Along the 75-kilometre stretch between Vernon and Sicamous, at least five women have vanished in the last 20 months. And in the centre of that area of the Okanagan, on a rural road outside Enderby, police are searching a farm where human remains have been found. The search by the RCMP Southeast District Major Crimes Unit has been unfolding for several days. Police first arrived at 2290 Salmon River Rd. on Thursday.
According to B.C. Assessment records, the property is owned by Evelyn Ruth Sagmoen and Wayne Thomas Sagmoen. Their son, Curtis Wayne Sagmoen was previously listed as a co-owner of the property, between 2004 and 2007.
Police were also searching a separate strip of land along Springbend Road, between Salmon Arm and Enderby, in conjunction with the search at the Salmon River Road property.
Before the discovery of the remains, the son of the farm’s owners was already under police investigation after a woman was threatened with a firearm following a pre-arranged meeting with the man near the family’s home in August.
On Oct. 13, RCMP issued a warning to the public, specifically to sex workers, after a woman was threatened by a man with a gun in the area of Salmon River Road on Aug. 28. A 36-year-old man, who police said lived in the area of Salmon River Road and was known to frequent the Okanagan and Shuswap areas, was arrested and released without charges.
Curtis Wayne Sagmoen, born in 1980, was arrested Friday and charged with seven offences — disguising his face with intent to commit offence, intentionally discharging a firearm while reckless, pointing a firearm, uttering threats, careless use or storage of a firearm, possessing weapon for dangerous purpose and possession of controlled substance — in connection with the investigation.
He remains in custody pending a scheduled appearance in Vernon Provincial Court on Thursday (Oct. 26). Police have been extremely cautious not to link the ongoing search with any of the missing women cases, but both their relatives and community members are worried.
“We are sitting on pins and needles, wondering what it is all about. We’ve been following pretty closely what has been happening,” John Simpson said in an interview from his home in Ontario.
His daughter Ashley Simpson was reported missing April 30, 2016. She had been living on Yankee Flats Road, a rural street that runs parallel to Salmon River Road, where police are searching the farm. Police told John Simpson, when the search began several days ago, that it was not related to his daughter, and he has heard no updates since. But the proximity to his daughter’s home and the lack of communication from her has him worried.
RCMP said last year it was very out of character for Ashley to have no contact with family and friends, and feared foul play was involved in her disappearance.
“We hope that if we can get closure, we can bring her home,” said Simpson, who has travelled several times to B.C. to search for his daughter. “It has been a long 18 months.”
Less than three months after Simpson was reported missing, a woman who lived on the same Yankee Flats Road also disappeared: Deanna Wertz, 46. She left her home July 19, 2016 to go for a walk in the nearby woods and never returned, which was also out of character for her.
“Ashley Simpson lived across the street from my sister Deanna Wertz who is also missing,” Alanna Wertz posted recently on Facebook, where she has begged for answers in her sister’s case.
On Monday night, Alanna Wertz said she had no information about whether the search of the farm had anything to do with her missing sister’s case. She added she would wait a few more days before asking police if they can provide her family with any details, such as when forensic testing will be done on the remains.
“The investigator has not contacted myself or any other family members since the human remains were found. There has been next to no info at all from the authorities,” she said in a message to Postmedia.
Caitlin Potts, 27, was last in contact with her family on Feb. 22, 2016. She had been in a Kelowna mall the day before, and police believed she vanished from the South Okanagan as she had connections to the communities of Salmon Arm, Enderby and Armstrong.
“Myself and the rest of Caitlin’s family have not heard from her since February and we are very worried … Her lack of online communication with friends and loved ones is out of character for my daughter,” her mother Priscilla Potts said in a statement after her disappearance.
“I miss my daughter, not hearing from her has caused me a lot of worry and grief as any parent can understand.”
Enderby resident Jody Leon organized a rally and healing circle Sunday where the Yankee Flats and Salmon River roads meet, to raise awareness about all the missing women..
“Let’s be there to call on continuing support against violence against women,” Leon said in a Facebook post Friday. Also missing from the area is 18-year-old Traci Genereaux, who vanished from Vernon May 29, and Nicole Bell, 31, who was last seen Sept. 2 in Sicamous. Police say it is out of character for both women to be out of contact with their families for so long.
“It has been one month since anybody has seen or heard from Nicole. All of us, her family and friends, are so worried about her. Please if there is any information, even the smallest thought that you have that might help bring her home, please inform the RCMP,” Nicole’s relative Angela DenDekker posted on Facebook.
Leon also organized a search for clues to the women’s whereabouts last May, which covered 118 kilometres from the Splatsin First Nation near Enderby to Sylix Territory near Kelowna.
Article published: July 13, 2018