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Guardian top news story triple murder-suicide that left P.E.I. reeling


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Emotions were raw as friends and family grieved for Tanner Craswell following his funeral at Holy Redeemer Church in Charlottetown Friday December 23, 2011.

An unusually large number of violent deaths in 2011 created great loss and heartache for many Islanders.

The unsettling trend was set early when 25-year-old Kyle Dingwell was shot to death on Jan. 17 at the family home in Charlottetown. His brother, Dylan Dingwell, was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting.

Dylan pleaded not guilty and his defence argued during his recent trial that the shooting was in self-defence. The defence and Crown will provide written submissions in January. P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice John Mitchell expects to give his verdict Feb. 24.

In a province where murder is rare but a topic that garners great discussion and numerous headlines when it does occur, this shooting would have normally been given consideration as The Guardian News Story of the Year — in an average year.

Unfortunately, this year was far from that. 2011 was marred by murders.

On Nov. 13, a 47-year-old father of two murdered the estranged wife of an RCMP constable with a knife and then turned that weapon on himself.

Rick MacLean of Charlottetown and Maurean MacDonnell of Kinkora were found in MacLean’s black Volkswagen Passat parked on the shoulder of the road along Route 2 in New Annan. MacDonnell, 36, and the mother of three, and MacLean, both died of multiple stab wounds.

The province was abuzz with rumours and theories until police finally put all the pieces together (and made them public) one week after the horrific incident.

The story came together much quicker in the third shocking installment of violent deaths to rock P.E.I. in 2011 — this time a triple murder suicide.

It was around 3 a.m. on Dec. 15 when an enraged, young man used his car containing a loaded handgun, shotgun and rifle to ram a SUV carrying four friends en route to the Calgary International Airport. He shot all four, killing three, before taking his own life.

Two of those killed — Mitch MacLean, 20, of South Winsloe and Tanner Craswell, 22, of Charlottetown — were known and loved by many here in P.E.I. That fact was clearly evident through heartfelt tributes and the heavily attended funerals for the two promising ball players.

The third murder victim, Tabitha Stepple, 21, was the former girlfriend of the killer.

Shayna Conway, 21, of Charlottetown is making a strong recovery from her serious injuries.

This tragedy of such senseless loss that has left so many to grieve and lament great promise that will go unfulfilled is The Guardian’s News Story of the Year.

The Alberta shooting, and its impact on Islanders, was clearly the top news story of the year in the opinion of The Guardian Editorial Department, says managing editor Gary MacDougall.‘

“Unfortunately a year’s top news story isn’t always a happy or positive one and this is clearly an example of that,” said MacDougall.

“At a time when people were still trying to make sense out of the New Annan deaths, along came another tragic murder/suicide with even more people involved. People are still shaking their heads in disbelief and reaching out to the loved ones and friends of the three murdered young people.”

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