BATTLEFORD – The Battleford Court of Queen's Bench erupted into applause Tuesday when Justice Brenda Hildebrandt found Nikita Sandra Cook guilty of killing Tiki Laverdiere.
A non-jury trial for Cook, 33, ran from Sept. 7 to Oct. 5, 2021, and Justice Hildebrandt ordered a ban on publication on everything from Cook’s four-and-half-week trial except the results.
Nikita Cook didn’t show emotion and sat throughout with her arms crossed or picking at the ends of her pony tail.
Fifty minutes into the judge's four-hour oral decision, Laverdiere’s mother Carol left the courtroom in tears. Laverdiere’s two sisters and supporters were also at the courthouse for the verdict.
Cook was convicted on a first-degree murder charge and she was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Laverdiere was reported missing to Battlefords RCMP on May 12, 2019.
On June 10, 2019, RCMP announced that Laverdiere’s disappearance was the result of foul play and they would be investigating her disappearance as a homicide. One week later, Cook cut off her ankle monitor that she was wearing for other unrelated charges, and fled her residence in North Battleford. She was arrested two months later and additionally charged with Laverdiere’s murder.
The 10 accused
Cook, from Onion Lake Cree Nation, is one of 10 people charged with Laverdiere’s murder.
Jesse Sangster, Nicole Cook, Soaring Eagle Whitstone, Shayla Orthner, and Danita Thomas were charged with kidnapping, first-degree murder, improperly interfering with a body and theft of a vehicle.
Nikita Sandra Cook and Charles St. Savard were charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Brent Checkosis, Mavis Takakenew and Samuel Takakenew were charged with accessory to murder after the fact.
In October 2021, Sangster was additionally charged with possession of property, a tractor, obtained by crime over $5,000, and failing to comply with a release order. The charges stem from the time frame of Laverdiere’s murder. The details are under a publication ban.
At the time of Laverdiere’s murder Nicole Cook, Jesse Sangster, Charles St. Savard, and Samuel Takakenew were living in Edmonton. Soaring Eagle Whitstone and Nikita Sandra Cook were from Onion Lake Cree Nation. Shayla Orthner, Danita Thomas, Brent Checkosis, and Mavis Takakenew were living in North Battleford.
Laverdiere knew her accused killers
Laverdiere, who was from Edmonton, was in Saskatchewan April 2019 for the funeral of 20-year-old Tristen Cook-Buckle on Thunderchild First Nation. Both Laverdiere and Cook-Buckle were from Edmonton. His body was found burned in a vehicle near Vegreville, Alta., on April 5, 2019. Edmonton Police believe Cook-Buckle was murdered behind a house near 92 St. and 110 Ave. in Edmonton.
Those already sentenced
In May 2020, Brent Checkosis was sentenced to seven years in prison.
On Aug. 23, 2019, Brent Checkosis was stabbed in a high-security gang range of the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
Jesse Edward Philip McKenzie, 22, and Kihiw Jason George Fourstar, 19, pleaded guilty in Saskatoon Provincial Court Feb. 12, 2020, to aggravated assault and possession of a homemade knife for a dangerous purpose in relation to the stabbing of Checkosis.
In February 2020, the Crown dropped numerous weapons charges against Checkosis. The charges were unrelated to Laverdiere’s murder.
In May 2020, Mavis Takakenew was given 18 months and she has since been released from prison.
In January 2021, St. Savard was sentenced to 14 months and 20 days after pleading guilty to unlawful confinement. The charge of first-degree murder was withdrawn.
The charges against the remaining co-accused haven’t been proven in court.
There is a ban on publication of all preliminary hearings, trials, and sentencing hearings until the trials of all the co-accused are concluded.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Chris Browne and Charlotte Morden are prosecuting the cases against all of the accused charged with Laverdiere’s murder.
No arrests have been made in Tristen Cook-Buckle’s murder.
If anyone has any information about Tristen Cook-Buckle’s homicide they are urged to contact the Edmonton Police at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm
- April 5, 2019: Alberta RCMP find the body of Tristen Cook-Buckle in a burned out car near Vegreville. Edmonton Police believe he was murdered on April 4, 2019, behind a house of 92 Street and 110 Ave.
- April 27, 2019: Laverdiere attended Cook-Buckle’s funeral on Thunderchild First Nation.
- April 30, 2019: Laverdiere posted on Facebook: “Anyone going to Edmonton from north battleford? Inbox me plz!”
- May 12, 2019: Laverdiere was reported missing to Battlefords RCMP.
- June 10, 2019: The RCMP said Laverdiere’s disappearance was the result of foul play.
- July 11, 2019: A police dog finds human remains in a rural area outside of North Battleford while RCMP were conducting a ground search.
- July 17, 2019: RCMP announced the remains were that of Laverdiere.