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Guilty verdict brings closure

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 23, 2009

HAY RIVER - In Hay River, there was satisfaction with the guilty verdict levied against Emrah Bulatci, the man who gunned down an RCMP officer in the community last year.

"I'm ecstatic, I'm relieved and I'm happy for our community, the Worden family and the RCMP," said Mayor Kelly Schofield.

The mayor added the verdict was just and the sentence fits the crime.

Schofield said the community is still recovering from being shattered by the murder.

"This closes a chapter, but the book is not over by any means," he said.

Schofield said, for one thing, the town still has to decide on a memorial to Const. Christopher Worden.

The mayor said he would also like to see the drug-free zone already declared around schools extended to cover the entire downtown core.

Plus, he hopes to talk with the Department of Justice about making those zones more than symbolic with harsher penalties for drug activity.

Laura Rose, president of the Hay River Soup Kitchen, believes it was a good verdict.

Rose also said the town is still recovering from the murder.

"It's going to continue to be until the town gets a grip on the drug situation," she said, adding she sees people at The Soup Kitchen who are suffering from illegal drugs.

Rose said the community had a "really good head of steam" on intending to act against the drug problem after Worden's death, but more needs to be done than simply putting up 'Drug-Free Zone' posters.

Michele Stephens, a member of the informal Hay River Community Crime Prevention Committee, said the verdict restored her faith in the justice system.

The committee was established in the aftermath of Worden's killing.

Stephens said the crime has changed Hay River, adding people now have a heightened awareness of strangers and out-of-town licence plates.

"Basically, this murder stole our Mayberry," she said, referring to the idyllic small-town life depicted in the 1960s sitcom 'The Andy Griffith Show'.

"This took Hay River's innocence away," she said, adding that innocence is gone forever. The commanding officer of the RCMP in the territory called the two-year investigation an "onerous ordeal" at a press conference after the verdict.

Tom Middleton said the verdict brought some closure.

"It does not, however, lessen the pain of the loss" he said. "This is not only a fellow police officer, a friend, a colleague. There is a great deal of pain still with Chris' loss. That endures 'till today and it will continue to endure ... Time will help us heal but a lot of the testimony brings back those days, that's awfully hard to go through."

- with files from Elizabeth McMillan

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