[This story originally appeared in the Nov. 28, 2013 edition of the Chilliwack Times]
Nothing could have prepared Gladys Scherbey for the moment she walked through the door of her son Corey’s Chilliwack house and into his living room.
The 38-year-old’s back was to Gladys. He was on his knees in front of a leather sofa with his head face down on the cushion.
A sprawling pool of black fluid surrounded the 38-year-old, hardened to a crust where it had flowed underneath the couch on the laminate floor.
Gladys screamed out his name and ran to him. She put her arms around his mid-section and placed him on the floor.
“His face was white. His eyelids were white…. I couldn’t find his ears,” she told the Times.
Raw with emotion as if the death happened yesterday, Gladys related the gory details through her tears.
“I could feel the holes but I couldn’t find his ears.”
Realizing the horror of what she faced – or possibly just in a state of panic – Gladys ran from the house.
And thus began a journey for answers that has lasted more than two years.
Sprawled out on a coffee table in front of Ed Scherbey is a panoply of documents, letters, items from Corey’s house and gruesome photos from the scene of what the family insists was a crime.
“I think it’s murder and that’s it,” Ed said.
The police, however, think otherwise.
Cpl. Derek Santosuosso of the Chilliwack RCMP attended Corey’s Fairfield Island home when he was found dead on Aug. 22, 2011.
Santosuosso found no signs of trauma to the body, no sign of a struggle and no signs of forced entry.
A pathologist determined the cause of death to be “acute combined cocaine and ethanol intoxication.”
The Scherbeys, however, are adamant their boy did not do drugs.
“Drugs and alcohol? Corey wouldn’t take a God-damned aspirin,” Ed said.
It was Friday, Aug. 19 when Ed last saw Corey. Corey was working for a logging company, and Ed stopped by at 9 p.m. to drop off some burgers.
He was surprised to see a woman – not Corey’s girlfriend – at the residence wearing a leather jacket and slippers. He told his son he didn’t know he had company and then Corey walked him out.
That was the last time either Ed or Gladys saw Corey until Monday when Gladys discovered the body.
The RCMP attended, determined no crime had been committed and the investigation was closed.
But the Sherbeys had a number of unanswered questions about what they saw and photographed in the house.
There were bloody footprints on the stairs. There was what looked like blood smeared on a door frame and blood splatter elsewhere.
An empty cardboard box was found in the front hall closet scrawled with the words “Better be a funeral.”
Ed insists that Corey’s wallet had a bloody fingerprint on it and $140 missing.
But a central question involves the mystery woman who was there that night and who was never sought out by the RCMP.
“The police didn’t even ask for a description of that girl,” Ed said. “Who was she? “And where did all the blood come from? Did they bring a horse in and butcher a horse?”
A bloody mess
On July 30, 2012, Corey’s uncle Marty Jordan wrote a five-page letter to the RCMP on behalf of the family complaining about the investigation and asking for the case to be reopened.
Among the serious concerns and claims of unanswered questions was the horror the family discovered when the house was given back over to them by police on Aug. 23.
“I was struck immediately by the bloody footprints on the stairs and the staggering volume of blood on the floor and to my dismay a portion of my nephew’s scalp laying in the middle of the living room floor,” Jordan wrote.
Then there is the curious case of Tammy Bourdon, a high school friend of Corey’s who arrived at the Scherbey’s door early one morning after his death. Banging on the door, Bourdon woke them up and told the couple that she knew Corey was killed over money and drugs, but she couldn’t tell them who was involved because she feared for her life.
Bourdon herself died on Feb. 3, 2012. The Scherbeys were told the 38-year-old died of blood poisoning after cutting her finger.
Ed and Gladys obtained the services of well-known Victoria lawyer Doug Christie who read the coroner’s report. They say Christie was sure “something was wrong” with the case, but Christie died on March 11 of this year. The family now has a new lawyer working on their behalf.
Eleven months after Jordan’s letter, which was treated by the RCMP as a public complaint, the family received an eight-page response from the Mounties dated June 21, 2013.
In it, Chief Superintendent Brian Cantera concluded the investigating officers conducted a thorough investigation and that police “have no reason to believe that any person is responsible for Corey’s death.”
The review concluded that what appeared to be a large pool of blood surrounding Corey’s body was in fact “not an unusual amount of bodily fluids… in relation to a body well into the process of decomposing.”
It also found that bloody footprints and smudges on door frames must have been a result of the family or the body removal crew, because they were not there when the forensic investigator took photos.
Cantera did say that it was “unfortunate” that a portion of Corey’s scalp was missed by body removal people and that it was also “unfortunate” police did not tell the Scherbeys what services were available for biological sanitation.
“How someone could make an error of that magnitude is beyond me,” Jordan wrote in his original complaint regarding the piece of Corey’s scalp left behind.
Tragic death or uninvestigated crime?
Ed Scherbey is adamant that his son was killed by someone for some reason. He could be blinded by a love for his dead child and it is of course possible, as police would tell him, that a series of odd circumstances and a hidden drug-fuelled life led to Corey’s untimely demise.
Ed is further invigorated in his feeling that something untoward happened when he hears and reads about other young men who have died while living alone. He points particularly to the case of Karver Morford, the 35-year-old who was found dead inside his remote Ryder Lake home in November 2011.
But authorities say families of people who die in tragic circumstances can be blinded in assuming a crime took place. Earlier this year, the BC Coroners Service issued a statement in response to a CBC story about alleged crimes that went uninvestigated and a provincial autopsy rate that is the lowest in the country.
“Both police and the coroner make decisions based on their knowledge, experience and expertise in the investigation of death and scenes of death,” Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe wrote. “What may appear suspicious to an inexperienced individual or grieving family member is often a not uncommon scene of death to professional, experienced death investigators.”
The Scherbeys say in their case something criminal took place and investigators did not do their job.
“A mother knows when something has been done to her son,” Gladys said.
“We’re just devastated. He was a good kid. He made borscht, he kept a garden…. It’s been two years. It’s going to take me a lifetime to get over this.”
Ed is determined to get more answers although he said he feels at the end of his rope.
“I don’t know where a person can go from here.”
In the meantime, the family has put in an access to information request for evidence from the scene.
They also received a letter in October from an investigator at the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP who said their complaint will be reviewed.