Boy, 13, aids Revelstoke police in solving 27-year-old cold case | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Boy, 13, aids Revelstoke police in solving 27-year-old cold case

Police retrieve a vehicle from Griffin Lake near Revelstoke on Aug. 24, 2019. The body of an adult woman was found inside.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / RCMP
September 07, 2019 - 2:44 PM

REVELSTOKE - It was a series of cascading coincidences, the result of which could never have been foreseen.

When Nancy Werenka, owner of Griffin Lake Cabins near Revelstoke, heard from a guest that something was catching the sun in the water, the last thought on her mind was that with the help of her 13-year-old son, a nearly three-decade-old missing person's case would be solved.

As the sun reached the right angle in the sky, reflections from something deep below the water’s surface could be seen from boats floating on the calm waters above. Max Werenka went to investigate.

“There were guests staying at our cabin. They were out looking for fish when they spotted something that seemed off,” Nancy recalled. “My son went out there and found it and figured it must have been a car because he could see the exhaust.”

All the signs pointed to a 2009 incident in which a vehicle carrying four people went off the embankment and into the lake. Two Kelowna men helped rescue all four from the scene of the accident, and the Werenka’s assumed that the vehicle had simply been left behind and forgotten.

That is until another puzzle piece fell into place.

“It was just a fluke. The very next day, my friend was intrigued. He kept going out and showing people,” Werenka said.

A Revelstoke RCMP officer was visiting a guest at the cabin. Werenka told the officer about their discovery.

“He just looked at us and said, ’No, that vehicle was removed.’”

Officers from the Revelstoke RCMP detachment were called in and, with the help of Max, they set out on the lake to locate the submerged vehicle.

However, Werenka noted, the conditions had to be just right to catch a glimpse of the vehicle through roughly five-metres of water.

“The sun had to be hitting it just right,” she said and added that the police couldn’t see anything. “My son said, ‘I’ve got a GoPro, Let me dive in, I’ll show you.’”

Max, armed with his waterproof GoPro camera, swam to the bottom of the lake. His camera captured what could not be seen from above: an older-model Honda Accord laying roof-down on the bottom of the lake.

Police returned Aug. 24 with a dive team to retrieve the vehicle, which was later identified as that belonging to Janet Farris – a Vancouver Island woman who had gone missing in 1992. A woman’s body was found inside the vehicle.

An Aug. 27 RCMP press release detailed the vehicle's recovery.

“At this time, investigators are working closely with the B.C. Coroners Service to confirm the woman’s identity,” Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in the release. “Early indicators are that her death does not involve criminality.”

Farris’ family was later notified of the discovery.

“Of course we’re sad for the family. You’re just so heartbroken for them and just wrapping your head around how someone could have dealt with that for so many years. I can’t fathom not knowing where a loved one is,” Werenka said. “I’m hearing that the family is happy that they have closure now.”

As for Max, Werenka said her son is handling the discovery well.

“He’s a very mature boy,” Werenka said. "He again is happy and sad for the family at the same time.”

Werenka said she doesn’t know how the vehicle went unnoticed, but, 27 years ago, there were no cement barricades on that stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway.

“Now the highway has been widened, there’s barricades,” Werenka said. "This is something that probably couldn’t happen nowadays."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Parker Crook or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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