'17 years of pure hell:' Kelowna man calls out step-dad Sean Starkes for misdeeds - InfoNews

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'17 years of pure hell:' Kelowna man calls out step-dad Sean Starkes for misdeeds

Sean Starkes in July 2019. Former landlords are warning others not to rent to this man.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Ray Keen
August 21, 2019 - 7:00 AM

KELOWNA - For the first 17 years of his life, Wyatt Andruchow had 40 different addresses.

He lived in Salmon Arm, Kelowna, Vernon, Lake Country, Lumby and Mara.

His family moved from one address to another, often without notice, in the middle of the night upsetting any sense of stability. He didn’t always know why but he does now. Sean Starkes, his stepfather, a prolific criminal with a growing reputation, was playing landlords for profit and this was part of his game.

“We kept moving because Sean could not keep a stable job,” Wyatt, now 21, said. “(He) would screw the landlords over to the point that (he had to make a) midnight move.”

Former landlords from around the Okanagan and Shuswap areas have recently begun to band together, sharing horror stories and warning other landlords not to rent to Sean Starkes, also known Sean Travis, Sean Sterling, Sean Andruchow, Travis Starkes and Sean Quinton. Wyatt has seen many of their complaints from the other side.

He and his two younger half-siblings never stayed in one place for a full school year, making it difficult to build relationships. Their mother left in 2014, and Starkes gained full custody of all three kids. A no contact order was issued against her, meaning that she could not contact her children unless they reached out to her first.

And without any strong bonds there was little oversight when things went wrong.

“It was 17 years of pure hell,” Wyatt said. “He was highly aggressive and abusive while growing up and I witnessed and dealt with a lot of aggression…. I had to call the cops multiple times on him for incidences.”

Wyatt said he often went without proper meals, and many times resorted to getting food from friends.

Having a step-father like that obviously complicates his own relationship with his mother and his siblings.

Wyatt said he and his siblings were once put into foster care by the Ministry of Children and Family Development in 2009 after an unexpected home inspection revealed unsuitable living conditions. Wyatt was 11 at the time, and he, his two siblings, his mother and step-father were all living in a two-bedroom house.

The children’s school reported Sean for child neglect to the Ministry for Children, which resulted in the surprise inspection.

However, he says Sean was back in the picture after about a year and a half.

Image Credit: Facebook/ Kelowna Scammers/Thieves Page

Then there were other, more subtle abuses.

He and his younger brother, who still lives with Sean, have autism. Rather than concentrating on their care, Wyatt said Sean capitalized on it, collecting disability payments and sympathy from landlords.

Wyatt says Sean also used it several times as a ploy to squeeze money from people who wanted to help.

In 2011, her approached multiple media outlets in the Okanagan using the name Sean Andruchow and told them that his sons had been collecting bottles in order to raise money for an Autism Camp, which he claimed cost $5,000. He said that they’d already collected $500 worth, but they were been stolen.

The community was quick to help, donating the missing funds. It was soon revealed that not only was the camp in question only $300, but the man making the claims was indeed Sean Starkes. He said he used a different name to deflect from his lengthy criminal past including fraud, theft and possession of stolen property.

They have also occasionally hit neighbourhood Facebook forums making similar pleas for money for charities for autism until many locals called them out.

It wasn’t Sean’s only controversial ‘business’.

“He ran New Choice Renovations Landscaping, that was his makeshift business,” Wyatt said. “New Creations Landscaping, then he ran Autism in Action.”

Sean used Autism in Action to gather donations from local scrap metal businesses for Autism, but Wyatt said most of the funds went straight into his pocket.

Wyatt said Sean then created Travis Family Steel Removal, then Father Daughter Interior/Exterior Renovations. He also ran several landscaping businesses.

Wyatt, and his sister, have since moved out.

“I have had three years to deal with it all myself, by myself, to where I can function every day. But my memories are so [messed] up,” said Wyatt. “That’s the sad thing, I witnessed it, I lived it. I kinda wanna write a book about it. Because that way, I’m getting it out there. You read about [messed] up [stuff], but you don’t realize it actually happens, and it’s very present and people ignore it.”

His 17-year-old brother is still with Sean and, for that, Wyatt has lingering concerns.

“He is severely autistic and easily manipulatable,” he said.

