Fifteen years on, the questions remain

This week our columnist Claudette Sandecki is reminded of the 1997 Kitimat triple homicide

The September 3, 2012 heading in The Province read: “I would like to see him get caught and pay for what he has done.” I was expecting to read an update on a current crime. But not so.

The article referred to a triple homicide in Kitimat July 3, 1997 when Kevin Louis Vermette allegedly shot to death three young men and severely wounded a fourth with a sawed-off shotgun at point blank range in Hirsch Creek Park.

Tuesday night, largely due to a distant neighbour who split major firewood blocks for some fifteen minutes after midnight, I was having trouble sleeping and sat down at the computer to read while I munched a slice of smoked Gouda sandwiched in half a bun. Cheese is supposed to have a soporific effect. True or not, I like smoked Gouda.

The series of photos that led the article immediately brought back the crime which had so shocked Kitimat that long ago Saturday night. The first photo, shown after the crime, was of Vermette relaxing on a porch, facing the camera, wearing metal framed glasses. He had always looked familiar to me though I can’t pinpoint why.

I remember being visited by RCMP soon after the murders, a chilling experience made worse by my business card in the constable’s hand. I felt guilty by association.

My journal for July 18, 1997 includes this entry:

“Kitimat RCMP Cst. Landry said they’d found our phone # and address in suspected killer Kevin Vermette’s phone list. I knew his name was familiar.”

In 1997 I was working long hours with my upholstery business; this accounts for the brief journal entry. One phone number served both family and business. Vermette was known to be into restoring old cars. Such potential customers would arrive at my shop to discuss their restoration plans months, even years, ahead of actually placing an order, if indeed they ever did. I suspect Vermette had stopped in, scouted my shop, and left with a business card.

As for why Vermette looked familiar? I have no idea. The name would be familiar; I went to school with a Vermette family in Saskatchewan.

News reports at the time painted Vermette as a man with a short fuse, who had been at loggerheads with more than one Kitimat young man over this or that including slashing of his tires and overly loud music in the gym where he worked out.

Only yesterday, September 3, Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers dealt with a young driver named Trey who is quick to anger when anyone changes lanes in front of him when he deems they shouldn’t, or any other common traffic irritation as he drives. He acts as if everyone else should accommodate him.

Dr. Drew went for a short ride with him while Trey’s reaction was recorded on a heart monitor. Within seconds behind the wheel Trey was cussing at other drivers, shaking his fist, giving them the finger. All the while his heart rate shot up stressing his heart, his entire body, and putting himself and others at risk of a life-altering accident.

A fellow guest was a young mother committed to a life in a wheelchair in the blink of an eye when a driver of Trey’s mentality deliberately smashed into the car she and several other teens were riding in as retaliation for some perceived slight.

I can see Vermette reacting in the same hair-trigger style as Trey, and 15 years later five families are still suffering the effects. Vermette’s mother died without knowing where he is, whether he is alive or dead.

Vermette with his black lab, Shadow, disappeared; no confirmed sighting has ever been reported. A reward of $17,500 was increased in 2010 to $25,000 by interest accrued on the reward held in trust. If he is alive, it’s  a wonder Facebook has not located him.