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Heroes and Outlaws

Leask man charged in mass murder

Saskatoon Star Phoenix
August 21, 1967. p.1

By Don Harvey

NORTH BATTLEFORD (CP) - The RCMP announced Sunday that Victor Ernest Hoffman, 21, of the Leask district has been arrested in the slaying of nine members of the James Peterson family and will be arraigned in district judge's court in North Battleford today.

Inspector Brian Sawyer, in charge of the investigation, said Hoffman surrendered without a struggle at his home about 5:30 p.m. CST Saturday, some three hours after the funeral of Mr. and Mrs. Peterson and seven of their nine children at Shell Lake.

The family had been shot to death in their farm home near Shell Lake, 65 miles northeast of here, early Tuesday.

Inspector Sawyer said police found a .22-claibre Belgian Browning pump-action repeater rifle Friday and that tests at the RCMP ballistics laboratory in Regina "positively identified it as the murder weapon."

The inspector said Hoffman will be formally charged at today's hearing with the murder of Mr. Peterson, 47. He said the accused would probably be remanded to the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford for mental examination.

Other victims of the slaying were Mr. Peterson's wife Evelyn, 42, and their children, Jean, 17; Mary, 13; Dorothy, 11; Pearl, 9; William, 5; Colin, 2; and Larry, 1.

Four-year-old Phyllis, sleeping under the bedclothes between her two sisters, was unharmed.

The inspector said no motive had been established for the slaying.

"The arrest was the culmination of a very casual conversation that one of our members had with an individual and we decided it would be wise to check the Hoffman residence."

Leask is about 60 miles southeast of Shell Lake, a mixed farming community of about 250 persons.

Sawyer said the RCMP has advised Hoffman's parents to retain a lawyer for their son.

The inspector described Hoffman as single and of average build, about five feet eight inches tall and weighing about 165 pounds.

He said Hoffman "was not a bit scared" and behaved normally since his arrest.

Inspector Sawyer paid tribute to all the RCMP men who had worked on the case.

"This makes me very, very proud of being a member of this force, "he said. "Credit goes to the 75 men we had in the area as well as to many more at other detachments elsewhere."

He said most of the men in the immediate area had put in at least 18 hours a day since Tuesday. A few had worked as much as 36 hours without a break.

The mass slaying was discovered about 9 a.m. Tuesday by a neighbor who called at the isolated four-room house to ask Mr. Peterson for help with his haying.

Police said Mr. Peterson's body, clad only in undershorts, lay facing the kitchen door. The bodies of Mrs. Peterson and the baby were found in the yard and the remaining children were in bed. Each had been shot at least twice with .22-claibre bullets, many of them at close range.

Police said 28 bullets were fired, of which 27 found their mark.