Mother of RCMP officer killed in Sask. says murder charge should have been laid earlier

·4 min read
A makeshift memorial for for Const. Shelby Patton, who was killed while on duty in Wolseley, Sask., is laid out beside the RCMP detachment in Indian Head in June. His mother works for the RCMP, and says her co-workers are 'like my angels because if I need someone to talk to, I will have any one of them.' (Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A makeshift memorial for for Const. Shelby Patton, who was killed while on duty in Wolseley, Sask., is laid out beside the RCMP detachment in Indian Head in June. His mother works for the RCMP, and says her co-workers are 'like my angels because if I need someone to talk to, I will have any one of them.' (Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Melanie Patton says the last few months have been "terrible" for her and her husband, with waves of grief following the death of their son — a police officer killed in the line of duty.

Indian Head RCMP Const. Shelby Patton was killed on June 12, 2021, during a traffic stop in Wolseley, east of Regina. The vehicle he had stopped — a truck stolen in Manitoba — struck and killed the 26-year-old officer, according to police.

"It's hard," Melanie Patton said. "You never know when a wave will hit you, and it's hard to cope some days."

The news that one of the people arrested last June in connection with her son's death has now been charged with first-degree murder brought a sliver of relief, she says.

Two people from Winnipeg were initially charged with manslaughter. Those charges have now been withdrawn and replaced, RCMP said Friday.

Alphonse Stanley Traverse, 42, is now charged with one count of first-degree murder. Marlene Velma Louise Pagee, 43, now faces one count of accessory after the fact to murder.

Saskatchewan RCMP
Saskatchewan RCMP

"My initial reaction was relief because I felt as though it should have been that way in the very beginning," said Patton, who works as a civilian member of the RCMP in Stettler, Alta.

Her RCMP co-workers were upset by the initial manslaughter charges, "as they feel as though their lives are not as important," she said.

"They're out there doing jobs that normal people do not want to go out and do. You have to have some bravery to go out and do that sort of job."

Patton said she is focused on fighting to change the justice system.

"I just think that the courts need to hold these people more accountable for everything that they do," she said.

"We don't need to pamper them so much anymore. We've gone one way from being too hard on criminals to being too soft. So now we just have to rebalance it. Make it right. Meet somewhere in the middle. Make it so they don't want to go to jail."

Patton hasn't talked directly with court officials but does have a RCMP liaison that keeps her family up to date.

"They just said that truly, they never stopped working on the case. It was always something that they wanted to prove that it was murder one, but maybe didn't feel like they had enough evidence. Now they feel as though they do, so they're going to go forward with that."

She's also advocating for changes to ensure RCMP officers do not go out on calls by themselves, like her son did in June.

Defence attorney surprised by manslaughter charges

Brian Pfefferle, a Saskatoon-based defence attorney, said he was surprised when the accused were initially charged with manslaughter.

First-degree murder is usually defined as a killing that is planned and deliberate. Under the Criminal Code, though, the killing of an on-duty officer is generally automatically considered first-degree murder.

"If there's some unlawful act that was committed and the officer was in the line of duty, we would typically expect to see" that kind of charge, Pfefferle said.

"I assume that there must be something in the evidence that would suggest that it didn't meet the definition under the code," he said.

There may be details that haven't yet been made publice, such as statements or admissions, he said.

"Of course I'm speculating, but those are the sorts of things that we would we would typically see before for a standard first-degree murder charge."

Even with the new charges, though, Patton said it will be a tough Christmas for her and her husband, Ashley, and their daughter, Kaela.

"I'm not 100 per cent sure how we get through these kinds of events, but we do," she said, adding the family has received plenty of support from her RCMP colleagues.

"I say that they're like my angels because if I need someone to talk to, I will have any one of them," said Patton.

People from across Canada have reached out, "and there's been tremendous, tremendous support there," she said.

"It makes it so that I'm OK to go to work. I'm happy to do what I do.... And on my bad days, they hold me up."

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