2014: Year in Review

The News compiled top stories from around Abbotsford in 2014



January

A body found New Year’s Day on Whatcom Road in Abbotsford is confirmed to be that of missing woman Erica Schmidt. Schmidt left the home she shared with her husband Henry on Timberlane Drive on the morning of Oct. 5. A multi-day search was launched that included members of Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).

 

The man killed on Jan. 2 in Abbotsford’s first homicide of the year is identified as Matthew Gordon Campbell, 31, known to have ties to the Red Scorpions gang. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) confirms that Campbell was the victim of the attack. He had sustained severe neck wounds, which IHIT says appeared to be stab injuries, and was taken to hospital, where he died. IHIT spokesman Sgt. Adam Macintosh says Campbell was known to police for his criminal gang-related history, and the fatal assault is believed to be targeted.

 

The Abbotsford Heat’s operating deficit for the 2012-13 season will cost local taxpayers $1.66 million. The City of Abbotsford releases the numbers for year four of the 10-year supply fee agreement between the American Hockey League team and Global Spectrum, which manages the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) on behalf of the city. The announcement brings the total payout from the city to the hockey team to $5.24 million.

 

The city will repeal its controversial bylaw against harm reduction measures, after approving the third reading of an amendment removing the prohibition on services such as needle exchanges. The unanimous decision comes following a public hearing, where views on the issue are mixed. The city had been reviewing the policy since 2010, when the Fraser Health Authority and Hepatitis C Council of British Columbia called on the city to re-examine the bylaw, citing Abbotsford’s higher than average hepatitis C rates.

 

February

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announces an arrest and charges in the murder of Matt Campbell last month at the Fraser Valley Automall. Jimi Sandhu, 24, of Abbotsford is charged with second-degree murder. Sandhu is arrested in Vancouver. Supt. Kevin Hackett, the officer in charge of IHIT, says the arrest came as the result of a “fast-paced investigation … (that) has continued around the clock for the past 30 days.”

 

Recommendations released as part of a 20-year court expansion plan in the Fraser Valley include that a new 14-courtroom courthouse be constructed in Abbotsford by 2018. The courthouse is to include five B.C. Supreme Court courtrooms and nine provincial ones, according to the recommendation. The estimated cost of demolishing the current facility and constructing a new one is $63.7 million.

 

Eighty-one-year-old Harry DeJong passes away on Feb. 6 – a significant loss to the community he served for decades. Public service and agriculture were threads that ran throughout DeJong’s life – taking him from a Matsqui dairy farmer to the mayor of the community; to Victoria as the MLA for Abbotsford and minister of agriculture; to a longtime director and champion of Abbotsford’s Agrifair. Though he enjoyed working with his hands and could often be found out in the fields, his shop or his garden, his strong ethics and belief that he could improve his community encouraged him through a long career in politics.

 

A controversial proposal for a 20-bed housing facility for homeless men fails, following a tie vote at council. Abbotsford Community Services’ (ACS) rezoning application that would have paved the way for a low-barrier housing project at 2408 Montvue Ave., across from ACS headquarters, is denied after passionate debate from both sides. The proposed location faced strong opposition from the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and some community members, citing the location of the project in the C7 downtown zone, which specifically prohibits supportive housing.

 

March

The human remains found in Abbotsford on Feb. 16 along the banks of the Fraser River are identified as a man who has been missing from Vancouver since Septemeber 2011. Barry Hinchcliffe, 44, left his home in the 900 block of Expo Boulevard in Vancouver on Sept. 20, 2011. He was headed to a rural property he owned in Mission in the 12900 block of Sylvester Road. Hinchcliffe’s remains are found Feb. 16 by a citizen who was walking along the river in an area off Walters Street in Abbotsford.

 

A 32-year-old man is arrested after allegedly cooking methamphetamine on an apartment balcony. Abbotsford police respond to a report of a bad smell coming from an apartment on 22000 McKenzie Rd. Police arrive and notice the man on the third-floor balcony cooking with chemicals, producing what police suspect is methamphetamine. The suspect is washed down and then taken into custody. He is later released, and police recommend charges of production of a controlled substance.

 

A new society aimed at helping the homeless is launched in Abbotsford, with plans for a project that would see a transitional housing campground. At the annual general meeting of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA), the organization approves $10,000 in funding for the society. Paul MacLeod, former president of the ADBA and member of the society, says the money will help the group move forward on its plans to build a project similar in concept to Portland’s Dignity Village.

 

April

The city announces that it has paid $5.5 million to terminate the remaining five years of its 10-year supply fee agreement with the Abbotsford Heat hockey team. Mayor Bruce Banman says at a press conference that the amount is estimated to be half what it would have cost the city if the team had stayed.

 

A serial arsonist appears to be at work, after five fires occur within 48 hours in a relatively small geographical area. Two are set at abandoned homes, two are at businesses and one is at the home of a family of four.

