Reg. # 12690, Cst. Willis Edward RHODENISER
August 26, 1939, near Carlyle, Saskatchewan Age: 28 years
Hangman “Ellis” of Toronto flew into Regina on Thursday evening, July 4, 1940. At one the next morning, he waited on the gallows of the Regina Jail for 35 year old Nelson Sammy to arrive from his death cell, a few short paces away. When Sammy appeared, he was accompanied by two Protestant Ministers who preceded him up the steps of the platform. Sammy, an Indian from the White Bear Reserve in the Moose mountains of southeast Saskatchewan, stood stoically while Hangman Ellis adjusted the black cap over his head and fastened the noose around his neck. At 1:l5 am, the trap door was sprung and Nelson Sammy dropped to his death.
Nelson Sammy died for the murder of Cst. Willis RHODENISER, ten months before. When Sammy went to the gallows, he was also serving three concurrent 20 year terms for manslaughter in the gunshot killings of his wife, Ruth, and her mother and father.
Sammy’s trail of blood began in August 1939. He’d been having marital troubles with his wife and suspected her of seeing other men. They argued often after Ruth left a newborn baby at the Indian hospital at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. Their last argument occurred in their tent at a camp on the Reserve where they were cutting marsh hay. They argued violently in the morning of Friday, August 25, and, that afternoon, Ruth took their two children, Florence and Priscilla, and fled to the home of Gladys McArthur, her niece.
Nelson Sammy had long held a grudge against Ruth’s parents, who were known simply as “Old Shewak” and “Old Lady Shewack.” He resented it when they encouraged Ruth to return home to them whenever she and Nelson had trouble. Sammy suspected they would be sheltering her this time too, so the first place he went looking for his wife was at the Shewacks . . . and he took his high powered rifle with him.
Nelson Sammy and a gun were a dangerous combination. Sammy hunted for a living and he was known as the best rifle shot on the Reserve. When he came upon his mother-in-law in her yard, he asked her where his wife was. Old Lady Shewack didn’t answer and he shot her dead. Seeing that his wife wasn’t there, he left. Further down the road, Sammy came upon Old Shewack and shot him dead without uttering a word to him. After that, he went and got his bicycle and rode around looking for his wife and children.
It was dark when Nelson Sammy got to Gladys McArthur’s place. He looked in the door of her two-room shack and saw his wife, Ruth, illuminated by the light of a kerosene lamp. She was sitting at the table between her two girls. Sammy raised his rifle and shot her through the heart. The two girls ran for cover, one of them jumping out the window. Glady’s husband, John McArthur, who was a long time friend of Nelson, came out to talk to him. Sammy asked him to go back and see how Ruth was. McArthur did, and came out and told Sammy that she was dying. Nelson Sammy said, “I love my wife but those people took her away from me.” Then he left, pushing his bicycle beside him. He called back that he still had ammunition and he intended to kill more people.
When the RCMP were notified, a posse was organized to find Nelson Sammy.
Saturday morning, August 26, three squad cars of Mounties arrived on the scene. They were joined by the Police dog “Tell” and his handler, Cst. RHODENISER, who were brought in from Yorkton, Saskatchewan.
On Saturday evening, an 80 year old Assiniboine Indian named Wasegenas reported to the Indian Agent on the Reserve that he had seen Nelson Sammy near his barn. A number of officers were sent in that direction and Cst. RHODENISER and Tell went along with them to try and pick up his scent. Once they got there, Tell was onto it immediately. As darkness set in, the search party followed Sammy’s trail westward into the thickly wooded bluff country of that region. It wasn’t very long before Tell, running off the leash, gave his one clear bark that indicated that he had trapped his quarry. Concerned for the safety of his dog, Cst. RHODENISER ran towards him and, in his haste, made the mistake of turning on his flashlight. A shot rang out, and a bullet ripped into the constable’s chest. RHODENISER responded with several shots from his revolver, as did other members of the posse, and Sammy was soon badly wounded and captured. But Cst. RHODENISER was mortally wounded and died in the bush where he lay. Tell stayed beside him until his master was taken away in an ambulance.
Nelson Sammy was taken to the Brock Union Hospital in Arcola where, in time, he recovered from his wounds. Later, he was tried and convicted for the manslaughter of his wife and her parents and then for the murder of Cst. RHODENISER. This set up his May date with Mr. Ellis.
Cst. RHODENISER was sorely missed by the Force. He was an exceptional doghandler who was rated by his training school instructor as being “ . . . a good handler, in fact, all that can be desired.”
Cst. RHODENISER was born in Farmington, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia on
March 11, 1911 to Wallace and Elva (nee Crouse) RHODENISER. His siblings are Winfield, Earle, Warren, Vera, Hilda, Helen, Lola and Carrie. He was employed as a farmer prior to his engagement as an RCMP on July 2,1935. He trained and served at Rockcliffe, Edmonton, Regina, Calgary, Canora and Yorkton. He partnered with his dog Tell in October 1938. Cst. RHODENIZER was a single man and his body was escorted home to his father in Nova Scotia. On September 2, 1939, a Regimental Service was conducted by Rev. B.G. Smith, pastor of the New Germany Baptist Church and he was interred in Parkdale Cemetery, Lunenburg County with full military honours.
(Personnel File Reviewed – Photo on newspaper clipping held on Personnel File.)
On May 8, 2008, as a result of the efforts of Reg. # 26182, S/Sgt. G. W. ANDERSON (retd), a ceremony was held at the Carlyle detachment where a plaque was erected on the outside wall of the building at the front entrance to honour Cst. RHODENISER. In attendance at the ceremony was A/Comm. D. McFADYEN, Commanding Officer of
‘F’ Division, Supt. C. GIBSON, Officer in Charge of Community Policing, Sgt. Major R.K. BURT, S/Sgt. R. FRAME, South District NCO, S/Sgt. K. WILCOX, NCO I/C Carlyle Detachment and others from Carlyle Detachment (Cpls. R. KUHN & C.
WALTER, Csts. J. CROWLEY, D. REDEKOPP, G. WALTER, T. LEWIS, D. PEACH, C. HANSEN and PSEs S. BUCKMASTER & J. TRIPPE) Dog Handlers, Sgt. G. HIGNELL &
‘Maverick’ and Cst. G. STEBANUK & ‘Sherlock’. Also in attendance was Reg.
#17871, Sgt. E.A. KUHN (retd) and ex-member Reg. # 20081, Cst. G. RIDGEWAY. Cst. RHODENISER’s family still live in Nova Scotia – sisters Lola Conrad and Carrie Corkum and brothers, Earl and Warren Rhodeniser.