First Degree Murder Charges in Ethelbert Killing

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On January 19, 2013, Parkland RCMP were dispatched to a residence in Ethelbert, Manitoba where the body of a deceased female had been located.  The ensuing investigation involved the Parkland RCMP, the RCMP Serious Crimes Unit, the Dauphin CSI Team and the Dauphin Major Crimes Unit.

On January 21, 2013 RCMP reported the discovery of a deceased adult male who had been located during a search of the property grounds.  The cause of death of both victim’s was not immediately reported.

On January 24, 2013, RCMP released information indicating the victims were an eighty-one (81) year old female and a fifty (50) year old male.  The investigation was reported to be ongoing and the public was asked to contact the RCMP if they had any relevant information to share regarding the matter.

On May 2, 2013, the RCMP held a news conference at “D” Division Headquarters at 1091 Portage Ave at which time they announced the deceased victims were identified as follows:

  • Elsie Steppa (81) of Ethelbert, Manitoba.
  • Clarence Thornton (50) of Ethelbert, Manitoba.

The cause of death was reported to be “blunt force trauma.”

The RCMP further announced the arrest of Payton Saari (20) of Ethelbert, Manitoba who has been charged with two (2) counts of First Degree Murder in relation to the killings.  Saari was detained in custody and will make his first Court appearance in Dauphin, Manitoba on May 6, 2013.

Saari has no criminal record.

The RCMP indicated both victims were known to Saari but declined to provide a motive other than confirming some sort of altercation precipitated the killings.


In order to lay a First Degree Murder charge, Police are required to present evidence that a killing was planned and deliberate, or it was committed regarding other specified offences such as:

  • Sexual Assault (s)
  • Kidnapping and Forcible Confinement
  • Hostage Taking
  • Hijacking an Aircraft
  • In association with or for the benefit of a Criminal Organization

Murder is also First Degree when the victim is any of the following:

  • a police officer, police constable, constable, sheriff, deputy sheriff, sheriff’s officer or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace, acting in the course of his duties;
  • a warden, deputy warden, instructor, keeper, jailer, guard or other officer or a permanent employee of a prison, acting in the course of his duties; or
  • a person working in a prison with the permission of the prison authorities and acting in the course of his work therein

Based on the information released by the RCMP it is not clear why First Degree Murder charges were laid.  It’s clear there is much more to the story than Police are prepared to share at this time.  Those details will not likely be known until the case proceeds to trial.

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