A 24-year-old former Thompson man has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the slaying of 16-year-old Chantelle Rikheim in the old Burntwood Trailer Court seven years ago.
The suspect cannot be identified under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act because he was 17 at the time of the Feb. 2, 2005 murder. The man is a federally-sentenced prisoner on an unrelated matter, RCMP said Feb. 10, serving time at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, a medium-security prison in Prince Albert opened in 1911. The are more than 600 prisoners being held at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary and 22 per cent are serving life sentences, 41 per cent sentences of 40 months and over and 37 per cent less than 40 months, according to a Correctional Service of Canada Institutional Profile for the penitentiary.
The accused will be transported to Winnipeg from Prince Albert to be arraigned as a remanded prisoner in custody in provincial court on the second-degree murder charge.
At the time of her beating death, with blunt force trauma being the cause of death, RCMP said Friday, Chantelle Rikheim was living with her dad, Carl Rikheim, in a trailer in the old Burntwood Trailer Court. He was at work at Inco when she was killed in the early morning fire. The fire was so intense it took RCMP forensic investigators almost a week to positively confirm Chantelle's identity through dental records.
"My daughter Chantelle Rikheim was at a point in her life where she was on the verge of becoming a responsible adult," Carl told the Thompson Citizen Jan. 31.
"She was doing very well at her job at Santa Maria Pizza and she had lots of friends. I will never stop missing her. The only thing that has kept me going this long is finding the person responsible and getting justice as well as closure. All I can tell you is Chantelle was murdered and the trailer, our home, was set on fire to cover the murder. Chantelle was a very beautiful young lady with her very own personality. I know I am not the only one who misses her. My heart also goes out to Mr. Jim Brown and the Chaboyer family."
Chantelle was also involved with the Futures Family Resource Program at 125 Commercial Place. Futures is sponsored by Marymound North and provides a safe place and other services to at-risk children and youth in the Thompson area. The project is a collaboration between Marymound North, the School District of Mystery Lake and the Burntwood Regional Health Authority (BRHA).
Futures serves youth and young adults who are at risk of becoming pregnant, those who are pregnant and those who are parenting children up to six years of age. Futures opened in August 1994. Marymound, a member of the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba, is a social services agency in Winnipeg and Thompson that works with over 3,000 children, youth and families annually that need support as they face the challenges of growing, learning and parenting.
"I want to thank you all at the Thompson Citizen for keeping the ongoing publicity up in all of these unsolved cases," Carl said Feb. 1. "Just letting the public know these cases are remembered might help to jog somebody's memory or maybe even get these guilty people to come forward and show some guts."
Julie Vincent, who now lives in Kenora, Ont., wrote a letter to the editor of the Thompson Citizen, published Feb. 9, 2005, a week after Chantelle's murder: "My girl, I can't believe you are gone," she wrote. "I've watched you grow into such a beautiful young woman through the good and bad times. I've never stopped loving you nor will I ever. Watching you grow up, I saw myself all over again – a sweet girl struggling with life's challenges, wanting so bad to belong and feel loved, and having the potential and love in your heart to become someone that everyone wouldn't help but love.
"So many memories I will never let go. You were the sister I never had but always wanted.
"I hope you are in a better place now and took all of our love with you."
Vincent said Jan. 28 that Chantelle had lived for a time with her and her daughter. Vincent, who is originally from Montreal, was just 20 herself and four years older than Rikheim when Chantelle was murdered. "She was an amazing loving sweet kind person," Vincent recalled. She still keeps in touch and visits with Carl.
"I can't express how I feel at this time," Carl Rikheim said Feb. 9, "but I am very impressed with the way the investigation was handled and that the officers involved did exactly what they told me they were going to do from the beginning. Now we will have the long wait for the trial but closure is definitely coming soon. I have to thank all of my friends, the people of Thompson, the United Steel Workers, everyone at Vale, INCO, the Thompson Citizen and the R.C.M.P. for helping me to survive through all of this heartache."
RCMP Sgt. Pat Grant, from Winnipeg, broke the news of the impending arrest yesterday to Rikheim on Wednesday. A review and investigation of the seven-year-old murder case had been carried out by RCMP major crimes services, including the historical case unit, serious crime and major crime unit, Thompson RCMP detachment and RCMP "D" Division forensic identification unit.
At one point, almost 50 Mounties worked on the Rikheim case, analyzing forensic material and DNA samples. RCMP refuse to officially use the term "cold" case, as such old murder cases are known in television and movie popular culture, and in some police jurisdictions, preferring the more neutral term "historical" cases, although the public and media almost invariably continue to refer to them as cold cases. Only murders that are unsolved still after five years qualify as "historic" cases with the RCMP.
Even with the arrest in the Chantelle Rikheim case, there remain at least six other unsolved murders in Thompson in almost 25½ years since October 1986 – Jason Nunn, Jacob Stokman, Lissa Chaboyer, Kerrie Ann Brown, Bernie Carlson and 19-year-old Christopher Ponask who was killed Oct. 2, 2008 in the Juniper area, not far from Southwood Shopping Plaza.
Only the Chaboyer and Brown cases, using the RCMP's own criteria, would at this point qualify as "historic" cases to be worked by the historical case unit, although the Carlson case, for which a one-minute Manitoba Crime Stoppers video re-enactment was released Feb. 6, will qualify in late October.