May 13, 2014 - 4:18 PM
'HE IS CAPABLE OF ANYTHING.'
WEST KELOWNA - The Westbank Lions Hall may have been burned down simply out of revenge against the bride set to be married there that morning.
Kerry Cooper, 30, is now in custody and charged with arson in the Sept. 1, 2013 blaze. His former girlfriend was a bridesmaid in the wedding of Amanda and Shane Nevdoff, which was quickly relocated the following day.
But Amanda, 31, says Cooper was angry because she suggested her friend leave Cooper to escape his abuses. She suspects the information got back to Cooper or perhaps he suspected she, Shane or her parents called the police about their domestic disputes, and he sought revenge.
She says she’s lived in fear of him for years.
"Since the fire, he slashed my husband’s tires and my mom’s tires like six times,” she says, claiming they have video to prove it.
On his Facebook page that same day, Cooper posted an Infotel News video of the fire and said: ‘Mandy... dont worry karmas going to get u.”
Police contacted her within days of the wedding asking questions and she showed them the Facebook message.
Numerous interviews with neighbours suggest she wasn’t the only one living in fear of Cooper. Long before he was arrested for arson, some residents of the Princess Mobile Home Park suspected he was responsible for burning down two trailers in the park. Cooper was quoted in a December 2012 Kelowna Daily Courier story as a witness watching one of those fires burn. Loud fights were common from the home he shared with a woman and her autistic son. Evidence of a marijuana grow operation was found around his former trailer, left littered with trash. He moved out last fall; his girlfriend left at the end of last month.
Cooper was never charged with arson in those events, nor for slashing tires or any other allegations.
Amanda says she hopes if he's found guilty, the courts will protect her. She was very hesitant to speak about the situation in case he retaliates again.
"I think he is capable of anything,” she says. “He could retaliate in any sort of way... just to get back at us. Arson just seems really extreme so to see that he would do that says to me that he is capable of anything and that in itself just scares me."
Until then, she's just sorry the entire community has paid the ultimate price.
"It affected the community more than it affected me and Shane. It affected us for a day," she says. "I feel worse for the community. We had everyone come together for us. And our wedding ended up turning out amazing."
The hall, on Main Street, was West Kelowna's only real meeting place for community and service groups before it burned. The Westbank Lions Club opted to rebuild the hall. They say it's roughly half done and could be opened by September.
— To contact a reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014