“Crime of revenge”: According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of Saskatchewan, witnesses are the key to solving the brutal murder


The brutality of the crime helped clear the way for investigators, said Superintendent Joshua Graham, head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's major crimes unit in Saskatchewan.

“When something like this happens, something so brutal, people become very selfish because they face life in prison and very serious consequences,” Graham said.

“I think it's just the brutal nature of it… people were a little more open about what they knew.”

North Battleford is a town of almost 14,000 inhabitants in northwestern Saskatchewan, not far from the Alberta border. This is where Laverdiere spent her last days in April 2019.

Court documents show how the murder was influenced by events three weeks earlier in or around Edmonton, when Laverdiere's boyfriend Tristen Cook-Buckle was killed.

His family was told he was beaten, stabbed and shot in the head before his body and the vehicle he was in were set on fire.

The death was devastating for his mother, Nicole Cook. She and Laverdiere travelled from Edmonton to attend the funeral at the Thunderchild First Nation near North Battleford.

Meanwhile, suspicions were growing. What did Laverdiere know? Did she have something to do with Cook-Buckle's murder?

According to the documents, one person who wanted answers was Soaring Eagle Whitstone, a relative who was also the head (official title: “Queen”) of a street gang.

Whitstone considered Cook-Buckle one of her grandchildren.

Whitstone told his mother that Laverdiere was involved in the murder and that he had “picked a fight with the wrong family,” the documents say.

Three nights later, after days of drinking and drug use, Whitstone intervened at the home of one of Cook's relatives in North Battleford. The documents detail what happened and what witnesses heard.

“All right, my soldiers,” Whitstone said, and the gang members moved in and punched Laverdiere in the face so hard that her nose burst.

As the punches fell, Cook shouted that Laverdiere knew more than she was saying.

The group left the house and went to Whitstone's house, marching with their bloodied, barefoot victim in tow.

“Hostage in the house!” Whitstone screamed as they dragged Laverdiere inside, tied her to a chair and continued to beat her.

Laverdiere was instructed to write down everything she knew about Cook-Buckle's death. The note was never found.

According to the documents, the beating continued until neighbors complained about the noise.

Laverdiere was then taken to a third and final house, dragged into the basement, bound, gagged and beaten with fists and a metal pipe for hours.

Cook jumped up and down on her torso. The music was turned up to drown out her crying and screaming.

A flammable substance was poured over Laverdiere's head and set on fire.

“My son is burned,” Cook told Laverdiere. “Now you can burn.”

“It’s burning,” shouted Laverdiere. “Please put it out.”

The fire was extinguished. Smoke and a foul smell filled the basement.

Whitstone said Laverdiere sounded like a “dying dog,” the documents say.

Then she asked the others to finish off Laverdiere.

A knife was pulled out and someone in the group slit Laverdiere's throat.

Her body was wrapped in carpet and plastic, placed in the back of a stolen truck, thrown under a pile of garbage and driven to the pond.

Before they left, a gang member pointed a sawed-off rifle at Laverdiere's head and fired – an echo of Cook-Buckle's final moments.

When the group returned, Whitstone congratulated them on a job well done.

After two weeks, Laverdiere's mother reported her missing.

Police became suspicious when Cook took to social media to help search for Laverdiere. Cook posted a picture of the two together, arm in arm. In the photo, Laverdiere is wearing a black sweatshirt.

A month later, on July 11, 2019, Laverdière's body was found in the pond, wearing the same black sweatshirt.

Police needed dental records to identify her. Her ribs were shattered. She had stab wounds, a wire wrapped around her forearms and duct tape around her lower legs. Her hair and scalp were burned.

A necklace with a heart-shaped pendant was taped to her head. According to the documents, Laverdiere had purchased the pendant to pair with a matching pendant she had given to Cook at the funeral.

Cook eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the next ten years.

Whitstone was convicted of first-degree murder and automatically sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole for the next 25 years.

There were further convictions of gang members of varying degrees.

Laverdiere's family said they will never truly have closure.

“Her two sons will never feel their mother's embrace again. She will not be there for them when they need her most,” the family said in a statement released to the RCMP.

“You'll never hear how much she loves them.”

Cook-Buckle's murder was never solved.

Graham said the Mounties were convinced Laverdiere had no new information about his death and that they would never know what she wrote in the note during torture.

“Based on what people told us in the interviews, there was no confession or new information about who killed him,” Graham said.

Drugs, the official said, were an issue throughout the tragedy.

“I think it's a combination of drugs, these suspicions and just the violence of the people (involved),” he said.

“This was truly a crime of revenge.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2024.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press