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Canadian police say mass stabbing suspect acted alone, killed brother

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer speaks with a reporter outside Rosthern, Saskatchewan, on Sept. 7. Canadian police arrested Myles Sanderson in the stabbing deaths of multiple people in Saskatchewan after an almost four-day search. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press/AP)

TORONTO — Canadian police said Thursday that they now believe one man, Myles Sanderson, did all the killing in the mass stabbing that shook rural Saskatchewan last month, including that of his brother, Damien, whom police had previously identified as a suspect.

Rhonda Blackmore, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan, said evidence suggests that Damien Sanderson, 31, helped plan the attacks at the James Smith Cree Nation and nearby village of Weldon that left 11 dead in one of Canada’s deadliest mass killings.

But “Myles Sanderson committed all of the homicides alone,” she said at a news conference in Regina. “RCMP believes it is important to clarify Damien’s involvement in the sequence of these events to demonstrate our continued commitment to transparency to the victims and families of those affected, and to the public.”

Police initially identified both brothers as suspects in the Sept. 4 attacks that left 18 injured, a province reeling and far more questions than answers.

Damien Sanderson was found dead at the James Smith Cree Nation with injuries that authorities had said did not appear to be self-inflicted.

Authorities apprehended Myles Sanderson, 32, on the side of a highway near Rosthern, roughly 80 miles southwest of the Indigenous community, after an almost four-day search. They said he went into medical distress shortly after he was taken into custody. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Canada stabbings suspect has died in custody, police say

The victims of the attacks ranged in age from 23 to 78. All but one were from the James Smith Cree Nation.

Separately on Thursday, the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service of Canada said it would create a “national board” to investigate the circumstances surrounding Myles Sanderson’s release from federal custody.

Sanderson had 59 convictions as an adult and was serving a four-year, four-month sentence for charges including assault and robbery, according to records from the Parole Board of Canada.

He was given a statutory release in August 2021. Canadian law requires that some federal offenders who have served two-thirds of their sentences be released from prison and placed under supervision in their communities.

Myles Sanderson’s statutory release was canceled in November after he was not honest with his parole supervisor about violating its conditions. That decision was canceled in February, and he was released again. In May, he did not report to his parole officer and was declared “unlawfully at large.”

Family members celebrate loved ones, describe horror of stabbings

Saskatchewan’s chief coroner has ordered two public inquests into the attack, including into the circumstances of Myles Sanderson’s death. He has said that “very preliminary autopsy” results show that he did not die of blunt force trauma.

Damien Sanderson’s wife, Skye, told Global News that she called police the day before the rampage to report him and his brother, after Damien had taken her car. She claimed that while police returned her car that night, they did not conduct an exhaustive search for the brothers.

The RCMP have largely refused to provide updates on their investigation, saying they can’t reveal details before the coroner’s inquests begin next year.

But on Thursday, Blackmore said the RCMP had received a call about a stolen car on the James Smith Cree Nation the day before the attack and later located it in front of a residence on the reserve. She said officers searched the residence and asked three of the men inside for their identities.

Blackmore said the investigation has determined that Damien Sanderson, who was wanted for assault, provided a false name to the officers. She said the photograph that police had of him was out of date.

Blackmore said the brothers were selling drugs in the community the day before the rampage and had been involved in three violent altercations. She said none of those incidents were reported to police before the mass stabbings.

Blackmore said the chief coroner was aware she was providing the update.

“We felt it important to address some of this information to balance both the interest of the family and the victims as they work on healing from this incident … as well as information for the public so they have answers to the questions that are being raised,” she said.