Janet (left) and Karen Johnson. (Shelley Woods Boden/Facebook)

Petition to keep Wells Gray murderer in jail garners 39K signatures and counting

Family and friends compiling victim impact statements to keep David Ennis behind bars.

Every two years, Tammy Arishenkoff prepares to start petitioning the government. She doesn’t need a reminder. The date – when her childhood friend and her family were murdered in Wells Gray Park – is etched in her mind.

She has one thought: to keep their murderer, David Ennis, formerly Shearing, behind bars.

“I don’t want to see other families have to go through this,” Arishenkoff said. “I don’t care if he’s allowed to have these parole reviews, he hasn’t served enough time for what he did to these families, that’s why we keep pushing forward.”

In 1982, Ennis murdered George and Edith Bentley of Port Coquitlam along with their daughter Jackie Johnson, her husband Bob and their two daughters Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, of West Kelowna, at a campsite in Wells Gray Park.

After shooting the four adults as they sat around a campfire, Ennis held the two girls captive for a week, sexually assaulting and torturing them before killing them. He then put all six bodies in the family car and set it on fire.

The family’s camper truck wasn’t found until 14 months after the murders, on an old logging road near Trophy Mountain. Police began to question suspects in Clearwater again, but it wasn’t until November 1983 that Ennis was taken into custody. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in April 1984 with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Since 2008, Arishenkoff relives the murder of her childhood friend, Karen, and her sister Janet. Every two years, she and the victims’ family and friends, have gone door to door, sharing a petition to persuade the Parole Board of Canada to keep Ennis behind bars.

The friends and family of the Johnson and Bentley families have established a core group of 12 people who have become “seasoned experts” at fomenting momentum when the time comes, said Arishenkoff.

“We never really got a rest,” said Arishenkoff. “You’d have a hearing, and then you maybe get a few months, and then you get the notice for the next hearing.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arishenkoff and the rest of the group were unable to petition door-to-door this year, but it didn’t stop them from trying to get the word out about Ennis’ parole hearing. She started an online petition and a Facebook group dedicated to bringing people together who would like to help.

In a little over a week, the change.org petition has garnered more than 39,000 signatures, more than doubling Arishenkoff’s original goal of 15,000. The petition will remain active until April 15.

In addition to the petition signatures, Arishenkoff, along with others in the group, will be putting together victim impact statements for the parole board to review.

Although the time between parole hearings has been changed to five years, potentially giving victims and their loved ones a break between hearings, she said it doesn’t get any easier. Every time, the wounds are re-opened and the memories re-lived.

Her friendship with the girls and their memory gives her motivation and strength.

It’s a lot to endure, even every five years, but she said every step they take is very important. She has nieces that are now in their 20s that remind her of Janet and Karen. When you’re close to somebody who dies in such a horrific way, she added, it messes you up, makes you angry and even more determined to see him stay behind bars.

“He’s already had more of a life than he gave them an opportunity to ever have,” said Arishenkoff, noting Ennis got married and has two kids. “He took all of that away from them…he gets to have visits with her and play house and live.”



newsroom@clearwatertimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Crime

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Special weather statement issued for Fraser Valley as first summer heat arrives June 20, 2021, and set to persist all week. (Photo by James Day on Unsplash)
Second day of hot temperatures rippling across Fraser Valley

Communities from Abbotsford to Hope will see daytime high maximum temps of 32 degrees

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read