22-year-old mother of 2 identified as homicide victim as B.C. city sets new homicide record

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Friends and family have identified 22-year-old Isabelle Thomas as the victim of a recent Prince George homicide. (Submitted by Leslie Thomas)

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Family and friends have identified a Prince George homicide victim as Isabelle Thomas, describing her as a loving and outgoing mother of two who “always had a smile on her face.” 

Thomas was the victim of one of two unrelated and, at the time, suspicious deaths that happened in the B.C. community in mid-July within a 24-hour period — both of which are now being investigated as homicides, helping push the deadly crime rate in the city to the highest on record. 

Thomas’s family has identified her as the victim in the second death, which police said resulted from a home invasion on July 18. 

One man has been arrested, but police have not announced any charges.

Thomas, who was born and raised in Prince George, had six-year-old and six-month-old daughters.

“The girls meant the world to her,” said Leslie Thomas, Isabelle’s mother. “She did everything in her power to make sure they were happy, that they were taken care of.” 

Isabelle Thomas was outgoing, loyal and always willing to help a friend out, according to her mother. 

She had many different interests and loved learning new things. As a member of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, Isabelle Thomas liked learning about her culture and participated in community activities. She took classes in ribbon skirt making and drum making, her mother said. 

She said her daughter was also very outspoken and upfront. 

“She told you how it is, and she showed the same amount of love in return.”

Thomas said her daughter’s children were in the room with her when she died. 

“To have both of her babies with her while that thing was happening to her was just unimaginable and so maddening that they had to be put through that,” she said. 

Thomas said both children are in the care of immediate family now, and the family is fundraising to be able to send the older daughter to a child trauma therapy specialist in Vancouver. 

“The babies needed their mother,” Thomas said. 

Thomas said she has received an outpouring of support from the community as several hundred people came out to a memorial service for her daughter last weekend. 

Isabelle Thomas is survived by her two daughters, Addelynn and Eleanore, as well as her siblings, Aleynna Pedersen, Anabelle Pedersen, Jeff Pedersen, Dan Pedersen, Wesley Pedersen, Jasmaine Thomas, and Dakota Thomas, and her parents, Kent Pedersen and Leslie Thomas. 

With the death of Isabelle Thomas, the City of Prince George is now recording its deadliest year ever, with eight confirmed homicides since January.

That’s more than the previous high set in 2010, when the city recorded seven homicides — and was labelled Canada’s most dangerous city by Maclean’s magazine for the first of three consecutive years, based on the publication’s use of data provided by Statistics Canada.

The same year also saw two additional homicides in rural areas outside municipal boundaries.

In a report released Thursday, Statistics Canada found that violent crime in Prince George in 2022 was the highest of any city in B.C., with a population of more than 15,000 people. The agency makes the determination using the Crime Severity Index (CSI), based on police-reported incidents of violent crimes across Canada.

Cpl. Jenn Cooper with the Prince George RCMP said in a statement to CBC News that all of the eight homicides in 2023 appear targeted, and there is no increased risk to the community. 

“We are working diligently to identify those responsible for the recent spike in violence and have units throughout the detachment focusing their efforts on these and other supporting investigations,” Cooper wrote. 

According to police, five of this year’s homicides are connected to the drug trade, with Supt. Shaun Wright telling CBC News earlier in the year that there has been competition among different organizations and individuals aiming to control the region.

However, the two victims from the July homicides were not engaged in criminal activity at the time of their deaths, said Cooper.

In a report commissioned and presented to Prince George council last year, a trio of criminologists found that Prince George RCMP are dealing with more crime than almost any other city in the province, leading to high levels of burnout and an inability to effectively police the community.

In response, council approved funding for four additional officers and two civilian support staff at a cost of more than $1 million.

Provincially, the city has been earmarked as one of 12 communities to pilot a project that will see police, prosecutors and probation officers work together to target violent offenders. 

Feb. 4: A woman is found dead in her home on 17th Avenue at Fir Street in the city’s Millar Addition area between midnight and 1 a.m. Police say the death appears to have been targeted and connected to the city’s drug trade.

Feb. 14: A woman is found dead inside a home in the Sunrise Valley Mobile Park between midnight and 1 a.m. One woman is charged with second-degree murder in the death. RCMP say the death appears to be targeted and connected to the city’s drug trade.

March 7: RCMP are called to an “altercation” at the Connaught Hill Residences, a highrise apartment block less than 500 metres from city hall, around 9 p.m. A man is found dead, and RCMP later charged a man with manslaughter with a firearm. RCMP link this death to the drug trade, as well.

April 1: A man is found dead in a private residence in the 2200 block of Quince Street just before 8:30 p.m. RCMP say the death is being treated as a homicide victim connected to the city’s drug trade.

April 19: A man identified as James Archibald Webb is found deceased in a rural location approximately 80 kilometres northeast of Prince George. RCMP say Webb’s death was a targeted killing with links to the drug trade.

