The mayor of Choiceland, Sask., was at his auto shop on 1st Street on Friday morning when a passerby asked him if he knew what was going on a few blocks away at a house on Railway Avenue.
"First thing this morning, there was a forensic team there and then later on a funeral home vehicle. So I knew there had been a death," Mardell said.
A 37-year-old woman died and a person of unspecified age was taken into custody at the scene, according to an RCMP press release. Neither person has been publicly identified.
A major crimes unit has launched a serious death investigation and police have released few other details so far.
Mardell said he knows the families involved and that he went to the home to offer support.
"I found out that the gentleman that owned the house was alive and grieving with his family," he said.
"So I went to the family to see if there was anything the community could do for them. And they said they already had a counselor coming. I gave them my condolences and said if there was anything the community could do for them to just let me know."
Choiceland is a small town nestled above a railway line in northeast Saskatchewan, about 110 kilometres from Prince Albert. Railway Avenue is its main drag: town office, co-op store, saloon, cafe, grain elevator on the west side, and the K-12 William Mason School at the road's eastern end. The 2016 census recorded only 359 town residents, down from 381 five years before.
The school sent out a letter to parents Friday morning saying it was informed of a "tragic event involving one of our WMS families."
"All our children are known by every parent and grandparent here," Mardell said. "And when a tragedy like this occurs, it affects everyone."
Mardell's been the mayor for more than a decade and this is not the first tragedy the town has had to weather over the last few years, he said.
In November 2016, seven-year-old Nia Eastman went missing after her father didn't drop her off as planned at her mother's house in Choiceland.
The girl's body was found in a home in the community and the RCMP later said autopsy results confirmed she was the victim of an apparent murder-suicide committed by her father Adam Jay Eastman.
"This community has seen tragedy before, and we use everybody else to gather strength from and we lean on each other as much as we can," Mardell said.
"Hopefully we can, with time, get past this event as well."
Mardell said he felt for responding RCMP members too. The RCMP release about the woman's death stated officers based in Nipawin, located about 42 kilometres away, were dispatched to the Choiceland scene.
"They take it home as well," Mardell said of officers.