Manitoban whose week-long run from law ended in Ontario standoff now charged with killing neighbour

Eric Wildman, who was the focus of a week-long police search after the disappearance of his neighbour Clifford Joseph, is now charged with first-degree murder in the case.

Eric Wildman set to make court appearance Friday

Eric Wildman has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his neighbour Clifford Joseph. (Submitted by RCMP)

A man who was the focus of a week-long police search after the disappearance of his neighbour is now charged with first-degree murder in the case.

Eric Wildman, 34, went on the run from the police in June, after his rural Manitoba neighbour Clifford Joseph, 40, went missing.

Wildman was the subject of a week-long search after police announced they were treating Joseph's disappearance on June 7 as a homicide. Investigators identified Wildman, from the rural municipality of St. Clements, as a person of interest.

Joseph's remains were found in the area of Stead, Man., about 75 kilometres north of Winnipeg, on July 18.

During the search for Wildman, police said they found an abandoned vehicle belonging to Wildman in Winnipeg, with weapons and replica police clothing inside it.

"After we found the weapons and the police paraphernalia, this increased the public safety risk quite considerably," Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Supt. Michael Koppang said.

Wildman was arrested on June 18 at a home in Belleville, Ont., about 1,600 kilometres east of the area where he and Joseph were neighbours.

He already faces two charges of attempted murder after police said shots were fired when they arrived at a Belleville home to arrest him.

Wildman is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, police said in a news release.

Joseph's disappearance and the search for Wildman put communities on edge, as police warned they considered him armed and dangerous.

The first alert about Wildman went out on June 12, when police announced they considered him a person of interest.

The day before, police had found his vehicle abandoned in Winnipeg. Inside it, they found firearms, police-style tactical equipment, police patches, other items resembling police clothing, and red and blue lights that could be attached to the interior of a vehicle, they said.

"That was definitely a factor in the investigation that added a lot of intensity, added a lot of work and a lot of stress with respect to making sure that the public stayed safe," Koppang said.

People reported sightings of Wildman in the days that followed, including at a Lowe's store on Panet Road in Winnipeg, then later in the Lockport area and heading east.

An off-duty RCMP member reported seeing Wildman on the highway near Lac du Bonnet, the last time he was reported seen in Manitoba. He was then spotted by a "keen-eyed" member of the public in Prince Edward County, Ont., Koppang said.

Ontario Provincial Police tracked him to a house in Belleville, about 170 km east of Toronto, and arrested him on June 18. A month later on July 18, the investigators in Manitoba found Joseph's remains.