The Saskatchewan RCMP have released a preliminary timeline of events that led up to the mass stabbing massacre in James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon that left 11 people dead and 17 injured in September of 2022, and the four-day long manhunt for the suspect that followed.
During a presentation on Thursday, Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, Commanding Officer of the Saskatchewan RCMP, and Superintendent Joshua Graham, Officer in Charge of Saskatchewan RCMP Major Crimes, laid out the activities of Myles and Damien Sanderson prior to the morning of September 4 and the sequence of attacks throughout the two communities that has led to most extensive police investigation in Saskatchewan history.
Blackmore said RCMP investigators documented 42 different crime scenes, seized 697 exhibits, and conducted 257 witness interviews during the course of the still on-going investigation.
According to authorities, Myles and Damien Sanderson traveled around James Smith Cree Nation, selling drugs and physically assaulting multiple individuals in the days before tragedy struck.
The pair spent time riding around in vehicles, dealing cocaine, and travelling to the Kinistino bar, where Damien was heard telling a woman that he and Myles had “a mission to do” and that “people would hear all about it in the next few hours.”
Damien and Myles were described by witnesses as “guzzling booze” and “pumping themselves up” for something in the hours before the stabbing attacks, said police.
Melfort RCMP received reports on Sept. 3 that Damien stole a vehicle. The two responding officers located the stolen car outside a residence in James Smith Cree Nation and unknowingly encountered Damien inside the home, who had given police a false name and was unrecognizable to the image from 2014 in the RCMP police records system.
Around 5:30 a.m., the pair picked up a grey Dodge Caravan and forced themselves inside a home where Myles attacked a man with scissors. Damien stopped the assault and on their way out, Myles stole a knife. The injured man called 911 as the brothers drove away, giving police the first indication of violence in the community.
Investigators believe a fight ensued between the two brothers inside the Dodge Caravan, leading Damien to run from the vehicle into some bushes and later dying from his injuries. Myles then broke into another home, where he claimed the life of Robert Sanderson.
Myles spent the next several hours terrorizing the community both on foot and in various stolen vehicles, breaking into homes and attacking people. He was heard bragging about how many “bodies” he had while covered in blood and carrying a knife.
Christian Head, Lana Head, Gregory Burns, Bonnie Burns, Earl Burns, Gloria Burns, Thomas Burns, and Carol Burns were the victims of Myles’ rampage across James Smith Cree Nation in the early morning hours of Sept. 4.
Gloria Burns, a first responder for the James Smith Cree Nation crisis response team, and Earl Burns, an army Veteran, were both said to have risked their lives trying to protect others, according to police.
When he was finished in the First Nation, Myles stole a vehicle and headed towards the nearby Village of Weldon, where he attacked and killed 78-year-old Wesley Petterson at his home. What followed was an extensive search for the suspect over several days, with witness sightings of Myles in One Arrow First Nation and Crystal Springs.
On Sept. 7, the hunt for the mass murderer came to an end on Highway 11 just outside of Rosthern, where Myles was arrested following a dangerous high-speed chase with police. During his apprehension, Myles went into medical distress and later died in hospital.
Blackmore and Graham were unable to provide any further details into the manner and cause of Myles’ death, so as to not impact the two upcoming Saskatchewan Coroners Service inquests scheduled for early 2024.