June 19: RCMP are called to a report of a home invasion shortly after 8 p.m. in the 300-block of Nicholson St. South. A man with life-threatening injuries and a woman with “severe but non-life-threatening injuries” are both taken to hospital. The man does not survive, and police treat his death as a homicide.

July 17: A woman is found dead in a residence on the 1500 block of Victoria Street.

July 18: A 22-year-old woman is killed during a home invasion at the Alpine Village townhouse complex on Upland Street. The family identifies her as Isabelle Thomas, a 22-year-old mother of two. One man is arrested.

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RCMP investigators parked outside this home in a quiet neighbourhood in Prince George for six days in February after a woman was found dead inside. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

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RCMP in Prince George,  a city in northern B.C. located about 500 kilometres north of Vancouver, are investigating their fourth homicide victim in less than two months.

Investigators believe all four deaths are “related to the drug subculture in Prince George,” according to RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Cooper.

She said although the violence has been directed at people involved in the drug trade, there is also a threat to public safety. 

“We are advising the public that those responsible for these crimes are violent and do not hold public safety in any regard.”

The most recent incident happened just before 8:30 p.m. PT on April 1.

Police say a man was found dead in a home in the 2200 block of Quince Street.

RCMP released details about the death on April 4 and, at the same time, said another death in the city, previously deemed “suspicious,” is also being investigated as a homicide.

It occurred on March 7 when a man was found dead outside a highrise apartment building less than 500 metres from city hall.

The next day, bloodstains were visible in the building’s parking lot and on a glass entrance door, which required tenants to walk through the crime scene in order to leave the building.

Police would not release any details about the death or their investigation. CBC News made repeated requests for several weeks for information, but no further details were released until Tuesday, when they confirmed it was a homicide

The deadly toll in Prince George also includes a woman killed in a small yellow house just a few doors down from the popular Lheidli T’enneh Park and a woman found dead in a mobile home on an icy street. Both occurred in February.

On Feb. 16, RCMP announced they had arrested one woman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of the woman at the mobile home.

At the time, RCMP said they were still searching for “other suspects” that may be connected to the case. 

It was almost exactly a year ago that RCMP in Prince George issued a similar warning about gang violence connected to the drug trade in the city, following three targeted killings by the end of March.

By the end of 2022, there were six homicides publicly reported — three targeted shootings on Jan. 25, March 12 and March 27, followed by a fatal stabbing on June 28, a shooting on Nov. 14 and a sixth homicide victim which RCMP are not releasing details about.

According to Statistics Canada data, that makes 2022 the city’s second-deadliest going back to 1998, tied with 2021 and just behind 2010, when seven homicides were recorded.

On a per-capita basis, 2010 and 2004 had the most homicides per 100,000 people for the same time period.

Prince George Mayor Simon Yu calls it a tragedy that’s affecting the whole city and tarnishing the image of Prince George. 

“My condolences go to the victims’ families, but you know, I’m just very angry. The drug trade is preying on people,” he said.

Cooper said the Combined Forces Uniformed Gang Enforcement Team has been in the city since last month, working with the Serious Crime Unit to try to stem the violence.

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RCMP investigators at the scene of a homicide at a Prince George trailer park in February 2023 that police have linked to the drug trade. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

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The Prince George RCMP Serious Crime Unit is investigating the fifth homicide victim of the year linked to the drug trade, according to police. 

The latest homicide victim, James [Jimmy] Webb, 52, had been reported missing by family in March.

At the time, RCMP said Webb may have been carrying an oxygen tank … and could have difficulty walking long distances.”

Webb was found dead in a rural area about 80 kilometres northeast of Prince George on April 19, said RCMP Cpl Jennifer Cooper in a written statement issued Wednesday, a week after the discovery. 

Cooper said Prince George Search and Rescue staff and volunteers helped investigators with the “recovery” of the body. 

She said Webb’s death was a “targeted event connected to the drug trade in Prince George” and the fifth such homicide victim in just three months. 

Earlier this month, Prince George RCMP Superintendent Shaun Wright told CBC News that drug dealers from the Lower Mainland were linked to the violence. 

“To really distribute drugs to the north and up to the Yukon, Prince George is a desirable territory. We’re seeing individuals from the conflict in the Lower Mainland reaching up here to try to control that illegal trade.” 

Police say the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit B.C. has been in Prince George since March to try to stem the violence.

This year’s deadly drug-linked toll includes a woman killed in a small yellow house just a few doors down from the popular Lheidli T’enneh Park and a woman found dead in a mobile home on an icy street, both in February.

One woman has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of the woman at the mobile home.

On March 7, a man was found shot to death outside a highrise apartment building less than 500 metres from city hall.

The next day, bloodstains were visible in the building’s parking lot and on a glass entrance door, which required tenants to walk through the crime scene to leave the building. RCMP later charged a man with manslaughter with a firearm.

On April 1, a man was found dead in a home in Prince George’s inner city. 

Cooper said RCMP don’t know whether the deaths are connected to each other.

“We are looking into all of our investigative avenues, but the only link we have so far is that they are all connected to the drug trade.”

