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Sentencing for Penticton man involved in ID and mail theft delayed

Mail, ID thief awaits fate

A Penticton man who has pleaded guilty to numerous charges involving stolen property, mail theft, cheques and probation breaches may have just a few months left to spend behind bars once his sentencing finally concludes.

In Penticton Provincial Court Wednesday, Mark Anthony Stewart, 39, appeared via video from custody for a sentencing hearing, having pleaded guilty to a string of criminal instances stretching back to 2020.

Court heard that in the early hours of the morning on Dec. 24, 2020, RCMP responded to the Penticton IGA store on Government Street, after reports of two suspects breaking into a mailbox. They fled in a white Ford Bronco.

Later that same day, an RCMP member noticed a vehicle with the same description driving in the area. The Bronco's license plate matched one that hat been reported stolen earlier in the month.

RCMP members converged on the car, and recognized Stewart as having been the driver of the car on previous occasions, arresting him for possession of stolen property.

Inside the Bronco, police found cheques and other mail that appeared to have been stolen from the Government Street mailbox earlier that morning. Charges against Stewart were approved, and police said they hoped the charges would "have a direct impact, and help prevent these kinds of thefts from re-occurring.”

Stewart was released on bail conditions. Then, on January 6 2021, around 10 a.m. in the morning an RCMP officer on patrol noticed a distinctive station wagon parked at the Government Street property Stewart was known to live at.

Later, he noticed the same vehicle with its engine running outside the TD Bank on Main Street, and when a fellow officer did a drive-by, they recognized Stewart behind the wheel.

When the car left the bank, after a person left it and got in the passenger seat, cops pulled it over and arrested Stewart for breaching his driving prohibition.

A wallet in Stewart's pocked contained ID from an Okanagan man that had been previously reported stolen, and the TD Bank manager handed over to police a cheque that appeared to be from a Lake Country veterinarian, which workers at the bank had flagged as suspicious and refused to cash.

A subsequent search of the vehicle turned up many cheques from multiple different Okanagan businesses totalling in the thousands of dollars.

All of the businesses later confirmed to police Stewart did not have authorization to write cheques in their name. The search also turned up several bank cards in the name of the man whose stolen ID was found.

Stewart was then once again released on bail conditions.

In April, police noted he breached his curfew conditions, and a similar incident then happened in July.

On July 22, 2021, when police arrived at Stewart's Government Street address, he was arrested on outstanding warrants. He has been in custody since.

A joint submission from Crown and defence is proposed which, once days already served behind bars and enhanced credit for pre-sentencing incarceration are calculated, would add up to 94 new days in jail.

But by the time Crown counsel had finished Wednesday afternoon, the judge had run out of time to hear from defence and then pass sentence.

Stewart will appear in court again at a later date to learn his amended sentence, based on whether the judge accepts the proposal from Crown and defence and the number of days he continues to serve in the meantime.



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Penticton police seek witnesses to New Years Eve assault at Skaha Lake Park

Assault witnesses sought

Penticton RCMP are seeking the public's help following reports of an assault at Skaha Lake Park.

On Jan. 29, RCMP received word that there had been an assault a month prior on New Years Eve on the walkway at the park between the hours of 4 and 5 p.m.

“The incident began with an argument and escalated into an assault, and the victim suffered a broken bone as a result,” said Cst Dayne Lyons, Penticton RCMP media relations officer.

“Since this beachfront is so popular, we are confident someone had to have seen something.”

The victim reported that an elderly couple came forward after the incident saying they witnessed it, but they did not remain at the scene.

“We hope that this couple may see this news release and come forward to police."

If you have information regarding this report, you are urged to call the Penticton RCMP at 250-492-4300 and quote file number 2023-1440. To remain completely anonymous you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or leave your tip online at www.crimestoppers.net.



Drug dealer convicted in the Lower Mainland released on bail to Okanagan Falls

Drug dealer released

A man who is currently appealing his six-year prison sentence for possession of $800,000 worth of controlled substances has been released on bail to Okanagan Falls.

Scott Willliam Cashman was convicted on seven counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, according to the B.C. Court of Appeal's decision on his bail review.

On Nov. 17, 2022, Justice Devlin imposed an effective global sentence of six years in prison.

Cashman filed a notice of appeal seeking to set aside his conviction and obtain a new trial just over a week later, arguing that the trial judge "materially misapprehended the facts"; erred in law by "permitting and relying on inadmissible expert opinion evidence"; and the verdict of the trial judge is "unreasonable."

