Two of the last people to see Crystal Andrews on the morning she went missing in Gods Lake Narrows in November 2015 are among the witnesses who testified at the murder trial of Michael Okemow in Thompson, along with RCMP officers who found some of her belongings and conducted a search at the home of Michael Okemow’s parents.
Wallace Anderson testified that he saw Andrews twice on the morning of Nov. 8, once when he gave friends of hers a ride home and again after picking up another passenger and taking him to buy a bottle of alcohol.
Anderson saw Andrews walking along the road around 6 a.m. while he was driving her friends to Tessa Brightnose’s home. He slowed down while Brightnose tried to convince Andrews to get into his vehicle. He saw Andrews again after picking up Mitchell Okemow before taking him to Brightnose’s house to buy alcohol. While at Brightnose’s home, Anderson said he heard a vehicle that sounded like it stopped and backed up. He said thought it was an RCMP truck picking Andrews up.
“I’m pretty sure it was a truck,” he said under questionign by defence counsel, but didn’t see the vehicle.
Mitchell Okemow testified that he saw an SUV while he was waiting in Anderson’s vehicle outside Brightnose’s house. He said he saw one of the doors open but didn’t see if anyone got in but thought that Andrews had gotten into the vehicle because he and Anderson had seen her walking just a few minutes earlier. Mitchell Okemow estimated the distance from where he was to the SUV to be about 80 feet but testimony from a Gods Lake Narrows RCMP officer said the distance from the driveway where Anderson’s truck was parked to the stop sign where the Mitchell Okemow said he saw the SUV stopped was actually about 180 metres.
Jimmy “Nick” Bland testified that he found a shoe outside his home on Nov. 9, 2015 but didn’t hear anything unusual outside his house prior to the shoe being found. The shoe was seized by police and matched the description of the shoes Andrews was wearing on the night of Nov. 7, 2015 and the following morning.
Tina Trout said she saw Michael Okemow in his father’s vehicle on the morning of Nov. 8 when she was woken up by screaming, yelling and crying outside her house. Trout knew Micheal Okemow because he was in a relationship with her sister. She said she recognized his clothes when she looked out of her kitchen window and saw someone punching someone who was laying on the ground. The driver of the vehicle then tried to run over people who came to break up the fight. Trout said she messaged her brother on Facebook to report the incident to the police around 6:40 a.m. Trout said during questioning by defence counsel that she was not wearing her glasses at the time and said she didn’t see Andrews that morning.
The SUV belonging to Michael Okemow’s father was found around 9 a.m. Nov. 8 stuck in the muskeg where the winter road enters Gods Lake Narrows by RCMP Const. James Johnston. He said he saw tracks leading from the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Michael Okemow’s mother Myrna Okemow testified that her son came to her house around 4 p.m. Nov. 8 and that he took a shower. In mid-December*, she gave police consent to search her home, where they found damp clothes identified as belonging to Michael Okemow in a basement bedroom and a box containing his shoes, which were muddy, behind a water tank in a crawl space in the home’s basement.
Const. Dale Frederick, the officer who found the shoes, testified that he was working on the night of Nov. 8 when the detachment started receiving calls from people asking if Andrews was being held in RCMP cells.
“The phone was ringing off the hook,” said Frederick, who visited the homes of several people who knew Andrews later that night to see if they knew where she was.
Michael Okemow’s trial is set to wrap up by Jan. 20 at the latest and the verdict is due to be delivered by Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin in Gods Lake Narrows Jan. 24.
*The original version of this story said the search took place in November. The Thompson Citizen apologizes for the error.