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No charges three years later
Father and brother of teen found dead nearly three years ago demand perpetrators be exposed

Daniel Campbell
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 7, 2014

Thirty-three months ago 15-year-old Cody Dempster was found dead in a downtown alleyway.

NNSL photo/graphic

Lorne Dempster, left, and his son, Ryan Dempster, have been waiting three years for police to lay charges relating to the death of son and younger brother Cody Dempster. He was found dead in a downtown alley in 2011 after he was allegedly dosed with a fatal dose of drugs as part of a prank. - Daniel Campbell/NNSL photo

Yellowknife RCMP, after announcing his death was caused by foul play a year later, asked the public for help in its investigation. Since then, no new details have been released and no charges have been laid.

But Lorne Dempster, Cody's father, and Ryan Dempster, Cody's older brother, say they know

what happened to Cody. And the people responsible for his death freely walk the city streets to this day.

They contend that May 3, 2011, in a house downtown, a large amount of drugs were slipped into a drink and offered to Cody, who then drank it. This was presumably part of a prank. Those who did it then left and went to school.

When they returned to the house, they found Cody unresponsive, at which point they took him outside and placed him next to a dumpster in the area of 48 and 49 Street.

"They didn't mean to kill him," says Ryan.

"They wanted to recruit him. They wanted to get him on the street dealing with them," Lorne says.

Both said they know who's responsible for Cody's death, and they're frustrated no one has been charged or held accountable.

There's a sense many people in this town know what happened to Cody -- and it's not surprising, owing to the influence he had over so many.

Cody's childhood friend Andrew Rheaume says he was about six or seven years old when they met. They went to school together, hung around with the same group of friends and talked about what was to come.

Rheaume looked up to his friend.

"Nobody could ever get mad at the guy. Pretty much everyone knew him. He was the bright one out of all of us."

Rheaume sports a tattoo on his back commemorating his friend. It's not the only spot with the teen's name - the city is tattooed with Cody's epitaph spray-painted in alleyways and building faces.

Ryan, Cody's elder by five years, talks about his brother with a mix of admiration and frustration.

"Cody was popular because he didn't like following the rules, but he didn't force anyone else not to follow the rules," Ryan says.

"He didn't like listening to teachers. He didn't like the curriculum. He had no care for structure in school."

"It was something I couldn't go against because I was the same way."

Lorne remembers his son as fiercely independent, creative and competitive.

"Cody was very self-sufficient. He didn't need anything from mom or dad," Lorne said.

"He never asked for anything."

Cody's independence transcended solitude. Ryan tells of a young man who "grew up fast," but was able to reach out to his peers - the troubled ones, the impoverished - and make them feel better about what was happening to them.

"They relied on him for support," Ryan said.

"I would say Cody was open to anybody. I don't think Cody discriminated against anyone."

That openness, and willingness to be involved with others - all while remaining independent from most forms of authority - brought Cody to a place his brother had warned him about.

Rheaume remembers how he and Cody started hanging out with a different crowd of people in high school.

"I was definitely a little worried, because they weren't our real friends," he said.

"His friends were involved in that crowd and he went along with it," Ryan says.

Lorne says the new group was involved in drug dealing. Some of them being much older, they'd make relationships with local teens to assist them in their trade.

"To them, getting the younger ones, that's how they start them off and entrap them," Lorne said.

"It's a process. It's all buddy-buddy and I'm your best friend."

Ryan says he moved back home when he heard his younger brother wasn't being respectful around the house. For a while, it worked. Cody's rebelliousness cooled off and he began turning around. Ryan moved back out, but Cody's new group of friends remained. Ryan never knew his younger brother was with friends who were involved in hard drugs.

"The one thing he couldn't tell me was what was going on in his life near the end of it," Ryan said.

Rheaume, along with Ryan and Lorne, all say Cody's death was the result of a foolish game, played by those who should have been watching out for Cody.

"It is a game to them, it's funny for them. They got the money, they got the drugs, they do it for fun," said Lorne.

"If they were to call an ambulance there could have been a chance," said Rheaume, who wasn't with Cody at the time.

Afterwards the group tried everything they could to cover up what happened, Lorne explains. There was too much at stake -- they were young, had drugs and would avoid police at all costs.

Though whispers of what happened passed around school hallways afterwards, amongst the group, Lorne says, there was "a solemn oath not to mention a word."

The RCMP's major crimes unit in the Northwest Territories, based out of Yellowknife, handles cases like Cody's where foul play is suspected in a death.

The unit's eight members are currently focused on a murder investigation based out of Fort Simpson. While that investigation will take them away from cases like Cody's, Insp. Frank Gallagher, Yellowknife's detachment commander, said the members will get back to Cody's file eventually.

"It certainly does not get buried," Gallagher said.

Sgt. Eric McKenzie, the lead investigator on Cody's file, couldn't offer much comment on his investigation. He emphasized, though, the police are always looking for help from the public.

For two years after Cody's death, Lorne and Ryan visited McKenzie weekly, providing what information they could and trying to find out how the investigation was going.

Approaching the three-year anniversary of Cody's death, both show they're fed up with a justice system that has yet to provide results.

"They've left it aside, they put it aside and now they've probably missed 100 opportunities," Ryan said.

"It's not fair at all."

For Ryan, who sees the people he says are responsible for Cody's death around town, the lack of closure weighs down on him.

"These guys had three Christmases, three birthdays, seen a new year, seen the sun come up everyday - and they took my boy's life," Lorne says.

Ryan and Lorne say they aren't looking forward to a court sentence, they just want those responsible to be seen for who they are in the community.

"I'd like to have them exposed," Lorne said.

"So people know who they are and what they've done," Ryan said.

Anyone with information regarding Cody Dempster's death are encouraged to call the RCMP. Tips can be provided anonymously as well, by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

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