Missing half-hour before homicide baffles police

After scouring hours of footage from traffic and security cameras, and combing through Opiny P'ochieng's cell phone, police are no closer to catching the Ottawa man's killer.

Detectives struggling to retrace Opiny P'ochieng's final 30 minutes

Opiny P'ochieng was found shot to death on Russell Road near Southvale Crescent in the early morning hours of May 5, 2018.

After scouring hours of footage from traffic and security cameras, and combing through Opiny P'ochieng's cell phone, police are no closer to catching the Ottawa man's killer.

P'ochieng was last seen buying a pack of cigarettes at a Montreal Road Ultramar around 3 a.m. on May 5. His body was discovered 30 minutes later and six kilometres away at the side of Russell Road. He'd been shot to death.

Investigators are trying to account for that missing half-hour.

"It's very baffling," said Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt of the major crime unit. "Usually we're able to track people through their cell phones, security cameras or traffic cameras, and this is strange that he disappeared from one spot and appeared in another spot."
Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt said detectives have been unable to account for the 30 minutes between P'ochieng's last sighting in Vanier, and his death six kilometres away. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Holding out hope

Detectives believe the 49-year-old was driven to the spot in the city's Sheffield Glen neighbourhood, killed and left in a pool of blood.

They're holding out hope that someone saw him get into a vehicle near the gas station in Vanier and can describe the car and driver.

"It's too far to have walked and the public transportation wasn't available at [that time], so someone picked him up and drove him to that area. So we're trying to figure out who picked him up, for what reason he was picked up and why that area," Pirt said.

Detectives have pored over traffic camera footage from St. Laurent Boulevard and Montreal Road to Russell Road, but have come up empty.

Before going to buy cigarettes P'ochieng was seen at Finnigan's Pub and D.J. Nels Plus restaurant in Vanier, police said.
P'ochieng was last seen buying cigarettes at this Ultramar gas station. Investigators believe he then got into a vehicle, but are still looking for witnesses to confirm that suspicion.

Struggling to pay funeral costs

As police puzzle over the case, the victim's friends are struggling to organize a funeral. P'ochieng had no family in Ottawa, so his roommate, Eidi Ayueil, has taken on the responsibility of burying him.

"He's a very peaceful man. That's what's hurt me, the way he died violently. He doesn't deserve that," said Ayueil, who had known P'ochieng since the early 1990s. "I think it's the least I can do for him as a friend, is to give him a dignified burial."

But Ayueil, an unemployed student, is struggling to handle the funeral costs. P'ochieng had neither life insurance nor death benefits through work, he said.
Eidi Ayueil, P'ochieng's former roommate, has taken on the responsibility of paying for his friend's funeral. (David Richard/ CBC News)

A generous spirit

P'ochieng came to Canada in 1993 as a refugee after fleeing war in South Sudan. The third-oldest of six children, he enrolled at Carleton University. Prior to his death he worked as a janitor for Bee-Clean Building Maintenance, mopping floors late into the night at Department of National Defence headquarters in downtown Ottawa.

Despite his modest income, P'ochieng was known for his generous spirit. A cousin living in Calgary, Nora Agot, said she received regular texts from P'ochieng and spoke with him two weeks before his death.

Agot, a single mother, said her cousin never failed to show his affection for her and her children.

"He always checks on us. He asked me about my son and I told him he was graduating, and [P'ocheing] sent him $300."

Agot said she can't afford to fly to Ottawa for a funeral, but is helping Ayueil raise money for her cousin's burial. Family and friends hope to have enough money to hold a service this weekend.