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Mount Currie reeling in wake of teen’s murder



Two area residents face charges in connection with beating death

Rosemary Dan can still remember the sounds of Ross Leo gurgling in his crib.

She lived just down the road from Leo's home in Mount Currie, the small First Nations community east of Pemberton, and used to baby-sit the little baby boy.

One of four kids, with two older sisters and a younger brother, she remembers Leo as "a really happy adventurous kid."

"He loved the outdoors. He loved fishing and riding his bike. He was a regular active kid," said Dan, who is also a councillor with the Mount Currie band.

Leo's regular teenage life was cut short last week after his lifeless, beaten body was discovered May 2 in a wooded area behind the Signal Hill elementary school in Pemberton, an area known locally as "the jungle."

He was just 15-years-old.

A former hockey coach, who knew Leo when he was about 12 or 13 years old, described him as "a good kid."

When Leo first joined the Atom House hockey league with the Whistler Minor Hockey Association he wasn't very good on the ice.

"He hadn't played much hockey before but by the end of the year he was our best player," said James Hyndman, owner of Busterino's Pizza.

He was loud and outgoing and always bigger and stronger than his friends around him, recalled Hyndman.

Like many people in the surrounding communities Hyndman was shocked when he found out Leo was dead.

The shock of the death has touched every person in Mount Currie.

It was compounded with the horrible reality that two older Mount Currie residents were charged with second-degree murder in Leo's death.

For the tight-knit community, a place where everybody knows each other's name, it has been a nightmare.

"The whole community is in shock right now," said Dan.

"It's affecting everyone."

Leo's family and friends bid him farewell at his funeral on Tuesday of this week, remembering the dark-haired young teen, who is also the nephew of Mount Currie band CEO Lyle Leo.

Meanwhile, the family of the accused struggled with their own grief.

Dan said one of the accused has seven children of his own, ranging from a child in Grade 3 to a 26-year-old son, who is expecting his first baby in July.

"They felt really terrible and were taking on what their father was involved with," said Dan.

"They're mourning too but in a different way."

But as the community struggles to cope with their grief, its leaders are looking at ways to ensure something like this never happens again.

"It has to stop," said Dan.

"Lil'wat considers our youth to be one of our most precious resources and we need to seriously consider how we are going to guide them down the right path."

Dan also said alcohol was a major factor in the tragedy.

"The jungle" is a well-known outdoor hangout for people who want to drink.

Located close to the liquor store, "the jungle" traditionally isn't a place for local teens, she said.

She said Leo had gone there with a friend, who later left.

The RCMP report Leo's body showed signs of trauma caused by a physical altercation but they will not reveal much more about the investigation.

"I do know that he was badly beaten," said Constable Carmen Magnusson with the Whistler RCMP.

"Nothing has come of light to lead us to believe there was a particular motive in this case."

The RCMP is being helped by the B.C. coroners service and the Stl'at'imx tribal police.

Mount Currie band council met on Wednesday. One of the items on the agenda was to look at ways to deal with the tragedy and seek out steps to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

"This is a system of years of oppression that we're dealing with," said Dan.

Pemberton council is right on board beside Mount Currie, offering their full support.

"We certainly grieve along with Mount Currie," said Mayor Elinor Warner.

She asked Pemberton council to sit down at the table with Mount Currie, meeting as two concerned neighbours, and seek out ways to avoid future tragedies.

Some of her initial suggestions were addressing the area when Leo's body was found and suggesting some joint policing within the two communities.

She said ideas will flow from future discussions.

"A homicide at any time is a terrible thing but a young life, you always question, what could we have done," said Warner.

Wade Calvin Peters, 28, and Lorne Edward Edmonds, 50, appeared in Squamish court on Monday afternoon, charged with second degree murder. They were remanded in custody until May 16 when they will appear in Pemberton provincial court.

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