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  • Respect our privacy; families of Calgary mass murder victims release statement

    "UNIMAGINABLE SORROW"

    CALGARY - The families of the victims stabbed to death at a party in Calgary on Tuesday have joined together to issue a statement about the horrific crime.

    Matthew de Grood faces five counts of first-degree murder in what police are calling the worst mass murder in the city's history.

    "In this time of tremendous grief and tragedy, our five families have come together as one. We know the public and media are searching to understand how this could have happened, as are we. But we also know that these answers will take time and nothing will come as quickly as we want or need.

    "As a group, we have come together to support one another, and in time, start the healing process. First, we must say goodbye to our loved ones, which includes memorials and funerals over the coming days and weeks.

    "We ask that in this time of unimaginable sorrow, you respect our privacy and give us the breathing room we need to come to grips with what has happened to Josh, Zack, Kaiti, Jordan and Lawrence.

    "We are not at a point where we are ready to speak publicly to any media outlet or reporter. We can assure you that when the time comes we, as a group, will do so. This will be co-ordinated through the Public Affairs/Media Relations Unit of the Calgary Police Service.

    "We ask that you extend this privacy to the witnesses and close friends of our beloved five, as they, too, are suffering unimaginable grief. When the time comes for them to speak out, they will do it with the help of the CPS.

    "Over the coming days, we will be releasing details of various funds where donations can be made to support the numerous bursaries and scholarships being planned to remember our loved ones.

    "We wish to extend our thanks to Calgarians, and others who have expressed their condolences for our loss. We know you are grieving, too, and we truly appreciate the support."

    Police have said de Grood finished his late shift at a grocery store before going to a house party which was being held to celebrate the last day of classes at the University of Calgary. He was an invited guest and mingled with some of the 20 people there before he allegedly grabbed a large knife and started attacking people one by one.

    Police said a significant part of their investigation will focus on whether de Grood was suffering from mental illness and officers will be looking into any communications he had with people before the slayings.

    The Calgary Herald reported that de Grood sent disjointed and confusing text messages to his family before showing up at the party. The newspaper quoted an unnamed officer close to de Grood's father as saying the family was worried he might commit suicide that night. His mother called police and his father went looking for him, the source said. The story also said de Grood had mental health problems in high school.

    Fay said he knows nothing of any texts and had not heard that his client had been mentally unstable in the past. He said de Grood's family doesn't agree with a lot of things being reported in the news media, but did not elaborate.

    De Grood remains in custody at a psychiatric centre. Fay had earlier indicated a psychiatric assessment had been ordered, but clarified Thursday that that order had yet to be given. He said he expected the Crown would request one when de Grood appears in court Tuesday.

    Fay said he has met with de Grood, but the man's parents have yet to see their son.

    "He appeared distraught. He appeared upset. He appeared fearful. All those things that one would expect under those circumstances," Fay said of his client.

    Police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said any messages de Grood sent before the party would form "a significant part of this investigation." He told reporters that if any texts exist, they might help explain the suspect's state of mind and also provide clues to a motive.

    Investigators have said it appears there was nothing — no grudge or vendetta — that might have provoked the attack. They aren't even sure de Grood knew the victims.

    Brookwell said officers are still interviewing witnesses and piecing together what happened at the party. He said it's not known how one person managed to kill five people in a crowded home and escape. De Grood was taken into custody about 40 minutes after the attack, with the help of a police dog.

    "There's going to be a lot of guessing and everybody's trying to get that answer as to how this possibly could have happened and did no one intervene?" said Brookwell. "It is quite possible that people didn't even know it was going on, people froze."

    The victims have been identified as Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, and Lawrence Hong, 27.

    Two Edmonton prosecutors have been assigned to the case to address any perception of bias because of de Grood's father. Brookwell dismissed any notion that an outside police force should also be brought in.

    He said police made a speedy arrest and charges had been laid by the end of the day.

    The City of Calgary has lowered all flags at its municipal buildings and said they will remain at half-mast until sunset on the day of the last victim's funeral.

    The first service has been set for Segura on Monday.

  • Man charged with making death threats against father of Rehtaeh Parsons

    HALIFAX - Police in Halifax have charged a young man accused of making death threats against the father of Rehtaeh Parsons.

    Police won't disclose the name of the alleged victim or of the 19-year-old accused, who has yet to appear in court.

    But Parsons' father, Glen Canning, said Saturday the charges relate to online threats made against him last year.

    Canning also said police told him the accused is one of two teens facing child pornography-related charges in connection with his daughter's case.

    "They called me on Thursday night and mentioned that charges were filed in relation to the online threats that I had received," Canning said in an interview.

    Canning's daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, was taken off life-support last April after attempting suicide in her Halifax home. Her family says the 17-year-old was relentlessly tormented after a photograph of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was passed around her school.

    Two teens face charges of distributing child pornography in connection with the case, while one of them also faces a charge of making child pornography. They cannot be named because they were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offences and both are charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

    RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae said police began investigating the alleged death threats last Aug. 2 after receiving a complaint from a 49-year-old man.

    "It did take until April of this year to move the investigation along," he said. "There are means to eventually determine the ownership of the computer or possibility of who made the threats, albeit a complex process."

    MacRae said police executed a search warrant at a home in the suburb of Eastern Passage and seized a computer and electronic storage devices. A 19-year-old man was arrested at the home Thursday.

