Police seek help retracing homicide victim's last steps

Ottawa police are trying to retrace Opiny P'ochieng's last steps in order to find his killer, and they're asking for the public's help.

Opiny P'ochieng, 49, 'wouldn't harm a fly,' friend says

P'ochieng was shot to death in the early morning hours of May 5. His body was discovered about six kilometres from where he was last seen in Vanier. (Facebook)

Ottawa police are trying to retrace Opiny P'ochieng's last steps in order to find his killer, and they're asking for the public's help.

P'ochieng, 49, was last seen alive at about 3 a.m. Saturday at an Ultramar gas station near Montreal Road and Cantin Street. About 30 minutes later a passerby found his body at the side of Russell Road near Southvale Crescent, some six kilometres away. 

An autopsy conducted Saturday afternoon confirmed P'ochieng had been shot to death. Detectives say they don't know where the shooting took place.

He had no business being there that time of night.- Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt

P'ochieng, who was originally from South Sudan, didn't own a car, and buses weren't running at that time. Investigators are asking residents and business owners near the gas station where he was last seen to scour security camera footage that might offer clues.

P'Ochieng's former landlord, Luis Desousa, and Emilio Goncalves, the owner of Cafe Caco where P'Ochieng visited every Friday, say he was an ideal tenant and customer. 0:30

Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt of the major crime unit said P'ochieng was an unlikely victim, and said it was unusual for him to venture so far from Vanier, where he lived.

"We want to know how he got to Russell Road, why, and who brought him there," Pirt said. "He had no business being there that time of night."

'A very excellent guy'

P'ochieng's friends were still reeling Monday.

Emilio Goncalves owns Cafe Caco, a sports bar on Montreal Road where he said P'ochieng had been a weekly fixture for 15 years.

P'ochieng was last spotted inside the Ultramar gas station at Montreal Road and Cantin Street around 3 a.m. Saturday. (Google Maps)

"He's one of the best customers I have. He's a nice guy... a very quiet guy. We just received the notice today and I was shocked, because he was an excellent guy, a very excellent guy," said Goncalves, who added that P'ochieng worked as a cleaner and had a sister in Calgary, but no relatives in Ottawa.

P'ochieng was always cheerful and was happiest when singing karaoke and dancing at the bar, Goncalves said.

Goncalves bumped into P'ochieng last week, and told Goncalves he'd be in for a beer. Instead, police officers came to the bar on the weekend to ask about P'ochieng's last known whereabouts.

Emilio Goncalves, left, and Luis Desousa, right, both knew P'ochieng for more than a decade. (Judy Trinh/ CBC News)

The victim's former landlord, Luis Desousa, also expressed shock at P'ochieng's death. Desousa owns a rooming house in Vanier and rented to P'ochieng for nearly a decade. He said P'ochieng often volunteered to help him with landscaping and small repairs around the building. 

"I have nothing bad to say about him. He was a good tenant, paid on time, never had a conflict with him at all," Desousa said. "That man would not hurt a fly, so it's hard to believe. How could somebody do this to a person like that?"

P'ochieng is Ottawa's 12th homicide victim of 2018.

Ottawa police are asking anyone who may have seen P'ochieng before his death to call the major crime unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5493.