British Columbia

Man matching description of convicted murderer spotted in Bellingham after escape from B.C. prison

A man matching the description of an inmate who escaped from prison in Mission, B.C., has been spotted across the border in Washington state.

Victim's family 'filled with anger' that Roderick Muchikekwanape has gone missing

Roderick Muchikekwanape, 42, was convicted of the 1998 sexual assault and murder of Kimberley Clarke in Winnipeg. (Correctional Service of Canada)

A man matching the description of an inmate who escaped from prison in Mission, B.C. — where he was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder — has been spotted across the border in Washington state. 

Police in Bellingham, Wash., say a man who matches the description of Roderick Muchikekwanape, 41, was spotted near East Sunset Drive and Hannegan Road Friday at 7 a.m. and at the Sumas border crossing.

Muchikekwanape was last seen at Mission Institution at 7 p.m. Thursday, but was missing from a routine inmate count at 10 p.m. Correctional Service Canada (CSC) said its staff phoned RCMP when Muchikekwanape could not be found.

Muchikekwanape was being held in the minimum-security area of the prison, which is not fenced. It houses offenders who are deemed the lowest security risk.

Officials don't yet know how Muchikekwanape got out.

'I'm filled with anger'

The inmate's escape has infuriated the victim's surviving family members in Manitoba. 

Muchikekwanape was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of Kimberley Clarke, a 36-year-old mother of three, in Winnipeg in 1998. He reached parole eligibility in August and had been "transitioning for release," according to a spokesperson for the prison.

Kimberley Clarke's sister, Darlene Clarke, was furious to hear of the escape on Friday.

"I'm filled with anger," she said, reached by phone in Selkirk, Man. "They should be held accountable for being lenient with these dangerous inmates. What now? Who's to blame if he harms another innocent person?"

Darlene Clarke, left, is pictured with her sister Kimberley Clarke, right, in an undated family photo. The woman in the middle is their late mother, Sarah Clarke. (Submitted by Courtney Bear)

Mission RCMP said it was "all hands on deck" at the detachment Friday.

"While Muchikekwanape has a history of significant violence, we currently do not believe he is an immediate threat to anyone in the public," said RCMP Cpl. Nathan Berze.

Muchikekwanape is described as six feet tall and weighing 217 pounds, according to a statement. He has brown eyes and black hair. Officials have not confirmed what he might have been wearing, but Berze said some of his belongings "about the size that could fit into a duffel bag" are missing from the institution.

Those belongings have not been identified.

Anyone who sees Muchikekwanape should phone police and not approach him. 

"It's important for the public to be diligent, to be on the lookout, and to report anything at all they may see," said Berze. "Any piece of information or any suspicious activity that they see could be helpful in arresting him."

The medium security portion of Mission Institution is pictured in Mission, B.C., in March 2018. Unlike the medium security area of the prison, the minimum security area is not fenced. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

CSC to investigate what happened

Kimberley Clarke was killed underneath Winnipeg's Redwood Bridge as she was walking home in July 1998. Muchikekwanape has been in custody for her murder since 2000.

Her family, including niece Courtney Bear, testified at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2017 about her death.

Kimberley Clarke, 36, was murdered under Winnipeg's Redwood Bridge in 1998. She had three children. (Submitted by Jade Frost)

"I actually feel fearful [about Muchikekwanape's escape]," Bear said Friday, also speaking by phone from Manitoba. 

"We don't know what's running through this offender's mind. We don't know what his next plan is ... I hope that the police in Vancouver are doing everything that they possibly can to catch him."

RCMP have issued a warrant for Muchikekwanape's arrest. If RCMP take him into custody, they will turn him back over to CSC. What happens next as to his detention will be determined by that agency.

"CSC will investigate the circumstances of this incident and is working with the police to locate the offender as quickly as possible," read the statement.

With files from Yvette Brend and The Canadian Press