Warning: Contains graphic information!
The discovery of the body of a missing drug dealer inside a barrel floating in a Manitoba river kick-started an RCMP murder investigation that relied on collaborative police work, help from key witnesses and support from the victim's family.
On July 23, 2008, five months after Winnipeg resident Chad Davis was last seen and reported missing, his body was pulled from the Lee River – 115 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. It was wrapped in plastic before being stuffed inside a barrel.
Davis's initial disappearance prompted the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) to launch a thorough missing person's case. But, after the discovery of the man's body within the RCMP's jurisdiction, the Mounties came in.
A lot of things went right during the police investigation into Davis's murder.
RCMP investigators say their relationship with the Davis family, dealings with key witnesses, and building on the early investigative work of WPS were all critical to solving the case.
Their methodical work resulted in the arrest and eventual first-degree murder convictions on Feb. 26, 2014 of two men who had a connection to the victim – Kris Brincheski and Corey Tymchyshyn.
A grisly discovery
Solid work went into this investigation," says RCMP S/Sgt. Chris Rouire, Major Crime Unit team commander. "
We started out with a lot of information that quickly led to new evidence that led to the charges."
When Davis was first reported missing months earlier, Winnipeg police officers began digging. They soon discovered a possible motive for murder –Tymchyshyn owed Davis a large drug debt.
After a search of Davis' vehicle, they also found evidence that RCMP would later tie the men to the murder.
When Davis's body was found, the information was turned over to the RCMP for further investigation.
WPS did a lot of work, they briefed us and we were able to keep the investigation moving forward," says Rouire.
About 70 RCMP officials were tasked with the case, including forensics officers, major crime investigators, analysts and Underwater Recovery Team members.
At the start, our first major concern was preserving the evidence," says Sgt. Janna Amirault, the primary investigator. "
[Bed] sheets were wrapped around the barrel, which was eventually placed in a plastic pond liner to capture anything that might have slipped out."
The autopsy confirmed the cause of death was consistent with getting hit in the head by a blunt object, and police investigators also identified the types of clothing Davis was wearing.
When the body was removed from the barrel, police found black coiled plastic, which appeared to have been remnants from drilling holes into the barrel in order for it to sink.
Witness and investigation management
Rouire was among the group of RCMP officers to tell the family about Davis's fate.
It was a difficult moment. But, it was the start of an important relationship that we maintained with open communication, respect and trust," says Rouire "
The family was able to give police info no one else knew."
Other witnesses and police investigative efforts revealed Davis left his car with Tymchyshyn; when Davis's father retrieved it, he removed a box of cleaning supplies that police later discovered also contained black plastic coils similar to ones found in the barrel.
That along with other evidence – including blood staining, a cordless drill and drill bits – led investigators to conclude that Davis was killed in Tymchyshyn's garage. Getting that information from witnesses required effective communication, trust and respect.
Essentially you have to get them to like and trust you," says Amirault, referring to her dealings with witnesses. "
They need to understand the seriousness of the investigation and that a murder investigation does not go away."
Amirault and Rouire stayed on the case from start to finish, bouncing ideas off one another and reminding each other of tasks to be completed, such as production orders, which allow police to obtain information from a third party to support an investigation.
One crucial production order resulted in cellphone and text records from phones used by the killers and Davis on the day of the murder.
Based on the context of the text messages, [Tymchyshyn] was communicating with [Brincheski], indicating that [Davis] was on his way to the garage with him. They were preparing to murder [Davis]," says Rouire.
Both RCMP investigators say the case exemplifies solid teamwork between the two police forces.
A homicide investigation is never an individual effort," says Amirault. "
It takes a team, and in this case, it involved two police agencies and officers that built a case to conviction."