Kirk Keeping charged with 1st-degree murder in death of Chantel John

Kirk Keeping, 35, of St. Jacques – Coombs Cove, has been charged with fist degree murder in the death of Chantel John, according to police.

He appeared in provincial court in Grand Falls-Windsor Friday via telephone link and remains in custody in St. John’s.

His next court appearance is set for Jan. 30.

RCMP say more charges may be laid.

This is a breaking update. A previous version of the story is below.

Chantel John is being remembered as a woman full of kindness, generosity and life — “a beautiful person, a loving person,” said her friend and cousin Natalie Mackey.

“She deserved a long and happy life,” she said.

The 28-year-old woman was killed in Conne River on Wednesday evening, in what the Miawpukek First Nation called “a horrible act of violence.”

Chantel John is being remembered as a “beautiful person” who would do anything to help and care for people. (Facebook)

So far, police have only said her death is suspicious and is under investigation.

Mackey said she first knew something was wrong when Mackey’s parents phoned her house. She said her fiance answered, and it was clear something wasn’t right.

“I think my whole body started to tremble and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” she said. “All I could do was get dressed and get in my car. I phoned my parents and asked them if it was real and they said they were still waiting for confirmation.”

Mackey had to pass by the crime scene on her way to wait for the news with her parents.

Many in Conne River hung red dresses outside their homes, a powerful symbol for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

When the confirmation came, Mackey said she went immediately to John’s parents — her aunt and uncle — “just to be with them.”

“Everybody was just stood there waiting. Horrified. And just waiting, you know? In disbelief,” she told the St. John’s Morning Show in a slow, halting voice. 

‘By the time they got there she was gone’

Miawpukek First Nation Chief Mi’sel Joe said he couldn’t believe the news when he got the call from the band’s general manager.

“First thought was, ‘This can’t be happening, something must be wrong, please double-check the events again to make sure,'” he said.

Police tape cordons off this house in Conne River, as RCMP investigate the suspicious death of Chantel John. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

He said an ex-partner of John’s, a non-Indigenous man, came into the community with clothes that apparently belonged to her.

John was smoking with a friend in a shed when the man walked in, Joe said.

“From that, I’m not sure what happened,” he said.

“She did manage to crawl from there to the house next door where a young woman tried her best to save her and called for an ambulance, [but] by the time they got there she was gone.”

Red dresses hung throughout community

John’s family is “holding it together as best they can,” Mackey said.

“Her parents, they’re so hurt, but I don’t think it’s sunken in yet that this tragic horrific act has happened.”

Like many in the community, Mackey has since hung a red dress outside her house in honour of her cousin, and in honour of all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

The symbolic red dress, and RCMP investigators, in Conne River. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

“The hanging of the dress is meant to symbolize these women so nobody forgets that they’re gone,” she said. “It’s become a way to educate people about the violence that is happening every day for many Indigenous women.”

It also helps to show families affected by this violence they have the support of their community, she said, “letting them know that they’re not alone.”

“When you walk through Conne today, you realize that the most horrific crimes can even happen right next door to you, to the person closest to your heart, and it spreads right through the community, the hurt, the pain, the loss. And the show of support is unimaginable.”

Joe calls for more protection

Joe said more needs to be done to protect the Miawpukek First Nation people.

In the past, he said, the community came together to banish a man accused of domestic violence.

Chief Mi’sel Joe said more needs to be done to protect the people in Conne River. (Paula Gale/CBC)

“We need to look further into that to see if we can do more of that kind of work. We’re not talking about visitors, we’re talking about people who move into the community, we need to know who they are,” he said.

“We have good people in Conne River. We’ll gather, we’ll look at this, we’ll try and come to grips with it and try and put in place some things that we need to do.”

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Kirk Keeping charged with 1st-degree murder in death of Chantel John

Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

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