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Accused pleads guilty to killing Dauphin man, burning body

Derek James Kembel was last seen leaving a bar in Dauphin on Feb. 28, 2003.

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Derek James Kembel was last seen leaving a bar in Dauphin on Feb. 28, 2003. (SUBMITTED)

A Manitoba man arrested in a cold-case homicide after a clandestine "Mr. Big" police sting has admitted responsibility and will receive a sentence of life in prison.

Christopher Shewchuk, 32, pleaded guilty in Dauphin court to second-degree murder this morning for the March 1, 2003 shooting death of Derek Kembel, 24.

His admission of guilt came on the day his trial for first-degree murder was set to begin.

In a skeleton of facts read out in court, Shewchuk admitted shooting Kembel, a virtual stranger, in a secluded area after offering him a ride.

The shooting came after seeing Kembel and Shewchuk's ex-girlfriend flirting with each other.

Shewchuk admitted taking the victim's body and twice burning it on his family's farm near Winnipegosis, then scattering the remains in another field.

He then returned to Dauphin in order to be seen around town. Police soon learned he was the last person to see Kembel alive and questioned him.

Shewchuk told investigators he'd been driving Kembel home but his truck broke down. When he got out to fix it, Kembel just disappeared, he said.

"Mr. Shewchuk maintained he had no idea what happened to Mr. Kembel," Crown attorney Carla Dewar said.

Admitted killing: sting operation

The RCMP investigation into Kembel's odd disappearance went cold until historical homicide investigators took over the case in 2011.

They set up a sting where Shewchuk was approached by undercover police pretending to be members of a criminal organization. The operations are known as "Mr. Big" stings.

The fake crime group involved Shewchuk in 58 "scenarios" over four months of that year, Dewar told court. Shewchuk was amenable to becoming further entrenched with the group, she said.

"In particular, he expressed interest in working with someone held out to him to be a hit man," said Dewar.

In four interviews, Shewchuk admitted killing Kembel, and even took the undercover police to the sites where he'd burned the body and disposed of it, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin was told.

The shotgun used to kill Kembel was recovered, and an extensive search of the disposal sites netted bone fragments, a watch face and a watch clasp, Dewar said.

After his arrest, Shewchuk continued to maintain his innocence, saying he'd been lying to the undercover cops in hopes of obtaining benefits from them.

The Crown is seeking he be held in prison for at least 15 years before being granted a chance at parole. The minimum parole ineligibility period for second-degree murder is 10 years.

Sentencing has been set for later this month, also in Dauphin.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 2:37 PM CDT:
Corrects typo

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