The Winnipeg Police Service Homicide Unit has made an arrest in the 2012 killing of Simone Sanderson (23).
On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, Police held a press conference announcing the arrest of Kyllan James Ellis (28) of Lorette, Manitoba. Ellis has been charged with 2nd degree murder in connection with Sanderson’s killing.
He was detained in custody.
Sanderson’s body was discovered on September 2, 2012 in a vacant lot in the area of Main Street and Burrows Ave.
No suspects were immediately identified and the case proved difficult to solve.
Police subsequently revealed Sanderson was a drug-addicted sex trade worker who plied her trade in the area where her body was discovered. Sanderson’s family disputes this information and hired a private investigator to make further enquiries.
Crime aficionado James Turner indicates his sources suggest the private investigation provided no information to assist the police investigation.
More on that later.
It’s interesting to note Deputy Chief Danny Smyth indicated, “Kyllan was known to sexually exploit women he believed were working in the sex trade.” He also indicated Sanderson and Ellis were not previously known to each other.
The comments are highly suggestive of some kind of connection to the sex trade.
(It’s important to stress issues regarding the sex trade often raise the degree of difficulty to solve a homicide case but never impact an investigators commitment to resolve it. Victim lifestyle decisions are irrelevant to homicide investigators. Homicide investigators are highly motivated people who are driven to solve murder cases – end of story.)
WPS Homicide Sergeant Wes Rommel indicated Police became suspicious of Ellis’s potential involvement sometime in January of 2014.
It’s clear Ellis became a “person of interest” in the investigation around this time.
“At that point, Mr. Ellis was one of a number of people who had come up in the investigation we were following up at the time,” said Rommel.
“It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 when we received further information regarding Mr. Ellis’s involvement. At that time, it’s probably fair to say we began focusing the investigation and certainly looking at him in more depth from that point forward.”
On April 12, 2016, Police held a press conference requesting the public’s assistance with the investigation.
Police indicated Sanderson was last seen alive during the evening of Sunday, August 26, 2012 in the north-end area of the City. Investigators believe Sanderson was killed during the evening of Sunday, August 26 or during the early morning hours of August 27.
Police believe Sanderson was brought to the area where her body was discovered by a suspect who was operating an older model, small style, 2-door car. Photographs of the body recovery site were provided.
Police advised the investigation resulted the development of a male DNA profile that investigators believed would be crucial in identifying the person responsible. Police suggested there were also indications the suspect returned to the crime scene in the nights following Sanderson’s murder.
Police released Sanderson’s description and provided contact numbers seeking information from the public.
The timing and nature of the press conference was strongly suggestive of major progress in the case. Police seemed to be close to putting all the pieces of the puzzle in place.
(I had other suspicions regarding the investigation that I will not share in this article – if these suspicions turn out to be true, the information will undoubtedly come out at trial.)
What About the DNA?
DNA can be extremely compelling evidence.
In the recent trial of Thomas Brine, now convicted killer of seventy-three year old grandmother Elizabeth Lafantaisie, the DNA match suggested the odds of someone other than Brine being the killer was estimated at 1 – 68,000,000,000,000. (1 – 68 trillion)
During the press conference, Sgt Rommel indicated Police have not yet compared the crime scene DNA sample to a control sample of the suspect Ellis.
So what happens if the DNA doesn’t match?
Does Ellis go free?
I suspect the release of the information regarding the suspect’s DNA was a calculated investigative manoeuvre designed for a specific purpose.
I suspect the case does not hinge on DNA evidence.
In fact, I doubt any Senior Crown Attorney with Manitoba Justice would have authorized murder charges if the DNA evidence was critical to secure a conviction.
If the DNA evidence was critical, police would have used investigative techniques to secure a covert sample from Ellis and done the comparisons long before he was arrested and charged.
Police and Crowns wouldn’t expose themselves to that kind of risk – essentially putting the cart before the horse.
The Bizarre Twist
In a bizarre twist, the Sanderson family held a press conference today with PI Janie Duncan (Duncan Investigations) suggesting the WPS investigation into Sanderson’s killing was “seriously flawed.”
If you peruse Duncan’s FB page you will find postings with multiple updates regarding her investigation into Sanderson’s murder. Duncan has pointed criticism for the Police investigation into Sanderson’s killing and indicates WPS Sgt Wes Rommel asked her to refrain from using social media in her investigation.
“Did they think I would submit to their requests to cease making public posts, particularly when the public is helping me solve this crime?” she writes.
I’m not sure what good can come out of conducting a homicide investigation on social media but I can assure you conspiracy theories and red herrings do nothing to advance the cause.
Murder investigations are solved by evidence – real, tangible, solid evidence.
Rommel isn’t the only person Duncan likes to criticize.
In March of this year, Duncan published a post on FB demanding a retraction for a story I published regarding the sex trade. She took issue with one of the paragraphs that made reference to Simone Sanderson and her connection to the sex trade.
“We are asking James Jewell to recant his story and apologize to the Sanderson family,” Duncan wrote.
The demands were echoed by Simone’s grandmother on social media.
It was a strange request given the information was provided by the WPS and reported by media outlets throughout the City.
Not sure why I was singled out.
Nevertheless, how bizarre that after the murder case is solved Duncan leads the charge in a presser, with Simone’s grandmother by her side, criticizing the investigation and suggesting Police may have arrested and charged an innocent man.
It might have been prudent to pause and find out what the evidence against the accused killer is before people go on rants suggesting the Police got it wrong.
It just seems a touch irresponsible.
The real damage caused by this kind of rhetoric can be measured in terms of the destruction of the Sanderson families relationship with the WPS and the negative impact it may have on the general public’s confidence in the Police Service.
That said, I’m sure accused killer Kyllan Ellis is grateful for any attempt to exonerate him.
The Sanderson case reminds me of how difficult homicide investigation can be, the moving parts, the lack of sleep, missed days off, missed birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Not to mention the internal and external hurdles investigators have to overcome. It can be overwhelming at times.
I can assure you, it’s a lot tougher than following around people who cheat on their significant others.
Lost in all the noise is the fact 2012 was an extremely busy year for the WPS Homicide Unit.
In 2012, the WPS Homicide Unit investigated a total of thirty-one (31) homicides solving all but two (2) cases.
That translates to a solvency rate of 93.5%.
A job well done in my estimation.