Cashman was first arrested on June 16, 2020 and was subsequently released without conditions. He was arrested again on Nov. 10, 2020 and released on a police undertaking.

Cashman was bound by the same bail terms for approximately two years until the date of his sentencing hearing. On that date, Oct. 19, 2022, Cashman did not attend court but had turned himself in at the RCMP detachment in 100 Mile House. He has been in custody ever since.

While Cashman did not breach his bail, when he turned himself into 100 Mile House, he was wearing body armour.

"When asked at the RCMP Detachment about the body armour, Mr. Cashman became agitated and stated that it was to keep him safe in case he was shot by a gun," the decision reads.

"[It is an offence] to possess body armour except under the authority of a valid body armour permit issued in the person’s name. Mr. Cashman did not suggest during the bail hearing that he has ever held such a permit."

The Crown stated that Cashman’s detention is necessary for the public interest, as he poses a safety risk to the community if released because of the volume of drugs he was convicted of possessing, and Cashman’s 2014 conviction for unauthorized possession of a firearm

Cashman's defence argued that his release would not undermine public safety because he previously complied with bail conditions during the two years he spent awaiting trial, and that new conditions imposed on him will be even more restrictive.

Justice Leonard Marchand granted bail for Cashman on "stringent conditions," including a named surety, a cash deposit of $20,000 and house arrest with electronic monitoring at his mother's house in Okanagan Falls.

"Though turning himself in wearing body armour is very concerning, he has a positive track record of complying with his release conditions and attending court. The fact that his mother will act as a surety for him and is willing to post a significant deposit provide further assurance that he will comply with his bail order without undermining public safety," the decision reads.

Cashman will be required to surrender his passport and any other travel documents to the Penticton RCMP detachment, possess no more than one cellular phone and abide by a curfew.





Cawston home completely destroyed by flames

Fire destroyed home

A fire Sunday, Jan. 29 destroyed a house and left its occupants uninjured but without a home.

The Keremeos Volunteer Dire Department responded to the blaze at a two-story home, which was fully involved and the roof was beginning to collapse when crews arrived.

Fire chief Jordy Bosscha said there were luckily no injuries, as the occupants made it out safely. In total, 17 Keremeos firefighters responded.

It took six hours total to take down the fire, including clean up and debriefing. RCMP and BC Emergency Health Services also responded.

Bosscha would like to thank the nearby CrowsNest Vineyards for providing coffee and sandwiches to the first responders.



'On the cusp of collapse': Oliver mayor pushing for community to be included in healthcare loan forgiveness program

'On the cusp of collapse'

Casey Richardson

The mayor of Oliver is trying to figure out why the town has been left off the province's loan forgiveness program for healthcare workers, while he says their troubling healthcare situation is still ‘on the cusp of collapse.'

Mayor Martin Johansen said he had a frontline healthcare worker reach out to him about the program, and became aware that the town wasn’t on the list.

B.C.’s loan forgiveness program is a student aid initiative for eligible occupations such as nurses, physicians, midwives and occupational therapists, to receive education loan help in return for moving to eligible underserved communities.

Those who qualify will have their outstanding B.C. portion of their student loan debt forgiven at a rate of 20 per cent per year for up to five years, with a minimum working hour requirement.

But Oliver isn't on the list of acknowledged "underserved" communities.

“Right now, with the shortage of healthcare professionals and the limited amount of people graduating, the incentives are to go elsewhere. So now we've got sort of competition built up against the underserved communities and the communities that are still underserved, but maybe not as much as they are,” Johansen said.

“This is a big deal for us and we need to get ourselves back on that list. There is currently a program where there's a $10,000 signing bonus for a nurse to come here. But you're still paying tax on that, and it doesn't affect your student loans. And if you're here getting that kind of bonus, or you can go somewhere and work toward loan forgiveness for your entire student loan, what are you going to do?”

Stuck in a state of health care crisis, the South Okanagan has a lengthy unattached patient list and its local hospital, the South Okanagan General Hospital, sees temporary hour cuts and closures due to limited physician availability.

“Are things getting better? No, I think we're still on the cusp of collapse,” Johansen said.

“There's a lot of people working hard and behind the scenes on recruitment and retention, trying to fill shifts and this is just another roadblock. It's hindering their ability to do their job and when they don't do their job, everybody suffers because our healthcare system isn't providing the services that we want and expect it to do.”

Another frustration for Johansen was spending four months reaching out to the province to find out why the town wasn’t on the list.

In charge of the program is the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, and Minister Selina Robinson.

“The next step for me is to try and get a conversation with her to explain to her and let her know how challenging this is for our ER department,” Johansen said.

The Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills said in a statement to Castanet that working in consultation with the Ministry of Health, StudentAid BC uses the Rural Practice Subsidiary Agreement list of communities to define eligible underserved communities.

“These are communities in B.C. where access to physician services is limited and includes a rating system that assigns medical isolation points to B.C. communities. Isolation points are assigned to a community based on several factors including community size and distance from major medical communities.”

The ministry said that neither Osoyoos nor Oliver have been on the list since 2015. Prior to 2015, the agreement list was not in use and at that time Oliver and Osoyoos were identified as eligible communities.

In 2015, both towns were removed from the list when the process for identifying eligible communities was implemented.

Community eligibility is determined by evaluating its level of isolation. According to the ministry, the criteria includes:

  • Number of designated specialties within 70 km
  • Number of general practitioners within 35 km
  • Community size
  • Distance from major medical community
  • Degree of latitude
  • Specialist Centre

While Johansen said feedback from the province is that implementing this program it isn’t creating competition between towns, speaking with front-line workers the opposite is true.

“When you talk to the people in front lines, like I said, people working in recruitment, working in retention, trying to fill shifts, this is a problem.”

Johansen will be heading down to Vancouver in early April to a housing summit that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities is putting on, and he is planning to connect with Robinson to find out what options there are heading forward.



Penticton's 100 Men Who Care hosting first event of 2023

First chance to give back

Penticton's 100 Men Who Care are back for their first fundraising event in 2023, with a special focus on mental health awareness.

The charitable group, which consists of members who meet four times a year and whose membership fees go towards three non-profit organizations each quarter, will meet next at Tin Whistle Brewing on Feb. 7.

At each event, members are treated to speed pitches from three different local charities. Members donate $100 each to attend, and if everyone shows up, that means the pot of money to distribute is $10,000 or more.

The event will be sponsored by Struthers Technical Solutions, which will provide catering from The Nest.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and the event runs from 5:30-6:30 p.m., but attendees are welcome to stick around afterwards for networking opportunities.

For more information on the organization, how to get involved and to RSVP, click here.



Search continues for missing senior citizen, last seen Friday

Search continues for senior

RCMP are continuing to look for a missing senior woman in Penticton, and while offers for help from the public are acknowledged and appreciated, the public is not advised to get involved in a ground search at this time.

Doreen Abbott, 89, failed to arrive at a friend's house as expected on Jan. 27. She has early onset dementia and rarely deviates from her normal routine.

Police became involved, and on Jan. 28, Abbott's 1993 Subaru Legacy with BC licence plate MXH 063 was located on Greyback Mountain Road.

She was not found in the vehicle or nearby, and it appeared the vehicle may have gotten stuck in the snow.

"An extensive search of the area where her vehicle was located has continued over the past three days, carried out by both the RCMP and Search and Rescue. Unfortunately, Doreen has yet to be located. We’re working closely with Search and Rescue to continue our search," said Cst. James Grandy.

“We’re reaching out to the public, specifically residents of Upper and Lower Bench Roads, Naramata Road, and other surrounding neighbourhoods of where her vehicle was found. We’re asking those residents who may have either dash-cam or home surveillance to check to see if they happened to capture Abbott’s vehicle on Jan. 27, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.”

The RCMP acknowledge the public's support, especially those wanting to find Abbott. But the best way to help is keeping an eye peeled, not getting involved with the many professionals searching for her.

"Numerous resources, including Air Services, Police Dog Services, along with Search and Rescue crews are actively continuing a systematic and thorough search of the area. Due to the immediate area consisting of hazardous terrain, and with the weather turning very cold, it’s not advisable for the general public to conduct their own search,” said Grandy.

Doreen Abbott is described as 89 years-old, five-foot-three, 120 pounds with a thin build. She wears glasses and normally walks with a cane.

RCMP have provided an updated description of what Abbott is believed to have been wearing when she disappeared:

  • A dark green/blue ¾ length wool coat;
  • Dark green/turquoise sweatpants;
  • Black slip on shoes

Anyone with information is asked to call Penticton RCMP at 250-492-4300.



Princeton cop confronted by knife-wielder along highway

Confronted cop with knife

A Princeton RCMP officer conducting highway patrols in the early hours of Saturday morning was confronted by a man staggering down the road with a knife.

Detachment commander Rob Hughes said that when the male came staggering down the middle of the highway, he pulled out a knife and told the officer said "I have this knife."