Webb’s name is the only victim’s name that RCMP have publicly released.

In a missing person’s alert for Webb that RCMP issued in March, Webb’s family said it was out of character for him not to check in with them each day.

Court records for a man with the same name and birth date as Webb show that he was under a lifetime firearms ban but that his last contact with the court system was almost a decade ago, in 2014.

The convictions included theft under $5,000, fraudulent consumption of electricity, and possession of an unauthorized firearm. 

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Prince George RCMP are investigating the second homicide of a woman in the city in less than two weeks.

Both women were found dead inside residences between midnight and 1 a.m.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Cooper said officers found a woman dead inside a house in the Sunrise Valley Mobile Home Park after responding to a report of a disturbance. 

Unmarked police vehicles blocked off both ends of a block of homes in the mobile home park. RCMP cruisers and uniformed investigators were visible down an icy road, where police tape was strung across several vehicles.

At the time, Cooper said serious crime unit investigators were working to identify two women seen leaving the residence after midnight.

On Feb. 16, RCMP announced they had arrested one woman, who has been charged with second-degree murder.

 RCMP said they are still searching for “other suspects” that may be connected to the case. 

In the first homicide victim case, on Feb. 4, another woman was found dead in her home in the Millar Addition on 17th Avenue at Fir Street, just a few doors down from the popular Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park, in a quiet residential neighbourhood.

Last week, RCMP cruisers were parked outside the small yellow house for six days, investigating what they called a “suspicious death.”

Cooper said the death has since been determined to be a homicide, but no details would be released “due to the privacy of the deceased.” 

“It’s too early in the investigation to draw any connections between the two deaths,” Cooper told CBC News on Tuesday. “There’s nothing glaringly obvious.”

“Definitely, it’s not the type of news we would like to receive,” Prince George Mayor Simon Yu told CBC News. “Are they just this one-time occurrence or some kind of trend? Definitely, this has not helped the city’s image.”

Yu said his condolences go out to the women’s families. “But it’s not just the family. It’s the community as a whole.”

Prince George recorded six homicides in 2022 and in 2021, one homicide in 2020 and two in 2019, according to RCMP. 

A report presented to Prince George council in December 2022, in support of increased police funding, stated that the Prince George RCMP deals with more crime than almost any other city in the province. 

One of the report’s authors, Surrey-based criminologist Curt Griffiths of Simon Fraser University, told local councillors that the city’s crime was not a problem of perception vs reality.

People are fearful of crime because they should be,” he said. 

The British Columbia government says it is creating hubs made up of police, dedicated prosecutors and probation officers to target repeat violent offenders across the province. 

The 12 hubs are part of the Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative, which the province says will focus on targeted enforcement and enhanced investigation and monitoring and will be tailored to meet the needs of communities.

During a news conference Wednesday in Nanaimo, B.C., Premier David Eby said the hubs will “target the small but serious number of people causing the most chaos while also making sure services are available to those who need them and who are ready to access them.”

Nanaimo will be home to one of the hubs, along with Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Prince George, Williams Lake and Terrace.

The hubs will start work at the beginning of next month, according to the premier.

To everyone listening today, the message is this: if you break the law, there will be serious consequences. If you need support to break the cycle of offending, it will be available to you,” Eby said.

B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma added that a co-ordinated approach is needed to address repeat violent offenders, which have become a growing concern across the country. 

Hubs will be located in Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Prince George, Williams Lake and Terrace.

The initiative will be supported by the new Special Investigation and Targeted Enforcement (SITE) program aimed at bolstering investigations of cases involving repeat violent offender and improving information-sharing between police agencies. The province is investing $16 million over three years in the program.

In November, Eby presented a range of new measures, dubbed the “Safer Communities Action Plan,” aimed at boosting public safety in communities across B.C.

Eby said the B.C. government is committing $1 billion in this year’s budget in mental health and addiction services.

“Sometimes a health response is needed too, not just a criminal justice one,” Eby said.

Last month, more than 100 people took part in a rally in Nanaimo where the news conference was held to express their frustration with what they described as escalating crime and a lack of policing. The rally came days after a local mechanic shop owner was shot while trying to retrieve his stolen tools from a makeshift encampment.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said Wednesday that the situation in his city and others across the province is the result of decades of failed social and health policy. 

He said extra supports are needed to ensure public safety while addressing the root causes of crime. 

“We all know that across this province in every community, there are a number of individuals who are significant repeat offenders, who consume a great deal of police resources, taking time from all kinds of other policing activities that are important,” Krog said.

“I think as far as a short-term solution goes, it’s going to be helpful. Is it perfect? No. But you know what, it’s a very good start.”

The Surrey Board of Trade welcomed Wednesday’s announcement, saying a sense of public safety is key to a community’s economic development.

“We know that repeat offenders cause distress to the public and to businesses, leading some businesses to shut down or relocate, and others choose not to open shop in certain areas,” said Surrey Board of Trade president and CEO.Anita Huberman.”

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