British Columbia

Her partner hid a neo-Nazi past and a cryptocurrency fortune. But she won't stop pressing to solve his murder

The body of the man Eva McLennan knew as avid rock-climber Jesse James was found in his burnt-out vehicle off the Sea-to-Sky Highway in June 2017. His murder brought to light details of his racist past, a spam empire and a cryptocurrency fortune.

The man Eva McLennan knew as Jesse James was found shot dead near Squamish, B.C., in 2017

Eva McLennan says she will not give up on solving the mystery of her partner's murder near Squamish in 2017. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)

A B.C. woman is pressing police to solve the murder of her partner — a man with a fortune in cryptocurrency and a neo-Nazi past who was shot dead on a forest service road near Squamish, B.C., almost four years ago.

The body of the man Eva McLennan knew as avid rock-climber Jesse James — later confirmed as Britt Greenbaum — was found in his burnt-out vehicle off the Sea-to-Sky Highway in June 2017.

The U.S. man's murder brought to light details of a secretive past that included several aliases, spreading racist ideology at college, and masterminding a spam empire hawking pornography and penis-enlargement pills, which led to AOL successfully suing him for US $12.8 million.

While she does not condone Greenbaum's actions before they met, McLennan says he was a positive influence on her life and she will not let his death go.

"I'm not going to let it rest. He's with me for life," said McLennan, 26.

McLennan and Greenbaum's father believe the murdered man had a fortune in bitcoin that could now be worth billions, given the soaring value of the cryptocurrency.

CBC has not been able to verify the amount of bitcoin Greenbaum held, or the status of his holdings, but has confirmed with a police source that a substantial cryptocurrency fortune is part of the case. 

Britt Greenbaum, also known as Jesse James and Davis Wolfgang Hawke, was found dead in a burnt-out SUV near Squamish, B.C., on June 14, 2017. Police said his death was a homicide. (IHIT)

McLennan says she has passed clues to investigators with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which linked Greenbaum to a pre-existing case with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

IHIT has shared little about the progress of the case with the media, and the FBI has refused to comment on its involvement.

Living, climbing off the grid

McLennan says she first met Greenbaum at a Victoria climbing gym in 2015 and soon after she moved to the Squamish area, where they lived together off the grid.

"I knew he was smart, I knew he was rich and that we'd get along like a house on fire," she said.

McLennan says she preferred to sleep alone in a tent, and he slept not far away in his vehicle. They ate outdoors and washed up in creeks.

She said the outdoor lifestyle "just fit me like a glove — just the simplicity of minimalism," and she joked that her partner "sponsored" her to climb full time by financially supporting their adventures.

"It was a great relationship," said McLennan, who said she also reintroduced Greenbaum to his old love of chess.

Eva McLellan says she climbed together with Jesse James all over B.C. (Jesse James/Britt Greenbaum)

But she always knew the man she was with had a mysterious past.

McLennan said he shielded her from his "secrets" and feared he was being hunted by somebody who was after his online wealth. She says he asked her to use a pseudonym for safety. 

She says Greenbaum, who, as Jesse James, was known widely in the Squamish rock-climbing community, refused to climb with her until she was good enough. Fancying herself as a full-time climber, McLennan says she worked hard to impress her partner — teaching herself and climbing with others — and eventually they took on climbs together.

In 2017, they had a summer of climbing mapped out.

Jesse James climbing in Squamish in an undated photo. (Jesse James)

But that changed on June 14 of that year, when she awoke to find police surrounding his usual parking spot on the Cheekye Forest Service Road, about 10 kilometres north of Squamish.

Police said they had found a body in a charred red 2000 GMC Yukon XL, and informed McLennan that her partner was dead. She found out later he'd been shot.

At first, McLennan found it difficult to believe. She says she kept looking for him, thinking perhaps he'd faked his own death somehow. She struggled to eat and to cope with the grief.

Eva McLennan on the Cheekye Forest Service Road, off the Sea-to-Sky Highway near Squamish. The location in the photo is not far from where the body of Britt Greenbaum, also known as Jesse James, was found in his vehicle. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)

'I'm glad the truth came out'

It wasn't until October 2020 that the dead man was officially identified as Davis Wolfgang Hawke — born Britt Greenbaum — and more details of his life emerged in the media.

McLennan said discovering that her partner had spread neo-Nazi ideas while at college was a horrible shock at first.

Despite this, she said she wants to hold on to the positive impact Greenbaum had on her and others.

"I do not want to diminish what he did wrong — I'm glad the truth came out," she said, adding it's allowed her to connect with his father and friends, and gave her some more understanding of his life.

Britt Greenbaum (a.k.a. Davis Hawke) at his grandparents' home in the U.S. in an undated picture. Greenbaum took to spreading neo-Nazi ideology while he was at college. (Facebook)

Meanwhile, police said they are not wholly focused on Greenbaum's past and are also considering other possibilities.

"With respect to the motive and the reason behind [the] murder we are still open and really nowhere closer to determining a motive," said IHIT spokesperson Frank Jang.

"It remains an ongoing investigation and we're no closer to solving it. We're entertaining various investigational theories," he added.

Jang said they are appealing to anybody, especially people in the climbing community, to come forward.

Anybody with information can call IHIT at 1-877-551-4448 or email ihitinfo@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

IHIT Sgt. Frank Jang holds a photo of the man people now know is Britt Greenbaum, but who was known in Squamish as Jesse James until his death in 2017. (CBC)

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story suggested Eva McLennan had shared information directly with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. In fact, she gave the information to B.C.'s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which linked Britt Greenbaum to a pre-existing FBI investigation.
    Mar 07, 2021 2:34 PM PT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

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