Stead, Man. area residents worried as homicide suspect remains at large
RM OF ST. CLEMENTS -- A homicide suspect RCMP believe may be armed and dangerous was seen Tuesday night in the Lockport, Man. area just north of Winnipeg.
Eric Wildman, 34, remains at large. He is wanted in the disappearance and death of his neighbour, 40-year-old Clifford Joseph. Police are warning the public not to approach Wildman, whose vehicle which was recovered by RCMP contained police clothing, tactical gear and firearms.
In an update Wednesday, the Mounties said surveillance cameras captured Wildman at Lowe’s home improvement store on Panet Road in Winnipeg on Friday, June 11 at around 6:40 p.m.
The RCMP said he then got in a cab and went to the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, where security footage showed Wildman entering the terminal and approaching a car rental kiosk just before 7:30 p.m.
Investigators said that is where Wildman picked up a grey 2020 Chevy Equinox. Police said the vehicle had Manitoba license plate KGE 368.
Officers confirmed Wildman was seen driving that vehicle on the night of June 15 in the Lockport area before he headed east on Highway 44.
“Right through the municipality I’m sure that people are worried because this person is at large,” said Debbie Fiebelkorn, mayor of the R.M. of St. Clements, where Wildman lives.
“If I was in that area, I think I’d be very concerned. I would be a little bit apprehensive to go outside or do anything like that because we don’t know where he is or when he could show up in that area.”
“He could be in Winnipeg. He could be anywhere in the municipality.”
POLICE SEARCH WILDMAN PROPERTY, REMAINED ON SCENE WEDNESDAY
Police have been searching Wildman’s rural property just south of Stead and remained on scene Wednesday.
It’s a yard filled with vehicles, some burned out with only the shells remaining.
(Source: Manitoba RCMP)
Officers said Wildman is considered armed and dangerous and shouldn’t be approached.
Many people who CTV News spoke to in the area said they are on edge and declined to comment on camera. Fiebelkorn said the concern is understandable and urged residents to stay vigilant.
“The RCMP are trying to do their best to locate him and arrest him, but he seems to be evading everybody,” she said.
The RCMP has previously said Joseph’s abandoned vehicle was located just north of the Wildman property on Road 94N June 7 — the same day Joseph was last seen leaving his residence early in the morning and later reported missing — and that some of his belongings were found on or near Wildman’s driveway.
But police said Joseph’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
“We have not found the body of Mr. Joseph at this point,” said RCMP Sgt. Laura LeDrew. “We are investigating it as a homicide.”
POLICE-RELATED CLOTHING FOUND IN WILDMAN'S VEHICLE
Meantime, Wildman’s vehicle was recovered June 11 and searched June 13, when police said they found firearms, police tactical equipment, police patches and other items resembling police clothing.
Officers said it is undetermined if Wildman has any more police-related clothing or firearms.
But for many the revelation is eerily familiar to the gunman in Nova Scotia in April 2020, who used a replica police vehicle and a police uniform while committing a mass shooting.
“It’s very unfortunate that this is going on, I would like to say, in our very quiet community and area of the municipality,” Fiebelkorn said.
The RCMP also revealed the property where Joseph was living once belonged to Vernon Karl Otto, 66, when he was last seen in May 2018 before disappearing under suspicious circumstances.
Otto’s burned out truck was later recovered not far from the residence, but he still hasn’t been found.
On Wednesday, officers would only say that case remains under investigation.
While little is known about the circumstances of Otto’s disappearance, Fiebelkorn said it’s hard to ignore given the similarities with Joseph’s disappearance.
“It kind of makes you wonder if there is something strange going on in the area but (as of) yet we have nothing that will make that concrete,” Fiebelkorn said.
FIRE REPORTED ON WILDMAN PROPERTY IN MAY
The RCMP said there was a fire reported to police on May 12 just before noon on the Wildman property.
Police said a garage caught fire and a short time later so did a home and numerous vehicles. There were no injuries reported and a cause has not been determined but police said Wildman was living on the property at the time.
According to court records, in April 2013 Wildman was working at that time buying, fixing and selling cars. He made around $5,000 a year in addition to income assistance. The information was revealed during a court hearing in which Wildman pleaded guilty to impaired driving which resulted in a crash in June 2009. He received a fine.
Wildman also pleaded guilty in 2015 to using a fraudulent certificate of inspection to insure his vehicle and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation and community service.
Anyone with information about Wildman is asked to call 911 or the RCMP tip line at 431-489-8551.