Frank Woodrow’s wife Susan suffers from dementia and when the BC Sheriff Service arrested her at their house without telling anyone in the family, it sparked a search by RCMP and Chilliwack Search and Rescue. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Family panic sparked after BC Sheriff Service arrests Chilliwack woman with dementia

When 63-year-old’s husband realized she was gone it prompted calls to RCMP and Search and Rescue

When Frank Woodrow got out of the shower at his home one day in January, he didn’t see his wife Susan so he assumed she had gone to lie down as she often does.

When their daughter called to say she was coming up for a visit, Frank went to wake up his wife. But she wasn’t there.

Susan suffers from a mild form of dementia so Frank was obviously concerned. He started to check places she might go, and calling neighbours near his Cultus Lake Road home to see if she had been spotted.

The 63-year-old wasn’t at the Hide-A-Way Cafe where they like to eat. The auto wrecker nearby on Vedder Mountain Road hadn’t seen her. His brother’s security system down the road didn’t capture her walking by.

“We were all starting to worry,” Frank said. “Our biggest concern was that she had gone towards Yarrow or Cultus or toward the river.

“Even though everybody was hoping for the best, we were really fearing for the worst.”

It all started in the early afternoon on Jan. 22. After exhausting ideas, Frank called the RCMP. That was at approximately 3:15 p.m. that day, according to police records.

An officer showed up to the Woodrows’ house. A thorough search of the property was conducted, and Chilliwack Search and Rescue was called in to assist.

Given two recent incidents of seniors with dementia walking away and being found deceased, the matter was taken very seriously.

• READ MORE: RCMP confirm body of missing Chilliwack senior found

• READ MORE: Search for missing Chilliwack senior with dementia comes to sad end

But soon after the whole incident began, the phone rang. It was someone with the BC Sheriff Service telling Frank he could come pick Susan up at the courthouse. Apparently she had a few thousand dollars of debt owed to credit card company Capital One. As Frank understands it, a bench warrant was issued for her arrest under the small claims process.

“I haven’t seen the paperwork and she wouldn’t remember anything,” Frank said.

The BC Sheriff Service is responsible for escort services in various instances, including for persons arrested in civil matters before the courts.

At this point it was around 4:30 p.m., according to RCMP which verified the situation occurred. Frank rushed down to the Chilliwack courthouse, but the doors were locked. He looked around the building until he found her.

“There is my wife standing there,” he said. “It’s dark out at this time. She is standing outside holding her purse wearing flip-flops and a sweater.”

Frank was very upset, admittedly losing his cool, finally finding some sheriffs and giving them an earful.

As their son Mike put it in a message to The Progress: “We’re lucky my dad is not in jail right now. He got very angry.”

Asked about how this could happen, how a woman with dementia could be arrested without a family member being told, and then released outside in the dark in January under-dressed, a spokesperson for the BC Sheriff Services said they were looking into the incident and they expressed “regret.”

“The BC Sheriff Service is looking into what happened and reviewing our processes,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We want to make sure there is proper co-ordination between agencies and that we involve family where appropriate to support people’s well-being.

“We sincerely regret the distress caused to this individual and her family.”

While the RCMP did not comment further on the matter, Frank said the constable that came to his house was extremely helpful, and himself was shocked at the whole misunderstanding. Frank said the man from SAR told him that “in his 22 years of doing this he had never heard of anything like this.”

And while it all ended relatively quickly, Frank suggested that his wife’s dementia is mild and he wondered what would have happened with someone with a more serious case.

“They put her at risk,” he said. “I was just kind of floored. I couldn’t believe what had gone on here.”

Given the recent instances in Chilliwack and across B.C. of people with dementia going missing, Frank thinks this points ever more to the need for a Silver Alert system.

A co-founder of the BC Silver Alert said 2019 was a tragic year in the Lower Mainland, and the first 24 hours of a search are crucial.

• READ MORE: BC Silver Alert co-founder calls 2019 a tragic year for seniors with dementia

Frank also wonders why there isn’t more co-ordination between law enforcement agencies, but most of all, why the BC Sheriff Service didn’t just put a business card in the door or on the table when they arrested Susan.

“The beginning part was a screw-up, but the second part where she was released, I just can’t get past that,” Frank said. “I’m not planning on letting this go. I personally need some answers.”


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Dementia strategymissing person

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Boulders near Harrison vandalized with derogatory word

Vandalism likely occured between Sunday evening and Tuesday evening

Clothing charity returns to Chilliwack to hand out free goods

Clothes2U will be back at local church to give away clothing, household items, more to those in need

First rainstorm of the season pelting the Lower Mainland

Batten down the hatches as heavy rains, wind, and some localized flooding possible

Atchelitz Threshermen’s big garage sale in Chilliwack goes ahead this weekend

The annual fundraiser for the association was delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Return-It depots change beverage container deposits from 20 to 10 cents

Change will be implemented on Oct. 1, with a transition period being held until Oct. 11

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Young man assaulted, left for 12 hours until help called in Vancouver’s Strathcona Park

Vancouver police are looking to identify the victim as they investigate an assault on Monday evening

Most Read