 

Police use rubber bullets to take down a homeless man reported to be waving a knife in the parking lot of the Abbotsford Food Bank. A cellphone video shot at the scene later results in critics attacking police for their response.

 

May

Teachers in Abbotsford join the first phase of province-wide job action by cancelling recess. Schools begin 15 to 20 minutes later to compensate for the change.

 

Results of the 2014 Fraser Valley Regional District homeless count are released, showing that the number of homeless people in Abbotsford rose from 117 to 151 between 2011 and 2014. Later in the month, a transitional camp for the homeless is proposed on Valley Road off the Abbotsford-Mission Highway.

 

A 20-year-old Abbotsford man, Colby Drew Jandrew, is charged in connection with the series of arsons that occurred in April. He is charged with four counts of arson and one count of public mischief.

 

Six dogs originally reported stolen in Langley are found to have died in the care of their dog walker. Their bodies are retrieved by the SPCA from a ditch on Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford. Emma Paulsen is later charged and pleads guilty. Her sentencing hearing is set for January.

 

Iknoor Sidhu, 5, dies in hospital the day after being struck by a car in a laneway just north of the 31500 block of Blueridge Drive.

 

June

Dustin MacKenzie, 11, dies after being struck by a vehicle while longboarding on Bevan Avenue near Crescent Street. A memorial service is held in Jubilee Park.

 

A 23-year-old man barricades himself in a townhouse suite on Bourquin Crescent East and fires multiple shots, resulting in police surrounding the building. Nobody is hurt, and he surrenders about two hours later. Justin Korelus is later charged with several offences but found not criminally responsible for his actions.

 

Teachers in Abbotsford and across the province begin a full-scale strike on June 17, resulting in an early end to the school year.

 

Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen, 17, is announced as the Vancouver Canucks’ sixth overall pick in the NHL entry draft, becoming the first B.C.-born first-rounder taken by the team since Cam Neely in 1983.

 

July

The blasts of propane cannons on berry farms continue, as council cannot find consensus on new regulations for the controversial devices. A proposed bylaw to limit the use of propane cannons in Abbotsford was denied provincial approval in June, and council couldn’t find internal agreement on a less stringent set of rules. A tie vote defeats the proposed regulations. Council calls on staff to report on efforts to start a regional starling management program to lessen the impact of the invasive bird species on crops.

 

Abbotsford Police investigate a conflict between two groups of young men that spans the previous couple of months and racks up more than 25 incidents of property damage to homes and vehicles. Police are uncertain what started the problem, but it isn’t gang- or drug-related. The majority of the activity involves damage to homes or vehicles connected in some way to participants in the conflict.

 

A fire at Maan Farms is investigated as suspicious. When Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service crews arrive on the scene, the main barn on the property is engulfed in heavy flames. At the peak of the blaze, flames shoot about 60 feet into the sky. It takes crews several hours to get the blaze under control. The barn housed the farm’s offices, winery, “country kitchen” and main store.

 

Gladys Avenue is busy as eviction day arrives for residents of a homeless camp. The area fills with people, vehicles, carts and recycling company trucks during the eviction of homeless camps along the street. Many residents of the camps spend the day moving items out of the area, following an eviction notice set for July 31 from BC Hydro, which owns the land. A number of citizens turn out with signs expressing support for the homeless.

 

August

The B.C. Ministry of Environment looks into a leak from a local business that poured iron oxide into Matsqui Slough, turning the waterway a reddish-brown colour. The slough has an intense rust colour at Harris Road, where it passes metres from a sign declaring it a salmon habitat. Iron oxide is a common compound, and is widely used as a colouring agent. It also occurs naturally as rust.

 

The $25-million infrastructure project to upgrade Highway 11, improve border traffic, and build a new overpass across Vye Road is delayed. When first announced, the project was expected to go to construction in 2014, with completion in the fall of 2016. The timeline is adjusted because the city is still negotiating agreements with CP and Southern Rail to cross the rail tracks at McConnell Road, and the process has taken longer than anticipated.

 

Jeremy Witmer, 21, leaves for Stanford, Calif., where he will begin a five-year PhD program in applied sciences at Stanford University. All his costs will be covered for the program after Witmer received a Stanford Graduate Fellowship in Engineering and Science – the most prestigious award the university hands out to an incoming graduate student. It is one of several PhD programs to which the 2009 Yale Secondary grad is accepted after achieving a perfect score of 990 on the physics graduate record exam.

 

A woman who won a large jackpot at the Abbotsford gaming centre on Aug. 12 can keep her money after the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) backtracks on an order to return more than $3,000. Two days after Cathryn Ward thought she won the money, she was told that the casino overpaid her and that she had to pay back the cash. After first threatening Ward with police action, BCLC backs down and lets Ward keep the money.

