A decade ago the province had only just recovered from the shooting deaths of two Mounties in Spiritwood.
Weeks later, Saskatchewan was rocked by another tragedy – one that would change the life of a little boy from Whitewood.
The province’s first Amber Alert was issued late into the night of July 30, 2006. Zachary Miller and another boy hadn’t been seen since lunchtime that day when they had gone off cycling.
Miller’s mom would later find the bikes abandoned. She called police, who issued the first amber alert in Saskatchewan.
That’s when people in the province first heard of known-pedophile Peter Whitmore.
It was learned Whitmore had travelled to Whitewood from Manitoba with a 14-year-old, who cannot be identified, and told various stories about who the teen was during a week-long stay in the community.
At some point that week, Whitmore met the Miller family.
Two days of frantic searching followed as people in Canada began to fear the worst.
“The level of concern is extremely grave at this time,” Sgt. Tammy Patterson said at the time. “We believe the victim may come to harm.”
People in Whitewood came forward, saying they recognized Whitmore from speaking with him.
“The picture they had posted, that’s the guy. That’s the guy that was here,” said Kevin White, who ran a dealership in town.
Shortly before 1 p.m. on Aug. 1, businessman and farmer Pat Beaujot checked an abandoned building on the land of Geraldine Varjassy. He saw not only tracks, but also the van described in the Amber Alert.
RCMP were quick on the scene near Kipling. As Beaujot and an officer were talking, Zach Miller made the run of his life.
“They are just gonna remove me from the premises and the man is in the area and the little boy was found and that is all I can tell you right now,” Varjassy told News Talk Radio live on the air that day. “He’s OK.”
It was confirmed by the RCMP shortly after.
“My son had done everything that I knew he would to get away, and he did. He is a very strong little boy and he will get better,” said Miller’s dad, Lyle, through tears.
Whitmore and the 14-year-old teen were still holed up in the farmhouse.
Once again on the airwaves, Whitmore’s lawyer Daniel Brodsky called in to get a message to his client.
“If you are in the farmhouse, time to surrender Peter. If you aren’t in the farmhouse and are in the area, go to the nearest police station, walk through the front door, tell them you are Peter Whitmore and then call me,” Brodsky said.
Around 5:30 p.m. that day, a News Talk Radio reporter described seeing the little boy arrive at Regina General Hospital, looking tired and pale, but also swinging his arms as kids want to do.
The stand-off with police ended peacefully around 11 p.m. The 14-year-old appeared first, followed by Whitmore 10 minutes later.
In 2007, Whitmore was convicted and given a life sentence for his horrific crimes against Miller and the teen, which were described in heartwrenching detail in court.
Whitmore is now eligible for parole, but has not yet applied for it.
In early 2016, Miller sought to have his name released so he could tell his story and help others who may have gone through the same thing.
“I have a voice and I am tired of this happening to children. I learned not to blame myself for what happened to me,” he said.