Sister of Manitoba man feared dead in homicide relieved after Eric Wildman's arrest near Belleville, Ont.
WINNIPEG -- The arrest of a Manitoba fugitive is bringing relief to the sister of a suspected homicide victim.
Clifford Joseph, 40, disappeared after leaving his home in the R.M. of St. Clements on June 7 and hasn’t been seen since.
“I felt relieved because maybe now we can get some answers,” Clifford’s sister Felicia Joseph told CTV News.
On Friday morning, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) arrested a suspect in Clifford’s disappearance east of Toronto with shots fired at officers from inside a home near Belleville, Ont.
Police made contact with two men inside the home and both eventually surrendered. The OPP and RCMP identified one of the men as 34-year-old Eric Wildman, who’s been the focus of an intense weeklong search in southeast Manitoba.
The standoff ended with no injuries and both men were taken into custody.
Police outside of a home near Belleville, Ont. on June 18, 2021, where Eric Wildman was arrested by Ontario Provincial Police. (Source: Marisa Dragani)
“When we heard that the OPP had this residence surrounded, our entire team was holding their breath,” said RCMP Supt. Michael Koppang, the officer in charge of Manitoba Major Crime Services.
Wanted in connection with Clifford’s disappearance, police presumed Wildman was armed and dangerous and warned the public he shouldn’t be approached.
Earlier this week, the RCMP also found firearms and replica police clothing and equipment in his vehicle, escalating public safety concerns.
Items resembling police clothing seized by RCMP from Eric Wildman's vehicle on June 13, 2021, during an investigation into the homicide of Clifford Joseph (Source: Manitoba RCMP)
It’s a search that as recently as Thursday focused on Whiteshell Provincial Park near the Manitoba/Ontario border but concluded more than 2,000 kilometres away.
“It was a heck of a long drive in a fairly short period of time,” Koppang said.
Koppang said police in Ontario were responding to three tips they received Thursday night about a vehicle matching the one Wildman was believed to be driving.
Outside the Prince Edward County home where he was arrested on Friday, crews could be seen loading a Chevy Equinox onto a flatbed truck — the kind of vehicle police said Wildman rented at the airport in Winnipeg last Friday.
The vehicle was last seen just west of Whiteshell Provincial Park Wednesday at 7 p.m., prompting police to flood the area and the border in hopes of catching him.
“We set up roadblocks, we did everything that you’d expect us to do and we have no explanation at this point how he got through that, essentially,” said Koppang.
Wildman and Clifford lived next to each on rural properties in the R.M. of St. Clements, but police haven’t elaborated on any relationship between the two men beyond being neighbours.
Felicia said her brother had only lived in the area a couple months. She said he has a daughter and describes him as a genuine person who would help anyone.
Clifford’s body hasn’t been located but his truck was found abandoned near Wildman’s property on June 7, the same day he was last seen.
“I won’t believe it until I see some official evidence or a body or something,” said Felicia.
Investigators said Friday the indication now is that Wildman was headed to the home in Belleville, but it’s not clear why.
The identity of the second man arrested has not been released, but the RCMP described him as “an associate” of Wildman’s.
Wildman is being sent back to Manitoba and has already been charged with unsafe storage of a firearm and possession of a prohibited device without a licence.
The RCMP said more charges are expected.