Manitoba

Homicide suspect Eric Wildman spotted near Manitoba's Whiteshell Provincial Park

Eric Wildman, wanted in connection with the disappearance and presumed death of another man, was seen on Wednesday evening in the Whitemouth area east of Winnipeg, RCMP say.

'We just really want the public to be aware and be vigilant'

Eric Paul Wildman is described as six feet, two inches tall, weighing 170 pounds, with blue eyes. The public is urged to not approach him as he's considered armed and dangerous. (Submitted by RCMP)

Eric Wildman, wanted in connection with the disappearance and presumed death of another man, was seen on Wednesday evening in the Whitemouth area east of Winnipeg, RCMP say.

Wildman, 34, was driving a grey 2020 Chevy Equinox, licence plate KGE 368, heading east on Highway 44 toward the Ontario border. 

RCMP say people should expect heavy police presence throughout the Whiteshell Provincial Park.

Earlier, Mounties said he had been spotted in the Lockport area north of Winnipeg on Tuesday.

The public is urged to call 911 or the RCMP tip line at 431-489-8551 if they see Wildman but to not approach him as he's considered armed and dangerous.

"We just really want the public to be aware and be vigilant," RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Laura LeDrew said Wednesday. 

She estimated RCMP have received about 25 tips so far and are investigating them all. Whenever there is a potential sighting "we're flooding the area" with officers, LeDrew said.

"So when that came in [for Lockport], we sent people out into that area."

It was a strong tip but Wildman remains a step ahead, LeDrew said. But with widespread attention on him, LeDrew expressed hope that the search will end soon.

"We want to bring Mr. Wildman in safely, that is our key focus," she said.

RCMP on Wednesday also released surveillance camera images of Wildman captured on Friday.

They show him at a Lowe's, in Winnipeg's East Kildonan area, before he took a cab to the Winnipeg airport and rented the Equinox.

Wildman is described as six feet, two inches tall and 170 pounds, with blue eyes. He was last seen wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a white camouflage ball cap.

He is wanted in connection with the disappearance of Clifford Joseph. The RCMP say they're treating Joseph's disappearance as a homicide, based on evidence linked to Wildman.

Police believe Wildman may be driving a grey 2020 Chevy Equinox, like the one in this stock image. The licence plate is KGE 368. (Manitoba RCMP)

The two men were neighbours in the Rural Municipality of St. Clements, around the community of Stead, about 70 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Joseph, 40, was last seen leaving his home in the early morning of June 7. His 1997 Ford Ranger was found abandoned later that same day in a rural area off Road 44 East, near Wildman's property.

Same house, 2 disappearances

The person who lived in that same St. Clements home prior to Joseph also went missing.

Vernon Karl Otto, 66, was reported missing in 2018, and his burnt-out truck was found a short distance away.

His disappearance is deemed suspicious and that investigation is continuing, LeDrew said, but is not part of the investigation involving Joseph and Wildman.

"Absolutely not related," she said.

Police identified Wildman as a suspect in Joseph's disappearance on June 12, a day after locating Wildman's abandoned vehicle in Winnipeg's East Kildonan neighbourhood. Police found guns, police tactical equipment, police patches and other items resembling police clothing in the vehicle.

On Tuesday officers combed through his Stead property, which included many burned vehicles and the rubble of a former residence with only the brick chimney still standing.

RCMP say that structure burned down about a month ago but there is nothing at the moment to suggest it is linked to the current investigation. 

Prior convictions

Court records obtained by CBC News show Wildman has been in trouble with the law before.

He has prior convictions, between 2006 and 2018, for theft, impaired driving and forgery.

During his 2013 sentencing for impaired driving — to which he pleaded guilty — court heard Wildman has a neurological disorder that affects his speech. It also limits his opportunities for employment.

To make money, he had been buying cars to fix and resell. Wildman was living with his father at the time and court heard his father would likely have to get involved until Wildman could drive again.

His father died in December 2017, according to an online obituary

Police found guns and ammunition in Wildman's vehicle. (Manitoba RCMP)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent. Story idea? Email: darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca

With files from Ian Froese and Holly Caruk

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