    He is due in court May 20 on charges including uttering death threats and criminal harassment.

    Canning, who has been an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual assault and cyberbullying, said he and his family have been the targets of online harassment since his daughter's death.

    But Canning said some comments went too far and that's when he contacted police.

    "I believe they were just threatening to kill me if I didn't shut up," he said.

  • Looking for a forever home, Kamloops SPCA pet of the week

    L'll Bits

    L'il Bits arrived at the Kamloops SPCA branch along with a few of her siblings because her previous owner had too many dogs to care for. While all of her siblings have been adopted, Lil Bits is still waiting for her right match.

    L'il Bits aka Bitsy is a shy and nervous young girl that needs a guardian who will be patient and gentle with her. She has learned how to walk on leash while being in foster care but is still not fully house trained yet. Although she came from a house with other dogs, she is at first fearful of them. Cats are unnatural scary beasts to her and although she can live with them, she will try to stay far away from them.

    Once she's had a chance to get to know you she's very playful! L'il Bits would do best in a more quiet home with a constant routine and gentle handling. She's never been around young children and due to her fearfulness we don't recommend she go to a home with any.

    Contact the Kamloops Branch of the B.C. SPCA if you thinks this is the dog for you.

    Animal ID #328175

    B.C. SPCA - Kamloops Branch
    250-376-7722

  • VIDEO: Air Canada under fire over video showing baggage being dropped

    TORONTO - Air Canada is apologizing after a video purporting to show a baggage handler dropping luggage from roughly six metres off the ground hit social media.

    The video, taken by a passenger on board a plane, shows a baggage handler dropping bags from a boarding gate to a luggage bin.

    The video posted April 18 on YouTube is titled "How Air Canada Handles Your Baggage," but it doesn't say where or when the incident occurred.

    It's generating a wide range of comments both on the video site and Twitter, with some people lambasting Air Canada and saying they won't fly on the airline again.

    Others were more charitable saying the airline should not be judged by the actions of one baggage handler.

    In Twitter posts on Saturday, Air Canada says it has launched an investigation and is "very disappointed & sorry about the actions in the video."

    "The actions don't reflect our procedure. We apologize for this," the airline said in another tweet.

  • Killer sponge discovered off Vancouver Island

    VANCOUVER - They look like fuzzy fingers, waving gently from the depths of the ocean floor but make no mistake — they're stone cold killers.

    Scientists have discovered four new species of carnivorous sponge off the Pacific Coast, including one deadly variety found hanging from the deep-sea ridges off southern Vancouver Island.

    Fortunately, these killers are about the size of a piece of spaghetti and they feed only on the tiny, shrimp-like amphipods and copepods that drift through the sea.

    "Sponges characteristically feed on small particles, like bacteria, little tiny guys," said Henry Reiswig, a retired professor of biology at McGill University, volunteer taxonomist at the University of Victoria and the Royal British Columbia Museum, and self-described "sponge guy."

    But these meat eaters feed on tiny crustaceans.

    "It's a snaring process involving spicules, pieces of glass on their surfaces that they use to snare," said Reiswig, who is "77 or something like that."

    Two of the newly discovered species were collected by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute off the California coast and another from a hydrothermal vent field in the Gulf of California off Mexico. The fourth hails from a formation called the Endeavour Segment on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, off south Vancouver Island.

    The Canadian beast, Cladorhiza caillieti, looks like a skinny bottle brush. The samples were five to seven centimetres long and only millimetres wide, found attached to the underside of overhanging ledges of basalt more than two thousand metres below sea level.

    Reiswig and William Austin, of the Khoyatan Marine Laboratory on Vancouver Island, were enlisted by marine biologist Lonny Lundsten from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to help identify the sponges.

    Carnivorous sponges were only discovered in 1995. Since then, only 137 species have been described, including these four. Just 11 of them were found in the North Pacific.

    They've been described as the Venus fly traps of the deep sea, a "truly extraordinary species," wrote Lonny Lundsten, the lead author of an article published in the most recent edition of the scientific journal Zootaxa.

    Lundsten said the samples were collected by remotely operated vehicles during other research, most of it geological surveys of the sea floor.

    Their meat-eating ways are believed to be an adaptation to the nutrient-poor environs of the deep sea, where most are found.

    "Typical sponges must continually beat the flagella of choanocytes to create a current which flows through their bodies. From this current they strain single celled organisms and bacteria, which they eat," Lundsten said in an email interview.

    "But constantly beating these flagella is not efficient, energetically, when food is largely unavailable. Rather than creating a current, carnivores act more like spiders webs, with a matrix of tiny hooks waiting to catch any plankton that drift past them in the currents."

    They're ancient. Specimens have been found in Jurassic sediment dating back 200 million years.

    Reiswig believes a single mutation is responsible for the many descendants being discovered today.

    "They're all over the world: Sweden, Antarctic and throughout the equatorial zones," he said. "But it only takes a million years or so for sponges to get around."

    So far, they've only been found in very deep water ranging from 600 to 3400 metres offshore. But we now know there are at least 11 species found in the northeast Pacific, he said.

    It's another small step in understanding the biodiversity of the largest and least known habitat on Earth, Lundsten said.

    "Each time we dive, we get a sense of what the early explorers must have felt exploring new worlds and seeing things no one had ever seen before. In that sense, we will continue exploring this last remaining wild frontier on planet earth."