 

September

Tinker the mare has a frightful afternoon, but can thank members of Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service (AFRS) for turning her day around. Fire crews find Tinker in a water-filled ditch with her back legs wedged into the muddy bottom. After a veterinarian administers a sedative to calm down the horse, crews are able to position a sling system around Tinker and lift the animal out of the ditch using their strength and a rope system. A quick check from the veterinarian ensures Tinker has no broken bones, and she is able to stand as if nothing untoward had taken place.

 

Council votes to approve in principle Abbotsford’s draft action plan to address homelessness. The plan notes the importance of facilitating a housing-first approach, focused on getting people housed rapidly with no readiness requirements, such as being drug- or alcohol-free. One recommendation is for the city to hire an experienced housing and homeless co-ordinator.

 

A tentative deal between teachers and the province to end the ongoing strike sends administrators scrambling to prepare for the return of students. Mediator Vince Ready announces the agreement after five days of talks at a Richmond hotel. The province’s 60 school districts prepare to return to regular classes after five weeks of full-scale strike action that began in June.

 

Mayor Bruce Banman says the city has taken calls regarding the availability of Abbotsford Centre, but that it needs to be careful before signing up a new major tenant. Banman is at the former home of the Abbotsford Heat for a press conference to introduce the centre’s new general manager, Andrew Nash, and announce that the arena will see more use from minor hockey and other community groups.

 

October

A Vancouver courtroom erupts in applause as a judge finds two men guilty of planning and carrying out the execution of six men in a Surrey apartment seven years ago. Cody Haevischer and Matt Johnston are convicted of conspiracy to murder drug dealer Corey Lal and of the first-degree murder of Lal, his brother Michael, Eddie Narong, Ryan Bartolomeo and innocent victims Ed Schellenberg of Abbotsford and Christopher Mohan of Surrey.

 

When gunfire rings out in Parliament Hill in October, Abbotsford’s Ed Fast is among the Conservative MPs attending a caucus meeting in a nearby room. The attack begins with the shooting of a Canadian soldier stationed at the nearby National War Memorial. Fast and fellow MPs are uninjured in the incident, which ended when the gunman was shot and killed.“It’s something that you don’t expect to happen in Canada,” Fast says while still in lockdown.

 

Eighteen-year-old Harwindip (Harwin) Baringh is discovered shot to death inside an SUV west of Goldfinch Street. Neighbours report hearing and/or seeing one or two vehicles speeding away from the scene — a newer white Acura TL and a dark-coloured sedan. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) has not released any new information on the murder, including whether it is linked to a conflict that has been occurring in that area of Abbotsford since May.

 

November

Henry Braun wins the race for the mayor’s chair in the 2014 municipal election — beating incumbent mayor Bruce Banman by 577 votes, or less than two per cent. For council, four incumbents are re-elected: Patricia Ross, Les Barkman, Moe Gill and Dave Loewen. The four new councillors are all members of the AbbotsfordFirst slate: Ross Siemens, Brenda Falk, Kelly Chahal and Sandy Blue.

 

After deliberating for four hours, a jury finds Robert Adam Van Dusen not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 killing of Ryan Saint Ange.Van Dusen had been accused of taking the final shot that ended Saint Ange’s life in 2012. But after a trial lasting more than five weeks, a jury of seven women and five men finds they couldn’t convict Van Dusen of Saint Ange’s murder.

 

Nick Taylor hoists the coveted bronze rooster in Jackson, Miss., after winning the PGA Tour Sanderson Farms Championship. Taylor, 26, is the first Canadian-born golfer to win a Tour event since  2007, and the first-ever Abby golfer to do so. The victory meant a pay day of $720,000 for Taylor.

 

December

A decades-old cold case investigation is back on the front page when Garry Taylor Handlen, 67, is arrested in Surrey and charged with the first-degree murders of Kathryn-Mary Herbert, 11, of Matsqui in 1975 and Monica Jack, 12, of Merritt in 1978. Police say that Handlen had been a “person of interest” early in the investigations into the two murders, but it had taken years to gather enough evidence to support charges.When Handlen makes his first court appearance in provincial court in December, gasps are heard from the 30 or so family members of the two girls as they see him for the first time.

 

An avian flu outbreak in Abbotsford and surrounding areas prompts several countries, to close their borders to local poultry products. The virus has now been detected at eight Abbotsford farms. Seven countries have now imposed restrictions on Canadian poultry, including the U.S. and Mexico. Officials stress that avian influenza poses little danger to humans, and that all poultry is safe when prepared correctly.

 

Police reveal that the woman whose body was discovered was discovered in Mill Lake Park in July died from inhaling the contents of “gas duster” used to clean electronic equipment. Const. Ian MacDonald says many people assume the products – used to clean keyboards and electronic equipment – contain only “canned air” and are harmless to inhale. However, the products contain chemicals such as tetrafluoroethan and difluoroethane, which can have devastating effects on the lungs, central nervous system and brain when inhaled.

 

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