'I don't know who would want to hurt him': Winnipeg homicide victim ID'd by family as John Gabriel

The victim of Winnipeg's latest homicide has been identified by family as John Gabriel, 38, from Lake Manitoba First Nation.

Police say man found seriously injured Saturday morning in North End

John Gabriel, 38, died Saturday morning after an apparent attack. (Submitted by Joni Gabriel)

The victim of Winnipeg's latest homicide has been identified by family as John Gabriel, 38, from Lake Manitoba First Nation.

"He didn't deserve to die like this," said his partner of seven years, Vanessa Kennedy, on Sunday. 

Gabriel, who lived in Winnipeg most of his life, leaves behind his wife, five siblings, and several children, nieces and nephews.

Police say a man was assaulted in the early morning hours of March 16 in the area of Salter Street near Selkirk Avenue. A woman told CBC News she found the man bleeding in front of a 7-Eleven, and tried to save his life. He died of his injuries.

The family said they're grateful someone found him while he was still alive.

"At least he didn't die alone," Kennedy said.

Gabriel's family said they aren't sure what happened to him, but the area he was walking in was the route to his downtown apartment.

"John had a lot of friends, I don't know who would want to hurt him," Kennedy said.

John Gabriel's family says they're still trying to understand what a life without him will be like. They say Gabriel was the victim of a homicide early Saturday morning in Winnipeg's North End. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

His sister Joni Gabriel said they're certain someone saw what happened to him, but hasn't spoken up.

"I hope he gets justice, to find out who did this to him. If people have information, please come forward," Joni said.

Kennedy said Gabriel left their home Saturday morning 1:20 a.m.

The couple had gotten into an argument, and Gabriel said he was going to spend the evening at the apartment he rented downtown.

He left with his backpack, saying he would be back in the morning.

But instead, the next morning Kennedy was greeted by a police detective at the door.

Vanessa Kennedy says her husband John Gabriel was loved by his many family members, especially his children, nieces and nephews. She doesn't know what might have happened to him. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Loved dancing, music, and helping others

The family said Gabriel had a tough childhood, but had turned his life around in recent years, and was focused on bringing up the children in his family, including step-children, nieces, and nephews.

"He was very upbeat," Kennedy said. "He loved helping people."

"He was caring, he was loving, he had a great sense of humour and a great smile. He liked paying chess with my son, was always helping around the house," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he loved music, wearing goofy hats, and biking through Winnipeg.

"He was always trying to fix something around here," Kennedy said. Gabriel designed an entire collage in their living room with photos of family.

John Gabriel's family say he was the victim of Saturday morning's homicide in Winnipeg. He leaves behind his wife Vanessa Kennedy. (Submitted by Joni Gabriel)

The family said they're still struggling with how to tell some of the younger children in the family, who he was very close with.

"Every time he saw me, he would always say he loved me," Joni said. "He always made sure he told you he loved you." 

Police have not released any further details about the homicide, but are asking the public to come forward with any information they might have.

Saturday's death was Winnipeg's fourth homicide in two weeks, and ninth homicide so far this year.

John Gabriel (left) with his brother Michael Paul Jr. and nephew Seazer Boulanger. (Submitted by Joni Gabriel)

Watch Vanessa Kennedy remember her partner of 7 years

"He was a great step-father to my kids": John Gabriel remembered

4 years ago
Duration 0:34
Vanessa Kennedy remembers her partner of 7 years, John Gabriel, who was killed on Selkirk Ave. in Winnipeg.


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.