The family of a Portage la Prairie woman says they’re still in the dark about what happened the night she and her two young children were killed in their home.
“I don’t think I could really believe it, this has got to be a nightmare,” said Tammi St. Jean, recalling a phone call she took with Manitoba RCMP from her Calgary home on April 11.
“This can’t be real, that was my first thought. Come on, this isn’t real.”
Early in the morning of April 10, fire crews responded to a fire in Portage la Prairie, and found three people dead inside the house.
St. Jean says the victims were her daughter, Shantelle Murphy, 32, and Murphy’s two children, six-year-old Isabella Murphy and three-year-old Mason Murphy.
Trevis McLeod, 50, who St. Jean says was Shantelle’s partner and father of the two children, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, as well as a charge of arson related to the incident.
St. Jean remembers her daughter as a cheerful and caring person. She was a social butterfly, with a lot of friends.
“From the time she was born … she’d wake up with a smile and go to sleep with a smile,” said St. Jean.
The most important thing in Shantelle’s life were her children.
“She loved those kids with all her heart, she did everything for those kids. There was never a day gone by where she didn’t hug and kiss those kids and tell them how much she loved them,” said St. Jean.
“She would just do anything for those kids, she was an excellent mother.”
According to St. Jean, Shantelle would often call to tell her stories about her grandchildren.
“Shantelle would always [be] bragging about how Isabella talked nonstop and was really good with her words,” said St. Jean.
Isabella “was bright and full of energy … she was very inquisitive, always asking questions.”
Last trip together
The last time St. Jean saw her daughter and grandchildren was June 2020, when she helped Shantelle’s family move from Manitoba to London, Ont.
It was on that trip that she got to spend quality time with her grandkids, including Mason, who was then two years old.
“He was just a handful … he wanted to run all the time. So having him in that car seat was a little bit of a trip, that’s for sure,” said St. Jean, who described the toddler as curious, and full of energy.
“He didn’t like being cooped up in that car seat for very long.”
Shantelle and her family would later move back to Manitoba in December 2020, and that’s when St. Jean said contact with her daughter stopped.
“They never really had a steady phone number. The phone numbers that I had, I tried to text or message her and I wouldn’t get any replies or anything,” said St. Jean.
“I don’t know what happened, that’s what’s so heartbreaking.”
1st memories of Trevis McLeod
Shantelle first met McLeod in 2015 in Calgary through a mutual friend, and while her family didn’t see any signs of domestic abuse, they suspected something wasn’t right.
“I met him for the first time when I was visiting at her [Calgary] apartment, and I wasn’t too keen on him then. I didn’t know very much about him,” said St. Jean.
“I kind of figured he was way too old for her, I didn’t know what kind of man he was, and I just wasn’t too impressed.”
Tyler Hendrey, cousin to Shantelle, says Shantelle’s demeanour changed when she started dating McLeod.
At the time, Hendrey worked down the street from Shantelle’s Calgary apartment, and would often stop by during his lunch breaks.
“When I would go over there, she’d be her bubbly self until as soon as he walked through that door,” said Hendrey.
“Everything changed, her demeanour and mannerisms … I knew something was up.”
“I kept telling her that, ‘you know, you need to leave him. You’ve changed … he’s changed you in such a short amount of time.'”
But Murphy’s family was assured that there were no visible signs of abuse.
“I didn’t see any indications or any signs that he was mistreating her at all. I knew they had some problems, but I didn’t see anything, any physical violence,” said St. Jean.
“I never thought that he would do this. It never crossed my mind that he would do this.… It’s devastating. We’re all still in shock.”
Shortly after the couple started dating, they moved to Oakville, Man., to live with McLeod’s family.
At that point, Shantelle still had contact with her mother, but it was sporadic at times as the family moved around a lot.
Bring family home to Alberta
On April 15, Winnipeg Police Service officers arrested McLeod without incident, after searching for him for three days, RCMP said in a news release.
For Shantelle’s family, it’s a relief.
“There’s no reason he should have taken Shantelle and the two little ones. How could some monster do that? That’s not a person in any means, that’s an animal,” said Hendrey.
St. Jean says she plans to come to Manitoba to attend McLeod’s trial, saying she hopes to get the resolution she wants.
“I don’t ever want him to see the light of day, where he could actually get out and do this to somebody else. I want justice for Shantelle and the kids.”
A GoFundMe campaign was launched to help with the cost of bringing the bodies of Shantelle and her children to Calgary, where the family plans to hold a funeral.
St. Jean says any additional money raised will be given to a women’s shelter.
“I want to pay it forward … so that we can help perhaps somebody else who’s in a situation, and maybe we could save a life and get them out of it,” said St. Jean.