Manitoba

Homeless man accused of being serial killer in 3 Winnipeg deaths

John Paul Ostamas, a 39-year-old man of no fixed address, has been charged with murder in connection with the deaths of three men in Winnipeg, including two men who were found dead in the downtown area over the weekend.

John Paul Ostamas, 39, faces 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of 2nd-degree murder

Details are emerging about John Paul Ostamas, the 39-year-old homeless man accused of killing three men in Winnipeg. 2:12

John Paul Ostamas, a 39-year-old man of no fixed address, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of two men over the weekend in Winnipeg.

The charges relate to the deaths of Donald Collins, 65, and Stoney Stanley Bushie, 48, whose bodies were found in back alleys in the city's downtown on Saturday.

Police have also charged Ostamas with second-degree murder in the death of 37-year-old Miles Monias, who was found wounded in a bus shelter in the city April 10. He later died in hospital.

As well, Ostamas has been charged with arson for another incident on Saturday. Police allege he set fire to a washroom in the Winnipeg Hotel at 214 Main St., causing damage.

Suspect is homeless, has violent past

Winnipeg police say Ostamas has a violent past in the Thunder Bay, Ont., area, with a criminal record that goes back to 2002.

Winnipeg police charged John Paul Ostamas in the deaths of three men in Winnipeg in April. (Facebook)
Supt. Danny Smyth said Winnipeg police have had little contact with Ostamas, but have learned that his record includes a domestic assault in March.

He added that, to investigators' knowledge, Ostamas is not connected to any other homicides, but that police will be in touch with their counterparts in other jurisdictions. 

Smyth said Ostamas has been in Winnipeg off and on for the past 10 years. 

He said police believe Ostamas attacked and killed the two men on the same night this past weekend.

The death of Monias was described as a "chance encounter," and investigators accuse Ostamas of being the assailant.

Smyth thanked several business owners who showed up over the weekend to provide surveillance video to police.

He said that enabled police to get out the images of the suspect, which led to the quick arrest.

Winnipeg police released these images on Sunday of a man they called a person of interest in the deaths of two men on the weekend. (Winnipeg Police Service)
Charlie Okeese, a band councillor from Eabametoong First Nation, or Fort Hope First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, confirmed that Ostamas is a band member.

Greg Brodsky, the accused's lawyer, said Ostamas has no fixed address and that Ostamas has spent a lot of time on the street. 

"He needs some legal help," Brodsky said. "He's in a lot of trouble."​

Ostamas was located after images of a man that taken by a surveillance camera were released by police on Sunday, in the hope that the public could help identify him.

They also said they were looking for two other people, a man and a woman, who were in that same area between 9:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Friday.

Until Tuesday morning, police had refrained from calling anyone a suspect, referring to them only as persons of interest.

Bushie was 'a harmless guy,' says niece

Meanwhile, Bushie's family members and friends say he was a happy guy who wouldn't hurt anyone.

His body was found Saturday evening in an alley behind the Portage Avenue headquarters of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), which had security cameras that recorded the attack.

Bushie was from Little Grand Rapids, a remote First Nation community about 270 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

One of his nieces, Amanda Martin, told CBC News the family had not heard from Bushie since mid-March, when he travelled to Winnipeg for a medical appointment.

Stony Bushie appears in a family photo taken by his niece, Samantha Bushie, in Little Grand Rapids, Man., last year. (Samantha Bushie/Facebook)
"We were really shocked. Like, he was a harmless guy, and he had a family out here that loved him and cared for him," Martin said.

"I was like, 'Oh my goodness … how could this happen?' Oh, man. He was nice. He would do anything for anybody."

The body of Collins was found at about 12:45 a.m. Saturday in an alley behind 329 Hargrave St.

One of the victims was homeless, while the other was known to have spent time on the streets, according to police, who issued a warning for the city's homeless people to be cautious.

Martin said she believes Bushie had been staying at a First Nations boarding home in Winnipeg. She said officers found no identification on her uncle, so they had to use his fingerprints to identify him.

The two men were remembered as friendly and polite visitors to the city's soup kitchen lines. Homeless workers with the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ said Collins and Bushie were "pleasant and engaging."

"They had their days, but I remember both of them always being happy with what they had," said Meaghan Wylie, a worker with the BIZ group.

"They wanted a better life and they had probably gone through a lot of traumatic experiences in their past. But they were dealing with it. That was their life. That's what they were content with."

'He was a good man,' says chief

Martin Owens, chief of the Little Grand Rapids First Nation, said he last saw Bushie — a childhood friend — at a First Nations bank in downtown Winnipeg on Thursday afternoon.

"He was joking around like he always does. Like, I grew up with him," Owens said.

Henry Owens, one of Stoney Bushie's friends, says they attended school and went camping together when they were growing up in Little Grand Rapids, Man. (Lindsay Tsuji/CBC)
"He was happy to see me and I was happy to see him, and I told him, 'Whenever you want to go home, just give me a call.'"

Owens said Bushie had struggled with addiction before, but he appeared to be clean when they last spoke.

"I don't think Stoney would ever start a fight with anybody," he said.

"He wasn't like that. He was a good man."

Henry Owens, another longtime friend of Bushie's from Little Grand Rapids, also said he saw him on the street days before the homicide.

"He was a friendly guy, got along with a lot of people, laugh around with people," he said.

"That's what I liked about him so much. I'm going to miss him."

With files from The Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.