New Brunswick

Police connect Candace Stevens's alleged killer to Miramichi Walmart gunshots

Miramichi police say the man suspected of killing Candace Stevens was the same man who opened fire at a Walmart a year ago, then died at the end of a lengthy police chase. 

Suspect died a year ago after being chased by police from Miramichi to Richibucto

The late James Knight of Miramichi, also known as James Curtis, has been identified as a suspect in the death of Candace Stevens. (Leslie Knight/Facebook)

Miramichi police say the man suspected of killing Candace Stevens was the same man who opened fire at a Walmart a year ago, then died at the end of a lengthy police chase. 

James Edward Knight died of injuries suffered in his car, stopped near Richibucto, after being chased 70 kilometres along Route 11.

At the time, RCMP said they heard a shot fired inside the vehicle before they found the injured man, but they refused to confirm he died of a gunshot wound.

A woman, Wendy Gail Losier, was also in the vehicle and was arrested.

Miramichi police say Knight fired shots inside a Walmart on Oct. 31, 2018, before he was chased by police down Route 11. He was found fatally injured after the chase ended. (James Edward Knight/Facebook)

On Monday, Losier, 42, was charged in Fredericton in connection with the death of Stevens, whose remains were discovered near Miramichi four days before the shots were fired inside the Walmart.

Losier, of Moncton, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder and interference with human remains. 

Court documents in the case said Fredericton police have identified the man they suspect murdered the 31-year-old Indigenous woman, although they used the name James Curtis, not Knight. 

Police also said Curtis is dead. They provided no other information about him, including his age, background, how and when he died, or his relationship to Stevens, who lived in Fredericton. 

But the day after Losier's court appearance, after questions from CBC News, police confirmed Curtis was also known by the name James Edward Knight and was 26.

"As far as we know those two individuals are one [and] the same," said Alycia Bartlett, spokesperson for the Fredericton Police Force.  

Losier is also charged with comforting or assisting James Curtis on or about Oct. 26, 2018, for the purpose of enabling him to escape. The charge sheet alleges she knew he killed Stevens.

Fired shots, then fled

Bartlett said the man was referred to as James Curtis in the court documents because "this was the given name we had." When asked why he appears to have two names, Bartlett said "unsure." 

No one was injured when the shots were fired in the Miramichi Walmart on Halloween night in 2018. The Crown alleges that after the shots, Losier and a man fled the scene in a 2003 Saturn Ion.  

Deputy Chief Brian Cummings of the Miramichi police said this week that James Knight was the man who fired the shots in the store, and the Miramichi man was behind the wheel of the Saturn.

The lengthy chase ended when RCMP deployed spikes.

Wendy Gail Losier, 42, of Moncton is facing two charges in connection with the death of Candace Stevens, 31, of Fredericton, in October 2018. (Wendy Losier/Facebook)

After her arrest at the scene, Losier faced seven charges, including theft and possession of a weapon. She is scheduled to be tried on those charges Dec. 19 and 20 in Miramichi. 

According to court documents, the conditions of Losier's bail say she cannot contact Leslie Knight or Reginald Knight. On Facebook in July, a person using the name Leslie Knight posted a suicide awareness ribbon photo saying, "In loving memory of James Knight. Feb. 14, 1992-Oct. 31, 2018."

CBC News hasn't been able to reach Leslie or Reginald Knight or other members of James Knight's family.

An RCMP spokesperson won't confirm any details about the man who suffered the fatal injury after the police chase a year ago.

Nor would Bartlett, speaking for Fredericton police, comment on that case since it happened outside the force's jurisdiction.

Community has questions

Malcolm Ward, a member of a First Nation just a few kilometres from where Stevens's body was found, said a lot of questions remain about her death, although Losier's arrest appeared to be progress in the case.

"This is the first step," Ward said from his home on Metepenagiag First Nation, about 30 kilometres southwest of Miramichi.

"As for details, nobody really knows anything."

Ward organized a traditional ceremony in memory of Stevens last year, and a visitation memorial erected for that event still stands.

A red dress, the symbol for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls movement, hangs where Stevens's remains were found. (Submitted)

The ceremony was held in the wooded area where Stevens's remains were found in Upper Derby, east of the Warwick Road.

There, among leafless pale trees, a red dress hangs, the symbol of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls movement. 

Community members have maintained the memorial since it was erected, said Ward.

The dress sometimes gets blown away by the wind, but there's always a visitor to fix it. Visitors also place traditional medicine like sweetgrass, sage and tobacco in a small decorative box next to the dress.  

Ward said the visits to the memorial site are an indication that a lot of people have a stake in this case. He said it affected the community directly, even though Stevens didn't live on Metepenagiag First Nation.

She was living in Fredericton at the time of her death, but had spent some time in Woodstock First Nation.

"When an Indigenous woman goes missing no matter who they are, where are they're from … there's a part of us that goes missing," Ward said. "We know there's a mother that's missing, we know there's a daughter missing."

Stevens 'left an imprint on this world,' said her friend Chrissy Denny, 'on every single person that she ever met — good or bad. Nobody will ever forget her.' (Submitted )

Eel Ground First Nation resident Roger Augustine, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief, had called for a thorough investigation of Stevens's death, and this week said he's pleased police have made progress, even if it's a year later.

"I truly admire the work that's been done by police," he said. "That makes us feel there's some comfort knowing that these things was taken serious."

A #MMIWG sign stands where the remains of Candace Stevens were found in Upper Derby, 30 kilometres southwest of Miramichi.

But closure is a long way off for the family, especially since nothing is known about what happened.

"I just feel that it's still too many questions on answered," Augustine said. "It's still going through the courts, and I guess there's nothing we can do to speed that up."

A 'fighter'

According to her friends, who spoke to CBC earlier this year, Stevens was a "fighter" who put herself through school at the Majestany Institute while taking care of her young daughter.

A child of foster care, Stevens had a tough childhood but was doing her best to have a good life, friends said.

She was working at a Fredericton spa around the time she died.

With files from Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon