Names of Chilliwack murder victims out there despite new RCMP policy

A roadside memorial placed next to the blueberry field on No. 2 Road in Abbotsford where Orosman Jr. Garcia Arevalo
A roadside memorial placed next to the blueberry field on No. 2 Road in Abbotsford where Orosman Jr. Garcia Arevalo's body was found on May 11.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

Mounties may not want to release the identities of murder victims, even long after family members have been notified, but names are made public anyway.

None of the three men killed in the last month in Chilliwack has been identified by the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT). And while that’s because of a new RCMP policy, two of the names are easy to find on social media and in the case of the third, it’s physically at the spot the body was found.

Vancouver Sun reporter Kim Bolan reported this week that IHIT’s Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound refused to release the name of a victim, and said “based on direction from our national HQ, we can release the vic name when there is an investigative need to do so.”

On May 11, blueberry farmer Boota Poonia discovered a dead body in his field just metres from the Vedder Canal on the Abbotsford side of Boundary Road.

Two days later, RCMP divers scoured the bottom of the Canal under the Keith Wilson Bridge in Chilliwack, but no information about the investigation has been released, including the name of the deceased.

But on Monday, members of the victim’s family, overcome with grief, were at the site where his body was discovered, asking a woman who lives on the property for the exact row he was found in. After asking for permission, they placed a cross with flowers, a teddy bear and jewelry on No. 2 Road.

The inscription on the cross reads: “Orosman Jr. Garcia Arevalo June 21, 1993 - May 10, 2016.”

There is little online trail of Garcia’s life. There was an obituary written in Spanish, since taken down. And there is his Facebook page with a few photos that says he is from Surrey and lives in Vancouver with a cover photo showing a combination of the flags of Cuba and El Salvador. While most officials say homicides such as this are targeted, stemming from the criminal underworld, a search of the Ministry of Justice’s Court Services Online shows no contact with the provincial court system by anyone of his age with any combination of the names found on his memorial.

The withholding of names is a recent move by the RCMP. Bolan reported that in 2015, IHIT publicly identified all but three confirmed murder victims in the region, according to an analysis by her newspaper.

In Chilliwack, despite widespread chatter on social media, and an arrest and public connection between victim and accused, no name was released in the May 3 stabbing death at Salish Plaza downtown.

But friends of the victim confirmed what became evident online with a RIP page on Facebook, that 49-year-old Rob Splitt was the victim. Known to his friends as “Igor,” Splitt, who was a grandfather, was well-loved, according to Facebook posts about him, but he was also well-known to police with an extensive criminal record.

At the scene, 63-year-old Gerald Leslie Dolman was arrested and later charged with second-degree murder.

IHIT also has never released the name of the victim in the shooting death that occurred in a small apartment on Princess near the corner of Nowell Street on April 18.

The Times quickly learned, something subsequently confirmed online based on numerous Facebook posts, that the victim was David Williams, a local First Nations man who attended Chilliwack secondary and who had connections to Washington State.

No one has been publicly named or identified as a suspect in his death.

The excuse for the refusal to release names, according to Pound is, at least in one case asked about by Bolan, that “there is no investigative need as we have the suspect identified and charged.”

This may be the case in Chilliwack in the Splitt homicide, but as yet police have reported nothing regarding the death of Garcia nor the death of Williams, although in this latter case sources tell the Times there is a suspect.

But as Bolan reported in the Sun, murder is not a private matter, according to Lisa Taylor, a lawyer and assistant professor at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism. In Canada’s legal system, it’s considered a crime “against the public at large,” and she said she’s seen a disturbing trend across the country to refuse to identify murder victims.

“This is a matter of public interest. The public should have all the information the public can possibly have,” she said, adding that it may feel like an intrusion on a family’s privacy, but it’s a small one in the scheme of things and pales in comparison to privacy concerns ignored in other public interest cases.

When police don’t provide much information about murder victims, public fear can be heightened, Taylor said.

- with files from Kim Bolan, The Vancouver Sun

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