British Columbia

B.C. lawyer accused of placing human remains in plastic bin was victim's 'trusted friend,' family says

The daughter of a university instructor killed in Kamloops is shocked to learn one of her father's trusted friends has been linked to the homicide investigation.

Family of slain university instructor say they 'cannot believe' his close friend was arrested

Sarah Jeet Lalata-Buco's father, Mohd Abdullah, left, was found dead in Kamloops, B.C., March 17. A local lawyer and one of Abdullah's close friends has been charged with interfering with a dead body. (Submitted by Sarah Jeet Lalata-Buco)

The daughter of a university instructor killed in Kamloops, B.C., is shocked to learn one of her father's trusted friends is linked to the homicide investigation.

Lawyer Rogelio Butch Bagabuyo, 54, has been accused of placing the remains of 60-year-old Thompson Rivers University instructor Mohd Abdullah in a plastic bin, and is charged with one count of interfering with a dead body.

It is not yet known if he is believed to be linked to the homicide itself. 

Abdullah's daughter, Sarah Jeet Lalata-Buco, lives in the Philippines and says she last heard from her father on March 1, two weeks before he was reported missing.

Lalata-Buco described her father, who worked in Thompson Rivers University's computer science department, as a soft-spoken man with a strong work ethic. 

"My dad is a quiet person, but he is kind," she said. "He always gives me wisdom whenever we talk. Whenever he visits me here in the Philippines, he always talk to me — heart-to-heart talks."

'A loving dad' who was close to accused

Her husband, Jhuls Buco, described Abdullah as a "humble" person he could always turn to for advice.

"A loving dad is how I see him," he said.

Kamloops, B.C., lawyer Rogelio Butch Bagabuyo, 54, was charged with interfering with human remains on March 21. (Kamloops Collaborative Family Law Association)

Buco said Abdullah and Bagabuyo were close friends and he often heard about the lawyer from his father-in-law.

"He's saying this man is a trusted friend, a good friend ... whenever he needs legal advice, he always goes to Butch," he said.

Accused released on bail

RCMP say 60-year-old Abdullah was last heard from on March 11 and reported missing on March 14 after he failed to report to work.

He was found dead inside a vehicle on the 1600-block of Monterey Place on March 17, and on March 23 police said he is believed to be a homicide victim.

Bagabuyo is accused of placing Abdullah's remains in a plastic bin and is charged with one count of interfering with a dead body.

Bagabuyo was released on bail on Friday.

Police continue to search for public information on the case and have released images of Abdullah — who is described as five feet, eight inches tall, weighing 126 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes — in the hopes of jogging the memory of potential witnesses.

RCMP previously released an image of a white van linked to the investigation. The van is described as a white 2020 GMC Budget rental van with the B.C. licence plate PJ 9131.

Police say the van may have travelled to Kamloops and surrounding rural communities, such as Barriere, Clearwater, Savona, Cache Creek, and further afield to Valemount.

RCMP have released images of Mohd Abdullah from March 14, 2022. Abdullah is believed to be the victim of a homicide. (RCMP)

Thompson Rivers University said in a statement that Abdullah worked at the university for 21 years, playing an important role in the faculty of science and open learning. The university said it is co-operating with police and is organizing counselling for those who need it. 

Police have not said if any more charges are being recommended against Bagabuyo.

Bagabuyo's next court appearance is April 21.

Anyone with information about this van is asked to contact Kamloops RCMP immediately. (Kamloops RCMP)

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated that Sarah Jeet Lalata-Buco last communicated with her father on March 7. She has since clarified that she last emailed her father on March 17, but last heard from him on March 1.
    Mar 29, 2022 11:19 AM PT

With files from Marcella Bernardo, Jen Norwell and Jon Azpiri

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