Former Calgary Stampeder's 2018 death now deemed suspicious, with 4 sought in ring thefts
NFL and CFL championship rings included in missing items
The death of former Calgary Stampeder linebacker Mike Labinjo, who was found dead inside his Calgary home two years ago, is now considered suspicious as police seek four people they think stole from him.
At the time of the 38-year-old's death, police did not believe it was criminal.
But security camera footage shows four people entering Labinjo's apartment in the early morning of Sept. 21, 2018, just hours before he was found dead, according to Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta.
Police said in a release Monday that they have reclassified Labinjo's death as suspicious after family members reported many of his personal belongings to be missing following his death.
The Calgary Police Service launched a theft investigation that revealed numerous items and sports memorabilia had been stolen from Labinjo's home immediately after his death, including two football championship rings bearing his name.
One is a ring from his time with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and another is a Calgary Stampeders ring. Neither one has ever been recovered.
Photos of four theft suspects have been released by police, and investigators are looking to the public for help identifying the two men and two women.
Police believe the four people might also have information related Labinjo's death.
Schiavetta said police are now trying to figure out if Labinjo's death was intentional, if he was killed to facilitate the theft of his personal items.
"We know there are people in the community who have information," said Schiavetta. "We need those people to come forward."
Schiavetta said that along with results from the medical examiner's office and the security camera footage, police also received "additional information from members of the public," which led police to reclassify the death as suspicious.
"He was a caring, kind, gentle and loving person," said Labinjo's brother Randy in a written statement. "I love him. When I lost him, I lost a part of myself that I can never regain."
Randy Labinjo said his brother left behind a daughter who "was his world."
The victim's mother pleaded with the public for information.
"Michael, you did not deserve to die this way," said Margaret Labinjo.
"I am going to make sure whoever did this to you are held responsible. I will fight to the end for justice to be served. I love you son forever."
Labinjo was a six-foot, 285-pound Toronto native who played at Michigan State from 2000 to 2003 before he was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2003.
Instead, Labinjo signed in 2004 as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles, playing in the team's Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
He was released by the Eagles in 2005 and played in both Indianapolis and Miami for a total of 10 career NFL games before he was let go by the Dolphins in 2007.
The linebacker then played for the Stamps from 2007 to 2010, including in the 2008 Grey Cup win over Montreal, before he was released from the team in 2011.