Homeless man accused of being serial killer in 3 Winnipeg deaths
John Paul Ostamas, 39, faces 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of 2nd-degree murder
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Update - Investigators confirm they have a suspect in custody in relation to this wknd's homicides. Additional details provided @ 1 pm.—@wpgpolice
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.
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- Homicide victims ID'd as Donald Collins, Stoney Stanley Bushie
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.
"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.
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