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Arrests in murder come as a relief

Two charged in hotel clerk's death

Lynn Lau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Jan 21/02) - Police arrested two people Wednesday in connection with the death of a hotel night clerk last fall. Two Inuvik residents, Ronald Frank Sayers, 22, and Shelly Marie Elanik, 18, were jointly charged with second-degree murder.

Both are originally from Aklavik. Sayers had been working as a labourer at a Western Geco field camp, where he was arrested Wednesday. A family friend said Elanik, Sayers's common- law partner, had only moved to Inuvik within the last year.

The two are scheduled to appear in Yellowknife territorial court Jan. 29.

The arrests were made almost exactly three months from the day Keith Blair was killed in the early morning hours of Oct. 17, while he was working at the Mackenzie Delta Hotel.

A friend of the victim said he was glad to hear of the charges. "I'm personally relieved someone's finally been arrested," said Dave Rogers. "I think the whole town is relieved. People were really shook up about all this."

Blair was a quiet but well-liked man who suffered from a physical disability that made his movements awkward. The 46-year-old had just celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary with his wife, Ingrid Binder.

After his death, most of the hotel was closed for nearly a week while police sifted through what is said to have been a grisly crime scene. Although RCMP have released almost no information about the case, it is widely believed Blair was the victim of a botched robbery.

Vince Brown, with the Mackenzie Delta Hotel Group, last week confirmed that $2,100 in coins and small bills was stolen the same night Blair was killed. He said Sayers had been a one-time employee of the company back in 1999 or 2000, but that the victim did not know the two accused.

The charges last week coincided with a search in the wooded area behind the town's recreation centre.

Working with brush-cutters and flood lamps, eight police officers combed through the brush Tuesday and Wednesday, and one member was stationed overnight to guard the site.

"We're taking everything right down to the dirt and rocks," said Staff Sgt. Mark Wharton, working on site. He declined to give any details about the material that was recovered.

Inuvik officers were joined by a forensics expert from Yellowknife who arrived Tuesday.

With Loucheux Road blockaded for two days while officers conducted their search, the town was rife with rumours. Two callers phoned News/North last week to ask if a body had been found in the woods.

"We are not looking for a body," said Wharton. "And there's also a story that we've found money out there. We haven't."

The calls seem to reflect the nervousness of residents here, who had been waiting for months with no official word about the death. One of the callers said she has been afraid ever since Blair was killed.