A key new detail in the Joshua Jeffs missing person case emerged on Jan. 8, after court documents revealed Jeffs, 23, and Heather Thorassie, 22, are facing criminal charges related to firearms possession.
The charges are in addition to a charge of possession of stolen property over $5,000 related to a stolen vehicle police allege they were driving.
Manitoba resident Joshua Jeffs, 23, was officially listed missing on Jan. 2 after police and family became concerned after finding no trace of the man since he fled into the bush near Revelstoke on Dec. 19.
An information document sworn on Jan. 6, and filed with the Provincial Court, states both Jeffs and Thorassie are charged with occupying a vehicle in which there is a firearm, and careless storage of a firearm.
Revelstoke RCMP did not previously disclose there were firearms involved in the Dec. 19 incident.
The information casts a new light on the search for Jeffs in the hours after he fled into the bush on Dec. 19 from the 12 Mile area. He fled after the vehicle he was in became stuck on a rural resource road.
RCMP have said they set up a perimeter around the area between 6 a.m. and noon that day.
Revelstoke Search & Rescue and RCMP dog and helicopter searchers returned two days later on Dec. 21 to resume the search.
Staff-Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky said the fact that two stolen long-arms and a replica pistol were found in the abandoned car influenced the way police conducted their search.
“It affected the involvement of Search and Rescue on that first day, [in] locating a person who is possibly armed and dangerous,” Grabinsky said. “We didn’t involve Search and Rescue for that very reason.
“Based on an assumption that he must have gotten out, if we couldn’t find him in that first six hours, we didn’t initiate a further search at that time for an armed person,” Grabinsky said.
A search for a missing person who wants to be found is a different thing from a search for a person who doesn’t. Locating a person who doesn’t want to be found and may have a gun is another matter altogether.
Grabinsky said Thorassie, the other occupant of the vehicle, was not co-operative with police for about 30 hours after her arrest.
Grabinsky said she then told police Jeffs didn’t have a firearm with him when he fled the vehicle.
Grabinsky said the new information, while not a complete assurance Jeffs was not armed, allowed police to involve Revelstoke Search and Rescue in the hunt for Jeffs on Dec. 21. However, armed police accompanied searchers on the ground and in a helicopter.
Grabinsky said police sometimes omit details of ongoing investigations, such as the involvement of firearms in this case.
“We are always holding back some form of information so that we can aid ourselves in our investigation. If we reveal everything immediately to the media, it makes it difficult for court proceedings,” he said.
When police issued a missing persons alert for Jeffs in early January, they did not yet have approval from Crown prosecutors for the criminal charges police have recommended against him. (In B.C., police recommend charges to the Crown, who then decide whether to proceed with the case.)
Revelstoke RCMP didn’t volunteer the information about the stolen firearms to the media today; it arose through a court document search by the Revelstoke Times Review.
None of the allegations against Jeffs or Thorassie have been proven in court. Thorassie has been released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court in Revelstoke in February.
Updated Jan. 13 to correct a typo that mis-stated a date as Jan. 21 instead of Dec. 21.