WINNIPEG — Police have charged a suspect in the deaths of three men who lived on the streets in Winnipeg.
John Paul Ostamas is facing two charges of first-degree murder in the weekend deaths of Donald Collins, 65, and Stony Bushie, 48.
He is also facing charges of second-degree murder in the killing of another man earlier this month.
Police say Ostamas, 40, is the person of interest they were looking for. He was arrested on Monday on an unrelated assault charge and questioned.
Supt. Danny Smyth says the murder charges were laid based on security footage and after they interviewed Ostamas.
“Investigators have learned that John Paul Ostamas is very transient,” Smyth said at a news conference Tuesday.
“We know that he is originally from the Thunder Bay (Ont.) area. We also know that he has spent time in Winnipeg on and off for the past 10 years.”
Smyth said Ostamas did not have much contact with Winnipeg police other than a domestic assault in March. Investigators have learned that he has a record of multiple assaults in the Thunder Bay area dating back to 2002, Smyth said.
“Our investigators will be contacting police in other jurisdictions where Ostamas is known to have travelled.”
After Collins and Bushie were found, police issued a warning to Winnipeg’s homeless advising them to be careful, avoid secluded areas and walk with others if possible.
A friend of Bushie’s said he was a happy person who had only been in the city two weeks.
Martin Owens grew up with Bushie on the Little Grand Rapids First Nation northeast of Winnipeg. Bushie lived on the reserve during the winter and had just travelled to Winnipeg two weeks ago.
“He was always a happy kind of guy, always joking around,” said Owens, chief of the First Nation. “He would come out (to Winnipeg) and hang out with his friends and then go home. He just wanted to see his friends again.”
Owens said he saw Bushie a few days ago and offered to pay his way back to Little Grand Rapids any time he wanted to go home.
Bushie loved hunting and fishing, he said. Bushie’s mother taught him to live off the land and he was heartbroken when she died around 10 years ago, said Owens, who added Bushie is survived by an older brother and sister and never had any children.
His violent death is a shock, Owens said.
“I don’t even know how to describe it. He will be missed.”