Murdered Sooke man was under surveillance: RCMP
Sooke resident Michael Gregory Widner, 39, was under the RCMP's surveillance for "some time" before he was found murdered near a highway in Port Renfrew, police say.
"We were well aware of Mr. Widner's involvement with organized crime, well aware that he was a prospect for the Nanaimo Hells Angels, and as a result of that, he had our full attention here," Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur told media at a press conference Thursday.
Widner's body was found on Sunday by a hiker just off the Pacific Marine Circle highway, several kilometers outside of Port Renfrew, though his identity wasn't confirmed by police until after an autopsy on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, McArthur confirmed Widner's death was now considered a homicide, but wouldn't disclose how he died, or the state of the body when it was found.
"Widner's death is considered a homicide and the investigation is being conducted by the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit. We wish to emphasize that this is not a random act, and there's no threat to public safety," McArthur said.
Widner was last seen March 8, and was reported missing March 9 after his mother noticed he didn't drop by her place as expected. His car, a black 2003 Volkswagen Golf, was found abandoned in Williams Simmons Memorial Park, near Poirier Lake, on Otter Point Road later that day.
McArthur did not say what happened at Poirier Lake, or if Widner met with anyone there.
"I can't tell you about the nature of that meeting, or if there was a meeting, that's a premise that VIIMCU is using that might be why his vehicle was located there," he said.
A resident of Tugwell Road in Sooke, Widner had no criminal record in B.C., though he was stopped in 2011 by the Sooke RCMP possessing $4,980 in cash, 25 grams of marijuana, a hunting knife and four cellphones, which led to a suit by the B.C. Civil Forfeiture director in 2012.
"Mr. Widner either directly participated in the selling of illegal drugs or obtained the money directly or indirectly from the sellers of illegal drugs," the suit alleged.
Before any official police announcement, Widner's ties to the Hells Angels biker gang was confirmed by Hells Angels spokesman Rick Ciarniell, after he told media Widner was a prospect and that his body had been found.
A day earlier, Widner's spouse, Sabrina, posted a public message on Facebook, announcing her husband's death.
"It is with a broken heart and overwhelming sadness I share that the police have informed me that my husband's body has been found. I am with our children holding them tight and keeping them safe and removed from all the attention. His children know that he is in heaven with his brother Steve and at peace."
McArthur said the investigation is progressing, but didn't disclose if there are any suspects. He did not comment on whether Widner's death was linked to gang violence.
He did confirm Sooke RCMP deals with gangs and organized crime in the area other than the Hells Angels.
"The Hells Angels is not the only criminal gang that operates in Sooke," McArthur said.
"I don't think organized crime in Sooke is any more prevalent than in any other place in Canada."
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit at 250-380-6211 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.