DAUPHIN — Christopher Shewchuk admitted luring a stranger into an isolated field, shooting him dead and then burning his body — all because the man had the audacity to flirt with his ex-girlfriend inside a bar.
Shewchuk then kept the deadly secret for years, literally getting away with murder while the victim’s family wondered where their missing loved one had gone.
But the truth finally emerged in a dramatic "Mr. Big" sting operation, the details of which were revealed publicly for the first time Wednesday.
"For the family and friends of Derek Kembel, justice may have been delayed. But it will not be denied," Crown attorney Carla Dewar told court. "What he put these people through is overwhelming in its maliciousness. They never gave up hope of finding out what happened. Fortunately, neither did the RCMP."
Shewchuk, 32, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the March 1, 2003, shooting death of Kembel, 25. He was arrested in 2011 after RCMP officers posing as members of a shady criminal organization gained his trust and got him to reveal what happened eight years earlier.
Shewchuk faces an automatic life sentence. The only issue left to decide is parole eligibility. The mandatory minimum is 10 years, and the Crown is seeking to have it raised to 15 years.
"I (expletive) blasted him with a shotgun. I put a bullet right through him. Right through his (expletive) chest," Shewchuk said in his first admission of guilt, which was captured on audio and played in court Wednesday.
Shewchuk then calmly described how he fired a second shot "right through his skull," then burned Kembel’s body and ensured the scene just outside Dauphin was clear.
"I made sure there were no bones, no teeth, nothing," he said. "There’ll be no pieces of the body ever found."
The undercover police agent he was speaking to was playing the role of a Quebec-based "hit man" who convinced Shewchuk to confess during a January 2011 social trip to Montreal. The 30-minute conversation happened in a car in the parking lot outside a bar. The police agent repeatedly questioned whether Shewchuk was being truthful, warning him not to exaggerate or lie. This is important because police must ensure they’re not offering "inducements" to gain a confession.
"You don’t have to say s--t like this to impress me," the so-called hit man told Shewchuk. But he swore he was telling the truth, even offering to take a lie detector test.
The undercover police officer questioned whether Shewchuk had any regrets about what he’d done.
"When you go to bed at night do you think about what you did? Do you feel bad?" he asked.
"I feel worse when I shoot a (expletive) deer," Shewchuk replied.
A second confession was captured on videotape in Winnipeg in February 2011. During a two-hour conversation, Shewchuk expressed relief at assurances from his new friends that they could make all his problems disappear if he’d just come clean about what he’d done.
"I’m loving this life right now," a calm Shewchuk says as he takes drags on his cigarette while sitting at a dining room table, across from the undercover Mountie who had gained his trust while posing as the "hit man."
Shewchuk claimed Kembel had begged for his life seconds before the shooting.
"He was saying ‘Please no, please no.’ I said go (expletive) yourself. I said ‘I’m sick of listening to your (expletive) bulls--t’ and pulled the trigger."
Shewchuk would then take his "friend" to Dauphin that day, showing him exactly where and how he killed Kembel. He was arrested two days later and initially denied responsibility for the killing. He claimed to have known all along he was being duped by police. Last month, just before he was set for trial, he changed his mind and pleaded guilty.
During the sting, police learned Shewchuk had broken up with his girlfriend, whom he saw flirting with Kembel hours before the murder as they socialized together at a bar. Kembel accepted the woman’s invite to go back to her apartment to continue drinking — only to arrive to find Shewchuk was there.
Shewchuk was angry with Kembel, whom he didn’t previously know. After the woman fell asleep, Shewchuk offered Kembel a ride home, drove him to a secluded area and finished him.
"That this murder is unprovoked is an outrageous understatement. This was cold, calculating and horrific," said Dewar. "It’s hard to imagine a more cruel and disrespectful way of handling another human body. It takes a very disturbed mind to think about burning someone’s body."
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 29, 2014