Man charged after four bodies found in Manitoba near United States border

Charges in border deaths

UPDATE 4:20 p.m.

A Florida man has been charged with human smuggling after the bodies of four people, including a baby and a teen, were found in Manitoba near the United States border.

The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota said Steve Shand, 47, appeared in court earlier Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the dead were a family of four Indian nationals who were separated from others in a group crossing the border.

Border crossings into Canada on foot increased in 2016 following the election of former U.S. president Donald Trump.

That December, two men lost their fingers to severe frostbite after getting caught in a blizzard while walking from the U.S. into Manitoba. A few months later, a woman died of hypothermia near the border on the American side.

In 2019, a pregnant woman who walked across the border was rescued after she became trapped in a snowbank and went into labour.

Emerson-Franklin Reeve Dave Carlson said instances of people crossing the border outside the checkpoint have dropped significantly in recent years. He was surprised to learn of the four deaths.

"If you look at the political climate on both sides of the border, it's just mind-boggling to me that anyone had that sense of desperation to try and cross in extreme conditions."

It has been extremely cold and windy in recent days, Carlson said. The area where the bodies were found is far enough away that people would not see lights from the town, he said, and it would be easy to get disoriented.

Deputy Patrick Klegstad with the Kittson County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota said his department is supporting the American side of the investigation. Its officers patrol the "desolate" open fields near the border every day, he said.

He is puzzled why the four tried to cross where they did.

"Why they picked that spot to travel would be the million-dollar question."

The weather this week was so cold that it "takes your breath away," Klegstad said. There are no trees or shelter near the border, only quiet and inaccessible farm roads.

ORIGINAL 10:38 a.m.

Mounties in Manitoba say they have found the bodies of four people — including an infant and a teen — near the United States border.

They say the four died from exposure during a blizzard and freezing temperatures.

RCMP say U.S. authorities first notified them about a group that had crossed into the U.S. from near Emerson, Man.,

The group was said to have had items for an infant but there was no baby.

Mounties searched Wednesday and found the bodies.

"There was three found together — adult male, adult female and the infant child — and then a distance away there was the fourth, which we believe is probably a teenage male," Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a news conference Thursday.

Police said the bodies were discovered on the Canadian side of the border about 10 kilometres east of Emerson.

A search for any possible survivors or additional victims continued Wednesday night and officers were continuing to patrol the area Thursday, police said, but no one else had been found.

"It's very difficult terrain," said MacLatchy. "When they originally started the search, they realized very quickly that the snow was very deep, drifted in spots.

"They needed all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, those sorts of things. Because of the winter conditions right now, it's virtually impassable."

Police said people should not to attempt to cross the border in either direction because it can be deadly.

The RCMP said it is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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