A former Vanderhoof resident, Joseph Knelsen, has been arrested and charged with first degree murder in connection with the death of a 53-year-old Langford resident.
West Shore RCMP found the body of Gordon Brian Berg in the main living quarters of a residence on Jeanine Drive in Langford last Monday, just before 11 p.m.
Police attended the residence after they received a phone call saying that a man there had been murdered.
Knelsen was the only suspect in the investigation and was located in Langford at 7:15 a.m. last Tuesday.
A spokesperson with the RCMP in Victoria has said Knelsen was arrested without incident in a public area.
“He was arrested…near Western Speedway which is a motor-cross track that they have out in Langford – so he was out in a public area,” Corporal Darren Lagan told the Express on Thursday.
Knelsen was remanded in custody and appeared before a Justice of the Peace later the same day.
On Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. he made his first court appearance at the Western Communities Provincial Court for the murder charge. Police say they anticipate further charges to be laid in the coming weeks including a possible charge of forcible confinement.
Knelsen was remanded to the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre where he awaits his next court appearance, which is on March 16 in Supreme Court in Victoria. Cpl. Lagan said he could not speak to what the next court date is for.
“I would think it would be more of a hearing to determine his continued detention,” he said.
He added that during this period of remand, the accused is likely to be meeting with his lawyer.
Officers with the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, the West Shore RCMP and the RCMP Forensic Identification Section continued to investigate the murder scene until the end of the day on Wednesday. Investigators are now working on analyzing obtained evidence.
“There was a significant amount of forensic evidence at the scene that will have to analyzed and processed,” said Cpl. Lagan.
The Victoria Police Dog service was called in to help and worked through Monday night.
“It’s fairly routine to have a dog do a search of the perimeter to see if there’s any tracks because at that point we don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with…whether it’s someone who has fled on foot,” said Cpl. Lagan.
He added that there were no significant findings from the police dog services.
The RCMP Island District Tactical Troop attended the murder scene on Wednesday to conduct a grid search of the property surrounding the home.
It is believed that Berg was living in the basement suite of the property with another woman, who was in the house at the time of the homicide. She is believed to have fled the property with another female who lives upstairs. While police will not confirm the identities of the two women, they have said they have two females’ witnesses under police care who are cooperating with the investigation.
An autopsy on the deceased’s body was conducted in Vancouver on Wednesday. It is likely results will only be revealed during the court process.
While Cpl. Lagan said investigators had not revealed the nature of the relationship between Berg and Knelsen, he said this was not a random incident and that the two men were familiar to each other “in a friendly sense.”
Berg is believed to have grown up in Prince George. Relatives of Knelsen said they did not know Berg.
Knelsen grew up and spend much of his life in Vanderhoof, but moved to Langford about ten years ago.
He was one of 12 siblings, and family members in Vanderhoof say they had no idea about the murder charge until they were contacted for comment by the Times Colonist newspaper last week.
“He can’t call us,” one of Knelson’s sisters Betty Peel told the Express on Thursday.
“Apparently you cannot make a collect call from a prison phone so he’s been trying and trying and trying to reach us and he can’t get through,” she said.
She added that the news is a terrible shock and totally out of character for Knelsen.
“Joe’s kind, he’s quiet, he tries to be everybody’s friend,” she said.
“We’re just trying to cope with the news…we have no idea what could have gone wrong or how something can come to this…we’re just all in shock.”
“This is not him -he keeps to himself and he gets along with everyone in his family…his nieces and nephews love him to death – he’s rocked them to sleep more times than anyone – this is just not him,” she said.
On Friday last week however, Knelsen was finally able to get in touch with Peel.
“It was me that he called at 6.22 p.m. on Friday and it was a very good conversation,” Peel told the Express on Saturday.
“It was awesome, absolutely awesome just to hear that he was okay,” she said.
Peel confirmed that Knelsen does have a lawyer now, but she could not say who he was.
“He can’t really tell me any details – but he told us that he was not guilty with what he’s being charged with…he just confirmed what the family has believed all along,” she said.
“Now we just have to sit back and wait and everything has to fall into place,” she added.
He’s doing very well under the circumstances.
Peel said her brother moved to Victoria over a decade ago because he loved it there, but often came back to town to visit.
“He would come every once in a while to visit his mum,” said Peel.
She added that he came back for a longer stint in 2008 to obtain his class three gravel truck driver certification.
His most recent visit was in 2009, but Peel said he calls his family often.
Most recently he called a couple of weeks ago asking for some money from his brother.
She added that as far as the family was aware, he wasn’t in a long-term relationship and didn’t have any children.
Peel wasn’t sure where he was working at the time of his arrest but most recently she said he had been working at a wrecking yard.
She said that while the family would have liked him to have made some money and a better life for himself, it just wasn’t in his character.
“Joe never got a decent job because he didn’t want to cut off his hair or his beard and first impressions go a long way,” she said.
“But he’s a very loyal person he just never got the job that we would have liked him to have and make a little money and make better for himself – he was happy with nothing and that was his problem – he doesn’t need a lot to be happy in his life,” she said.
Peel said that while Knelsen did use to smoke marijuana, as far as the family are aware he has never been involved in dealing drugs or anything of the like.
“When he was younger he had dabbled in marijuana but as far as we knew he had stopped – it had been at least two years that I know of,” she said.
Peel said that the family is not sure when they will be heading down south to visit Knelsen.
“We have no idea what we’re doing – our first instinct is that we have to see him but no one knows what were doing right now,” she said.
Cpl. Lagan said that as the incident is now before the courts, police will not release any further details on their investigation.