'Come forward': Family of Megan Gallagher pleads for public's help after accused makes first court appearance
Ernest Whitehead made first court appearance Thursday morning, 1 other arrested
The family of a woman who went missing in Saskatoon two years ago is asking for more information from the public.
On Thursday, Ernest Whitehead made his first court appearance on a charge of offering an indignity to human remains in connection with the death of Megan Gallagher.
Gallagher has been missing since Sept. 2020. A year after her disappearance, Saskatoon police said they were treating the case as a homicide.
Gallagher's father, Brian, noted there have been no homicide charges, and asked anyone who knows something to talk to police.
"Please just come forward," said Gallagher, speaking to reporters outside Saskatoon provincial court.
"You hold the power to the resolution that so many people are looking for."
On Thursday afternoon, Saskatoon police announced they had made a second arrest and charged 44-year-old Roderick William Sutherland with offering an indignity to human remains. Sutherland will make his first court appearance on Friday.
Police are still searching for two other people charged in connection with the case — John Wayne Sanderson and Jessica Sutherland.
Brian Gallagher said he has felt numb since his daughter's disappearance. He says he can't understand why someone would kill his daughter.
"Lives are not disposable," he said.
"What force causes somebody to take another life?"
For the last two years, Gallagher's family has waged a public campaign to try to find her, raising a billboard and putting up hundreds of posters across the city.
Now, Brian said the family wants to be able to put their loved one to rest.
"Tell us where she is," he said. "Her life wasn't theirs to take."
The Crown prosecutor was opposed to Whitehead's release. In court, Whitehead began to address people sitting in the courtroom but was interrupted by the judge before he could continue.
The judge ordered Whitehead to appear by video at his court appearance next week.
Shirley Isbister, president of the Central Urban Metis Federation Inc., said Gallagher's disappearance has rocked the community.
"They're living every parent's worst nightmare," he said.
"And as the mother of two Indigenous daughters and four Indigenous granddaughters, it's definitely been my worst nightmare."
Isbister said the Gallagher family is well known throughout Saskatoon's Metis community and she wanted to be there to support them.
She said that criminal charges will likely not bring peace to the family.
"What will come in the future will never be justice," said Isbister.
"Unless Megan comes home, then you might talk justice. But that's that's not going to happen. And so, how do you move forward?"
Aly Bear, third vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, remembers playing hockey with Gallagher when she was younger.
She was impressed by the large crowd of supporters that gathered in front of the courthouse and said it shows that the family is supported by the community.
"It shows that they care," she said.
"Sometimes we feel like the justice system doesn't care because it's hard and it's cold and they don't have empathy."
Bear said Gallagher's story is sadly a common one among Indigenous women.
"It's not traditional to our communities treating each other like that," she said.
"I think our answer is awareness and also implementing more traditional governance systems, revitalizing that and working with families on their healing journeys and having access to ceremony."