British Columbia

Inquest ordered into death of Chilliwack man, 8 years after his body was found

Gladys and Ed Scherbey have always doubted their 38-year-old son Corey died after accidentally overdosing on alcohol and drugs, as initially ruled. They believe he met foul play.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details

Corey Scherbey is hugged by his son, Riley. Scherbey was found dead at 38 in his home in Chilliwack, B.C., and his parents say suspicious details were ignored. (Gladys and Ed Scherbey)

The solicitor general of B.C. has ordered an inquest into the death of Corey Scherbey, ending his parents' eight-year fight for further investigation into how the logger from Chilliwack died.

Gladys and Ed Scherbey have always doubted their 38-year-old son died after accidentally overdosing on alcohol and drugs, as initially ruled. They believe he met foul play.

The couple spent years seeking an inquest but were refused multiple times, and twice went to B.C. Supreme Court to request a judicial review before a judge urged ministry officials to take another look.

"We've believed it was a homicide from day one," said Gladys Scherbey.

"I'm angry and very disappointed that we had to go through two Supreme Court judges … we've gone to ask for an inquest six times," said the Chilliwack woman, who found her son's body in his home in August 2011.

On May 28, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth wrote a letter to coroner Margaret Janzen ordering an inquest into the death. 

"I am convinced that in this case the public interest is best served by such a public fact-finding exercise," wrote Farnworth.

"That will determine the cause and circumstances surrounding Mr. Scherbey's death and satisfy the community that the death of one of its members was not overlooked, concealed or ignored."

Corey Scherbey was an athlete and loved the outdoors as a young boy. (Ed Scherbey)

Farnworth's letter says the decision was made after considering reports from a forensic expert and an RCMP review of the investigation.

Concern over RCMP investigation

Images of what Gladys Scherbey found in her son's home on Aug. 22, 2011, reveal a grisly, disturbing scene.

Corey's body was found decomposing and bent over a couch, in a pool of dark fluid.

RCMP first investigated the death as a homicide. But in 2014, the coroner determined that the death was an accidental overdose.

A pathologist ruled that Scherbey died of acute intoxication from cocaine and alcohol, and the case was closed.

But even before the coroner's ruling, the Scherbeys had concerns about how the RCMP handled the investigation.

They say there were footprints found in blood in their son's house, and that there was blood on the ceiling. They also say a cardboard box was discovered in a closet with the words "Better be a funeral" written on it.

The Scherbeys also never found out more about an unknown woman who was with their son the last time his dad saw him alive on Aug. 19, 2011.

In 2012 they filed a complaint about the investigation to the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.

After that a legal researcher helped them use the Access to Information Act to get the case file. A U.S. forensic expert and medical doctor, Dr. Christopher Green, then used that file to write an independent report. 

In 2016, Green concluded that it was likely Corey died as a result of "homicidal smothering or strangulation," and suggested the "abnormal" accelerated rate of decomposition could be explained by strangulation.

In 2018, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki wrote that the initial investigation was "not reasonably thorough."

Corey Scherbey's death was ruled accidental in 2014.

'It's for Corey'

Meanwhile, the Scherbeys kept pushing the coroner's office to reopen the case and went before a B.C. Supreme Court judge asking for a judicial review of the ministry's initial decision not to reopen the case.

In B.C., only a chief coroner or the solicitor general can order an inquest.

Late in 2018, Justice John Steeves ordered a review and, this year, Justice Jennifer Power urged the solicitor general to reconsider it again, leading to Farnworth's order last week.

The B.C. Coroners Service said it has yet to announce a date and location for the inquest, where a five- to seven-person jury will review the circumstances of Corey's death. The jury will hear witness evidence and establish facts, but not fault. Then the death will be classified.

"I feel like I'm standing still now. I don't know what to do. I guess I just have to wait for the day," said Ed Scherbey.

"It's a horrible feeling. But it's for Corey."

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a CBC Vancouver journalist. @ybrend