PENTICTON, B.C. – The police search of a rural property in British Columbia’s north Okanagan where human remains were found is taking place in the same area north of Vernon where the RCMP recently warned female sex trade workers of a possible risk to their safety.
The RCMP have not linked the search of the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road to the public warning they issued on Oct. 13.
At that time, the Mounties warned in a news release of a “possible risk to the general public and women sex workers” after they arrested a man in relation to an alleged incident on Aug. 28 involving threats made to a woman.
Police say the “woman had attended a pre-arranged meeting” with the man in the area of Salmon River Road.
“The meeting had been set up via an online website utilized by escorts and sex workers,” police said in the statement.
“The victim reported to police that upon arriving at the agreed upon location in her own vehicle, the male suspect produced a firearm and threatened her. The victim was able to flee the scene unharmed.”
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says 36-year-old Curtis Sagmoen was charged Oct. 17 with disguising his face with intent to commit an offence, intentionally discharging a firearm while reckless, uttering threats, careless use or storage of a firearm, pointing a firearm, possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose and possession of a controlled substance.
He remains in custody and is scheduled to return to court on Thursday.
It is not known if Sagmoen has legal representation and The Canadian Press has not been able to find a lawyer who is representing him. None of the charges against him have been tested in court.
Moskaluk says a “heavy police presence” will remain at a property on Salmon River Road, about 38 kilometres north of Vernon, after human remains were found following the execution of a search warrant by police.
Moskaluk says information from the Salmon River Road property also led police to search roadsides, ditches and waterways about 15 kilometres north, near Highway 97B and Springbend Road.
The RCMP will not say who owns the property on Salmon River Road where the human remains were found.
Asked if the searches are related to the public warning, Moskaluk said he was not in a position to comment.
Five women have gone missing in the same area of the north Okanagan in the past 20 months.
Moskaluk said that as of Monday, police had not linked the search to any ongoing investigation. A number of families involved in missing-person cases have contacted police in recent days, he added.
“We have reached out and communicated with a variety of families and provided as much information as possible that we can at this time with respect to their loved ones.”
Meagan Louis, who lives in the area, helped arrange a rally Sunday to protest violence against women. She said organizers decided to push ahead with the event after learning that human remains had been discovered in the area in order to offer support to the public and the families of the women who are missing.
“It was just to let the police know that violence is not OK against women, and we don’t agree with it, as well as just to talk about it publicly with the community members of Silver Creek and Salmon River Road, just to express feelings about what is happening in their community,” she said, speaking by phone from Vernon.
Jody Leon helped organize Sunday’s rally and said she has heard from some of the families who were told by police that the weekend search is unrelated to their missing loved ones.
“If they say it’s not about missing women we have to respect that,” she said. “But it makes you wonder, because all around the periphery of where that investigation is going on, there are five women missing.”
The rally drew about 75 people, who gathered to drum, sing and share how they were feeling, Louis said.
She said her cousin Danita Faith Bigeagle went missing 10 years ago in Regina.
“I’ve sort of taken it and made it sort of a mission to bring awareness locally,” Louis said.
— By Beth Leighton and Geordon Omand in Vancouver.