Janet (left) and Karen Johnson. (Shelley Woods Boden/Facebook)

Petition to keep Wells Gray murderer in jail garners 39K signatures and counting

Family and friends compiling victim impact statements to keep David Ennis behind bars.

Every two years, Tammy Arishenkoff prepares to start petitioning the government. She doesn’t need a reminder. The date – when her childhood friend and her family were murdered in Wells Gray Park – is etched in her mind.

She has one thought: to keep their murderer, David Ennis, formerly Shearing, behind bars.

“I don’t want to see other families have to go through this,” Arishenkoff said. “I don’t care if he’s allowed to have these parole reviews, he hasn’t served enough time for what he did to these families, that’s why we keep pushing forward.”

In 1982, Ennis murdered George and Edith Bentley of Port Coquitlam along with their daughter Jackie Johnson, her husband Bob and their two daughters Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, of West Kelowna, at a campsite in Wells Gray Park.

After shooting the four adults as they sat around a campfire, Ennis held the two girls captive for a week, sexually assaulting and torturing them before killing them. He then put all six bodies in the family car and set it on fire.

The family’s camper truck wasn’t found until 14 months after the murders, on an old logging road near Trophy Mountain. Police began to question suspects in Clearwater again, but it wasn’t until November 1983 that Ennis was taken into custody. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in April 1984 with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Since 2008, Arishenkoff relives the murder of her childhood friend, Karen, and her sister Janet. Every two years, she and the victims’ family and friends, have gone door to door, sharing a petition to persuade the Parole Board of Canada to keep Ennis behind bars.

The friends and family of the Johnson and Bentley families have established a core group of 12 people who have become “seasoned experts” at fomenting momentum when the time comes, said Arishenkoff.

“We never really got a rest,” said Arishenkoff. “You’d have a hearing, and then you maybe get a few months, and then you get the notice for the next hearing.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arishenkoff and the rest of the group were unable to petition door-to-door this year, but it didn’t stop them from trying to get the word out about Ennis’ parole hearing. She started an online petition and a Facebook group dedicated to bringing people together who would like to help.

In a little over a week, the change.org petition has garnered more than 39,000 signatures, more than doubling Arishenkoff’s original goal of 15,000. The petition will remain active until April 15.

In addition to the petition signatures, Arishenkoff, along with others in the group, will be putting together victim impact statements for the parole board to review.

Although the time between parole hearings has been changed to five years, potentially giving victims and their loved ones a break between hearings, she said it doesn’t get any easier. Every time, the wounds are re-opened and the memories re-lived.

Her friendship with the girls and their memory gives her motivation and strength.

It’s a lot to endure, even every five years, but she said every step they take is very important. She has nieces that are now in their 20s that remind her of Janet and Karen. When you’re close to somebody who dies in such a horrific way, she added, it messes you up, makes you angry and even more determined to see him stay behind bars.

“He’s already had more of a life than he gave them an opportunity to ever have,” said Arishenkoff, noting Ennis got married and has two kids. “He took all of that away from them…he gets to have visits with her and play house and live.”



newsroom@clearwatertimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Crime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Sherpas Cinema films Imagination in the West Kootenay. Photo: Jake Dyson
New Kootenay film commission unveiled

The Civic Theatre and Kootenay Rockies Tourism have partnered on the initiative

Old tennis courts in Salmo are going to be renovated thanks to a School District 8 initiative. Photo: Submitted
Salmo tennis courts, skate park to be revitalized

School District 8 is partnering with other organizations on the $135,000 project

Hannah Deboer-Smith (left) and her sister Avery Deboer-Smith are involved in myriad activities in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
The women who make Nelson great

We celebrate some of the women who make impacts big and small on our city

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. File photo
COMMON’S CORNER: Challenging the government on vaccine availability and more

The first of a quarterly column from Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Most Read