A man has been charged with manslaughter over the death of Mark Patrick Ryan, more than a year and a half after Mark was killed in a Yellowknife apartment building.
On April 28, 2020, RCMP said a man had died in suspicious circumstances at a building on 53 Street and 50 Avenue. Pressed for an update a year later, police said in April 2021 they still had no suspect.
Last week, however, a man named Dean McNeely was charged with manslaughter in connection with Mark’s death. McNeely is next due in court on Friday. His lawyer, Kate Oja, said she had no comment.
Mark’s mother, Evelyn Bishop, lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She has spent the past 19 months trying to discover what happened to her son, who she said worked at the Ekati diamond mine and had lived in Yellowknife for 18 years.
“Thank God,” Bishop said on Tuesday, having been informed of an arrest in her son’s case.
“Finally, I can see something happen. I was driven crazy because I didn’t understand what was happening and why it was taking so long.
“I was thinking, are they even going to bother with anything? Eighteen months of living 24 hours a day with it on my mind. I couldn’t do anything.”
Bishop did do something, though. She placed call after call to follow the investigation and understand the delay.
“I’ve made a thousand phone calls to everybody to see: what is the problem? Why have they not got Mark’s results? It took 17 months to get Mark’s autopsy results,” she said.
“I’m told that until it goes to court, I will not find out what that report says.
“Why did it take so long? They said Covid, which was bullshit. Not 17 months. Covid had nothing to do with that for 17 months.”
Bishop, who praised police in the NWT for having kept in touch throughout the process, said she had been told no arrest could be made before Mark’s autopsy results were received. Most of the holdup in the investigation appears to be related to a delay in receiving those results.
Nobody in the Northwest Territories carries out autopsies so they are referred south to Alberta, NWT chief coroner Garth Eggenberger told Cabin Radio by email. That leaves the NWT dependant on Alberta’s case load.
“The length of time to receive an autopsy report varies on a case-by-case basis. In the majority of our cases, the autopsy report has been coming back within six to 10 months,” Eggenberger wrote.
“However, complex cases may require more time as the pathologist engages outside experts to provide an opinion on some aspect of the case and those results are incorporated into the autopsy report.”
RCMP, approached for more information regarding Mark’s case on December 8, December 10, and December 13, had no comment as of Wednesday morning.
‘I’ll never know why’
Court documents state McNeely is under an order not to contact seven people as he awaits his next preliminary court date. He is assumed innocent until proven guilty and has not yet had an opportunity to make his case.
Bishop said she had been told by the Crown prosecution service that the case may not proceed to court in earnest until 2023.
Her son, she said, was a quiet and respectful man, a Red Seal millwright who used his weeks away from Ekati to travel the world, exploring destinations like Thailand, Poland, Dubai, and Hawaii.
The two spoke by phone each day. The day before Mark’s death, they had spoken several times. “We were talking about Covid and things like that, just ordinary things,” said Bishop.
Mark was 35 when he passed away. He was unmarried, had no children, and had a sister, Shauna.
The detail of what happened on April 28, 2020 has yet to be explored in court.
Bishop’s understanding, recounted to Cabin Radio following her conversations with RCMP, is that a fight broke out in the apartment complex where Mark lived. He was hit in the face, she said, and fell unconscious. Nobody checked on him for some time, Bishop believes, after which they discovered he had gone cold. She understands he was pronounced dead at Yellowknife’s hospital.
For more than a year and a half, she has tried to cope with the trauma of losing her son and not knowing how, or when, anyone would be held to account for his passing.
“My life is just nothing any more, to be honest with you,” she said through tears on Tuesday.
“He was my only son. I really can’t believe it. How this could happen, I just don’t know. Or why. I guess I’ll never know why.”
James O’Connor contributed reporting.