Wyatt hasn’t spoken to his brother or sister since he left home and that’s just one reason he can’t leave his past behind. The other is that Sean is never far from view.

Sean has recently become a regular staple of Facebook pages as recent landlords take their concerns to community groups. They’ve alleged failure to pay rent, damaging property, and stealing furniture and valuables. One landlord from Copper Sky, David McKinley, told iNFOnews.ca that the cost of alleged damage to the unit, owed rent and stolen valuables totalled $15,000.

“My carpets are destroyed, my walls are completely destroyed, the fridge is destroyed, so many things missing, I couldn’t believe all that stuff was gone,” McKinley said. “There’s cat feces all over the bedroom floor, there’s human and cat urine all over the bedroom floor as well that soaked up into the baseboards.”

From Copper Sky, Sean moved to Discovery Bay to rent from Sherry Kowalchuk in July. Although he initially made a good first impression, he made excuse after excuse to get out of paying rent, even dragging Wyatt into his latest scheme.

Kowalchuk said that she was told Wyatt had died and that he was to be buried in Vancouver.

Screenshot of text conversation between landlord Sherry Kowaulchuk and Sean Starkes, when he informed his landlord that his son had died in Vancouver July 8, 2019.
Screenshot of text conversation between landlord Sherry Kowaulchuk and Sean Starkes, when he informed his landlord that his son had died in Vancouver July 8, 2019.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Sherry Kowulchuk

On the same day he said Wyatt died, Kowalchuk ran into Sean in Kelowna. He’d just sent her a message saying he was waiting for a flight in Vancouver.

Having talked to McKinley and some of Sean's previous landlords, Kowalchuk was concerned about the risk of theft or damage to the unit. On July 3 she posted a 10 day eviction notice on Sean's door and emailed him a copy.

As Sean had failed to pay rent or vacate the unit, Kowalchuk locked him out of the apartment. However, because Kowalchuk didn’t wait the full five days as required by the Residential Tenancy Board before locking the unit, Sean had grounds to file to have the notice stood down.

Kowalchuk submitted 2,000 pages of documents and pictures detailing the damage Sean allegedly did to numerous previous residences. Sean's appeal was successful, however, and he was cleared to take back possession of the unit Aug. 9.

Wyatt isn’t surprised by anything his stepfather has done.

“He’s sold furniture from landlords, sold cars that were on properties, sold fireplaces,” Wyatt said. “He looks at homes and goes, ‘I can make money off of this.’”

The recent allegations of theft and destruction of landlords’ property are just the tip of the iceberg in Sean’s long career of crime in the Okanagan.

His criminal history in B.C. begins in 1989 when he turned 18. Over the past 30 years, Sean has accumulated 19 criminal charges in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Vernon, Lake Country and Salmon Arm. They consist of eight counts of driving while prohibited, one count of fraud, six counts of theft, three counts of possessing stolen property and one count of breaking and entering.

In addition to his criminal record, Sean has been involved in 12 civil suits in Provincial Small Claims court.

Sean Starkes disputes many of these claims. He offered lengthy rebuttals against some former landlords. He said that he left the unit at Copper Sky in better condition than when he arrived, and claimed to have hired a cleaner.

He acknowledged his social media infamy is impacting him.

"I have been bashed and now threatened yet again on today my son’s birthday thanks to the Facebook band wagon," he said. 

He said he has received threats of violence in anonymous texts, and by random people on the street.

“I’m threatened every day,” he said. “My life is threatened on a daily basis.”

Sean also acknowledged his record, but believes that he deserves to be left alone.

“Just like every person on this earth I have a past but (the) difference (is) no one looks to the facts. I have served my time for my mistakes. My past is just that, it’s past.”

Wyatt, however, has heard all this before. 

“He’s done a lot of [messed] up [stuff] to a lot people," Wyatt said, “and if I’m the first one that can actually [expose] it, a lot of other people can too.”

Wyatt wants justice, not only for the years of abuse he said he suffered growing up, but for others who have also been wronged by Sean.

“I wanna see him put away, but I want everyone to get their chance to say 'hey, I want my money back,'” he said. "It’s been a struggle, but I’m glad to see that something’s being done. Hopefully I’ll be able to do something more about it."


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