it had resources to help with the search, which was still considered by police to be a missing-person case.
On Friday afternoon, the investigation led officers to a home on Treger Bay — the same home that police linked to Bell-Wright on Sunday — where officers gathered evidence in plastic bags and towed a car from the back lane.