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Shaken PEI community prays for victims in Alberta highway shooting

RCMP examine a car at the side of Highway #2, 130 kms south of Calgary after two bodies were discovered and two others were taken to hospital in critical condition early this moring.

CHRIS BOLIN / FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL/chris bolin / The Globe and Mail

While soft light filtered through flurries of snow into the large sanctuary of a church near Charlottetown, parishioners were asked Sunday to pray for the families of everyone killed in last week's murder-suicide.

The parents of Mitch MacLean, one of four dead following Thursday's rampage, normally worship here. They were absent this day but the tragedy was front of mind for many. Grief had reached across the country – from a remote highway thousands of kilometres away in Alberta to this rural suburb – and shaken everyone here.

Mr. MacLean, a promising young ball player, was one of three people murdered by Derek Jensen, police said. Also killed were his friend Tanner Craswell, another ball player from PEI, and Tabitha Stepple, who until recently had been in a relationship with Mr. Jensen. Wounded but expected to recover was Shayna Conway, Mr. Craswell's girlfriend. All five people were in their early 20s

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According to police, the murderer finished the rampage by turning his gun on himself.

Although the church service in PEI made few explicit references to the tragedy, it was impossible not to read greater meaning into several elements of the liturgy.

A line about those carrying burdens through Advent took on additional relevance given the pre-Christmas tragedy. And while the pastor said a plea calling on people to pray for "those across the street and those across the oceans" had been written weeks ago, he acknowledged the added resonance given the proximity of the MacLean family's house.

Funerals for Mr. MacLean and Mr. Craswell are expected to be held later this week on PEI. On Monday afternoon hundreds are expected to congregate at their old high school in Charlottetown for a memorial game of catch.

No parents of the fatal victims have spoken publicly yet.

The story of what happened in those early hours of Thursday can be pieced together by witnesses statements and the official account released Saturday by police, which confirmed several elements that had been widely reported while denying others.

The young men had spent the past year or so in Lethbridge, attending school, going to the local Prairie Baseball Academy and playing summer ball. They had a flight from Calgary to PEI for Christmas booked for early Thursday and decided to stay in Lethbridge one last night to celebrate Mr. Craswell's birthday.

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Police have not confirmed witness reports of an altercation between Mr. Jensen and Ms. Stepple during that Wednesday evening celebration. But police said that later, while the young athletes were driving to Calgary with Ms. Stepple and Ms. Conway, Mr. Jensen was in the same area, looking for his ex.

He found them in the small community of Claresholm and, according to police, crashed his vehicle into theirs.

"Shayna Conway stopped the vehicle she was driving and exited," the police statement said. "It is unknown at this time if she was aware of who had collided with her. Derek Jensen exited his vehicle as well and shot Shayna Conway numerous times."

According to police, Mr. Jensen then fired "numerous rounds" into the car, killing Mr. Craswell and Ms. Stepple where they sat. Mr. MacLean was hit but managed to get out of the vehicle and was found in a nearby ditch. He died on his way to hospital.

All the shooting was done with a 9 mm pistol, according to police, who said there were two other loaded weapons, a 12 gauge shotgun and a rifle, in Mr. Jensen's vehicle. Police later seized another weapon from the residence Mr. Jensen had shared with Ms. Stepple. All four weapons had been properly registered.

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