Inmate sentenced for falsely confessing to manslaughter

Tyler Meetoos, in a photo taken from his Facebook page.

An inmate who crafted an elaborate hoax, claiming he killed a man and wasting hundreds of hours of police time, will spend four more months in prison.

Tyler Meetoos pleaded guilty to public mischief on Wednesday in Prince Albert’s provincial courthouse. According to the Crown, he concocted the scheme – at least in part – in exchange for “perks” in prison.

In 2016, Meetoos spoke to an intelligence officer at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, where he was serving time for robbery, assault and flight from police. He said he had information about an unsolved case from 2006.

That February, 27-year-old Draper Jim disappeared while hitchhiking from North Battleford to his home on the Witchekan First Nation. He was last seen in Cochin, about 30 km north of the city, after getting a ride. He has never been found.

At first, Meetoos told investigators from the RCMP’s historical case unit that he heard about the case from a man named Sheldon Standingwater, who he identified as Jim’s murderer. According to Meetoos’s account, Standingwater picked up Jim along the highway and brought him to the Thunderchild First Nation.

“Meetoos stated that Standingwater claimed to have shot Jim and buried him on the the First Nation,” said Crown prosecutor John Syrnick. “He showed members on a map where Standingwater had shown him the body was.”

Meetoos also told investigators that there was a recording of Standingwater’s confession, stowed away in a house on Thunderchild.

In exchange for the information, Syrnick explained, Meetoos received items for his cell.

“Mr. Meetoos used this to get perks for his cell from the RCMP,” Syrnick said. “This was for his own personal benefit.”

But when officers visited Thunderchild, they found the house had burned down years ago. They also learned that Standingwater was dead. When Jim disappeared, it turned out, Standingwater was actually serving time in jail.

On their third meeting with Meetoos, the prisoner changed his story.

“He disclosed that he had made up the story about Standingwater and intentionally crafted it in such a way that police could not follow up on the details,” Syrnick said.

Then Meetoos implicated himself in Jim’s disappearance. He said he stole a car, drove drunk and struck Jim on the highway. He tried to drive the injured man to the hospital, according to his story, but Jim died along the way.

Again, Meetoos claimed he could lead police to the spot where the body was buried. Police arranged for him to accompany them to the scene. Fifteen officers and a forensic anthropologist joined the search. They found nothing. The anthropologist concluded that “there was never a body in that area.”

Police moved to give Meetoos a lie detector test. Just before, he told them that the story was another hoax.

“Meetoos admitted to members that he had lied about killing Draper Jim, stating as his reasons to provide closure to the Jim family and inspire other people to do the right thing and come forward,” Syrnick told the court.

Syrnick said Meetoos later acknowledged another reason: “to get his way and have property for his cell at Sask. Pen.”

The investigation cost the RCMP 356 hours of investigation, time Syrnick said could have been spent on other cases, and about $15,000. He said the news was “unsettling for the family,” who always hoped their loved one was still alive.

“There was kind of a closure for them,” Syrnick said. “They thought they knew his fate and then there was kind of a crash.”

For more on this story, see the July 14 edition of the Daily Herald.