"So the person was directed to his knees and down to the ground. The person dropped the knife, he was secured and handcuffed. He had a replica pistol tucked in the waistband of his pants, some drug paraphernalia and a vial of suspected fentanyl which was all seized," he said.

Hughes said the officer, who was alone at the time, did everything right in handling this situation.

"We as the police have these fractions of a second to determine what's going on and conduct a risk assessment," he added.

The officer worked to de-escalate the situation, without any injuries resulting to him, the male with the knife or any other civilians.

He called in backup, who responded from home.

"But that takes that a little bit of time to get geared up and get in the car and get on route and get there, even going lights and sirens speed," he said.

After some negative comments came out on social media about why a cop feared for his safety while dealing with this situation, Hughes said he was disheartened.

"He's out by himself. He's out on a dark highway at 2:30 in the morning...We're human beings, somebody with a knife is scary, doesn't matter who you are, or what the situation is, somebody approaching you with a knife out is a scary thing."

Hughes referenced the loss of Burnaby RCMP Const. Shaelyn Yang, who was stabbed to death in October while attempting to issue an eviction notice to a man who had been living in a tent at a local park.

"Despite having her use of force options, everything from pepper spray all the way up to a firearm, she was still stabbed to death," he said.

The man was transported home by the police and released. The incident is still under investigation.



Rural Oliver property facing potential injunctive action from Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen over broken bylaws

Rental units break bylaws

A rural Oliver property is in hot water with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, after district staff say owners breached building use permits by operating a rental unit and ignored a stop work order.

According to a report from RDOS staff that will be presented to the board of directors this week, the acreage in the 3000 block of Fruitvale Way south of the Town of Oliver is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Its owners applied for and received a permit exemption for a farm storage/shop building in 2009, under the understanding there would be no plumbing in the building and it would not be an inhabitance.

In early 2021 the report reads, an RDOS building official noticed an addition being constructed to that supposed shop building. A stop work letter was sent, requesting the owners apply for a building permit, giving a late February deadline.

That deadline passed, and in the spring, officials found work had continued. Both floors of the building had been converted into dwelling units.

Final notice letters and fines were issued in the summertime, with no response from owners.

In spring 2022, a building official visited the site with an ALC compliance officer, and the owner's son.

"The farm building consists of a two bedroom suite on the upper floor, which now has an exterior exit, and the lower floor is a three bedroom suite. Both suites were occupied by tenants. The lower level does appear to have some space dedicated to farm use," reads the RDOS report.

In the summer, a representative of the owner indicated they would be making steps to bring the property into compliance and re-apply to the ALC for appropriate rezoning.

But as of December, there had been no further contact from the owner or a representative, and the ALC had not received an application.

"As the building has never been inspected, it is unknown whether health & safety related items such as smoke detectors and emergency exits meet the BC Building Code. It is also unknown if this building has a septic system or if it is tied into the septic system for the single family dwelling (not permitted by IHA Public Health)," the RDOS staff report reads.

"Reasonable time and efforts have been made to achieve voluntary compliance for both issues, with the property owners. Liability to the RDOS could be substantial as the two occupied dwelling units are in an uninspected building which was built to store farm equipment."

Staff recommend that the board vote to move forward with a notice on the land title, and that if by July 15 the property is not in compliance with RDOS bylaws, injunctive action be sought.

There are currently renters in the property, hence the lengthy timeline to allow proper notice to the tenants to move.

The board meets Thursday, and will discuss and vote on the matter at that time.



Little Shop of Horrors at Princess Margaret Secondary this week

Maggie presents Little Shop

Princess Margaret Secondary students are thrilled to be presenting a musical full of song, dance and of course, a talking murderous plant.

Little Shop of Horrors hits the stage at Maggie this week, for just five total performances.

The classic campy show is the product of months of hard work by the students of Horseshoe Theatre, and may volunteers, parents and staff, and is sure to be a blast.

"The dark comedy follows the path of Seymour Krelborne, an unlikely hero who works in Mushnik’s Flower Shop on Skid Row. He has hope of getting up and out somehow, someday, and maybe rescuing Audrey, a girl with a past, along with him," reads a description on the School District 67 website.

"Enter a mysterious and interesting plant that seems to bring enormous good fortune. The good luck comes with a cost, though, as the Ronettes, the Greek Chorus of the show, take us through to the shocking finale."

Starting Feb. 1 through Feb. 4, there will be a show per night starting at 7 p.m., and one matinee on Sunday, Feb. 5, all in the auditorium at Maggie.

Tickets are $10 in presale, and $15 at the door, which will be cash only. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here or call 250-770-7620, ext. 6205.



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