Winnipeg Police have arrested Nicholas Bell-Wright, 22, and charged him with 2nd degree murder in the death of Cooper James Nemeth.
Bell-Wright was taken into custody early Sunday morning just hours after Cooper’s body was found in a bin behind a home on Bayne Crecent in the Valley Gardens area.
The River East Collegiate Grade 12 student went missing after leaving a hockey team party on Amelia Crescent in the early hours of Feb 14.
“Based on the preliminary examinations of the injuries on Cooper’s body, investigators believe he was murdered,” said Deputy Police Chief Danny Smyth. “Investigators also believe Cooper’s body was concealed in a sheltered area of the property on Bayne Crescent.”
Smyth said the owner of 10 Bayne Crescent was not involved and alerted police to a commotion. Police responded and discovered Cooper’s body in a bin that did not belong to the homeowner. The Deputy Police Chief indicated the murder did not take place at the home on Bayne Crescent, but was moved there from another location. Investigators made significant progress to the point where Bell-Wright was apprehended on Sunday morning and charged.
Smyth confirmed the search warrant executed at the residence at nearby 15 Treger Bay produced forensic evidence as well as a vehicle that is believed to be connected to the homicide and led to the arrest of Bell-Wright.
“When the Homicide Unit became involved, they started to re-interview many of the witnesses that had first provided information,” Smyth said.
“They just found some inconsistencies in the information and really started to dig, and it led them to the address on Treger Bay.”
There have been reports of a “drug deal gone wrong” in connection to the death, and while not providing details, Smyth said the crime was drug-related.
Bell-Wright does not have an extensive criminal record, only a prior conviction for assault, said Smyth.
Smyth also wouldn’t go into detail about how Cooper died.
“The disappearance and murder of this young man resonated far beyond the neighborhood where Cooper lived,” said Smyth. “I think it was important that we provide this briefing to the public today, but this investigation is ongoing and far from over.”
Reaction is pouring in over social media from friends, family and community members.
— Laresa Sayles (@laresasayles) February 21, 2016
Deepest condolences to the family & friends of Cooper Nemeth. And thank you to @wpgpolice & community members for their efforts.
— Mayor Brian Bowman (@Mayor_Bowman) February 21, 2016
Deepest condolences to the family and friends of young Cooper Nemeth. pic.twitter.com/ByzEOkbIG3
— Bear Clan (@bearclanmb) February 21, 2016
Cooper you will be missed. Any River East students needing support our Kodiak family is at Gateway. Please come down.
— River East (@kodiakathletics) February 21, 2016
Cooper’s High School, River East Collegiate, released this statement Sunday afternoon.
I am writing this letter to share some very sad news. We had shared with families previously that Cooper Nemeth, a River East Collegiate student, was missing. We were profoundly saddened to learn late last night that Cooper has passed away. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Cooper’s family and all those whose lives he touched.
Cooper’s death is a senseless loss that is devastating to us all. He was a young man with many friends who touched the lives of many. He will be dearly missed by his Kodiak family here at River East Collegiate. He had a passion for sport and his loss will also be felt by many in the hockey community, particularly those he had such close bonds with on the Marauders hockey team. He was looking forward to graduation in June and beginning a new chapter in his life.
We are sharing this information with our students so that they are aware of what has happened. Many students joined us at Gateway Community Center last night to mourn the loss of Cooper and share their favorite memories and stories. Counsellors, staff and divisional support personnel have been and will continue to be available to students, staff and parents on an ongoing basis. Please call the school at (204) 338-4611 if you would like to talk to someone.
The circumstances surrounding Cooper’s death are still under investigation by police. There may be reporters near the school as they investigate this story. Please reassure your children that they need not respond to any reporter’s questions if they are approached.
Finally, we appreciate the incredible outpouring of support as many joined the search efforts to bring Cooper home. Thank you to our Kodiaks, the many young people from other high schools, members of the hockey community, parents, community members, and businesses who showed an incredible level of caring and compassion in our community by tirelessly supporting this effort. Thank you also to the hard working members of the Winnipeg Police Service who worked so diligently in their investigation and continue to do so.
Our thoughts rest with Cooper’s family as they struggle to make sense of this tragedy. We encourage all in our Kodiak community to take care of each other as we strive to cope with this tremendous loss and to support one another.
Principal, River East Collegiate
Posthumus tells 680 CJOB there will be resources in place at the school this week to help console grieving students.
“We have a divisional crisis team that is available to us as well as a school-based crisis team that we work with,” says Posthumus. “With that comes our school counselors, resources teachers and classroom teachers who have been trained in some crisis response.”
Posthumus is encouraging students who are grieving to come to school saying it’s important for them to be together at this time.