REGINA – RCMP say they believe a child under 12 is responsible for the death of a six-year-old boy on a Saskatchewan reserve and is too young to be charged.
Staff Sgt. Larry Brost says the child is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation and is in the custody of the province. He’s the only suspect in the death of Lee Bonneau, who was found in a wooded area last month not far from the community centre where he was last seen.
“Because the person investigators feel is responsible for this homicide is under the age of 12, the child cannot be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act,” Brost said Tuesday at a news conference.
He said the young suspect was known to police before the killing, but Brost cited privacy legislation in refusing to say more.
The two children did not know each other, he said.
Social Services spokeswoman Andrea Britten said the department will focus on the boy’s treatment and on the safety of the community.
“He is a child in need of protection and it is our responsibility to ensure he receives the treatment that he requires,” Britten said. “Those treatment needs are going to change as he grows older.”
Lee died in hospital from head injuries that police have said were consistent with an assault. Brost said a “weapon of opportunity” was used, but it may never be clear what exactly happened.
“This is a unique case. We may never find that answer.”
There is no evidence to suggest there may be other suspects, he said.
“There’s no other person at this point in time in the investigation that could be responsible for this other than this child,” Brost said.
He said Lee was last seen walking with the suspect outside the community’s recreation complex, where Lee’s foster mother had gone to play bingo.
RCMP received the initial report that Lee was missing about 10 p.m. on Aug. 21. The child was found about 20 minutes later.
Brost said police have not been able to find anyone who witnessed what happened.
Authorities have said Lee, who was not a member of the First Nation, was in the care of the Ministry of Social Services. His foster home was just off the reserve.
His family has requested privacy.
Social Services Minister June Draude has asked children’s advocate Bob Pringle to undertake an immediate review of the case.
“The death of this child in the care of the ministry and the circumstances of his death can only be described as a tragedy,” Draude said in a news release.
“It is my hope that an independent review led by the advocate’s office will help us to gain some understanding of how this could have occurred and what, if anything, we can do to prevent another such tragedy from occurring.”
The Social Services ministry will also conduct a review, she said.
Children killing children is rare in Canada.
In 1995, an eight-year-old boy was too young to be charged for his alleged role in the killing of Johnathan Thimpsen, a seven-year-old from the northern Saskatchewan community of La Ronge.
Court heard how the boy, who wasn’t named publicly, worked with 14-year-old Sandy Charles to lure Thimpsen into the woods. Thimpsen was stabbed and his body mutilated.
Charles, who was tried for first-degree murder as an adult, was a fan of the horror film “Warlock” and admitted to killing in the belief that drinking the rendered fat of a young virgin would give him the power to fly. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
A girl from Medicine Hat, Alta., was convicted in the 2006 murder of her parents and brother when she was 12.
Court heard the girl, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Steinke, committed the murders because there were angry at her parents for disapproving of her relationship.
One of the most high-profile cases internationally happened in the United Kingdom.
In 1993, two-year-old James Bulger was abducted from a shopping centre in northern England and beaten to death by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were both 10 years old at the time.
Thompson and Venables were convicted of murder and spent eight years in youth custody. They were released in 2001 with new identities.