The man accused of killing a 28-year-old woman a year-and-a-half ago and dumping her burned body in Mission is set to plead guilty next month.
Ryan Jack Armstrong, 29, had a brief video appearance in Chilliwack BC Supreme Court Monday where he told the court of his intention to plead.
Armstrong was arrested March 31, 2016 charged with second-degree murder and interference with a dead body. That was two days after the body of Vikki Heppner was found by a passerby on Florence Lake Forest Service Road near Stave Lake.
Heppner was accused of stealing money from a memorial fund set up for a widow and her two children in Alberta in fall of 2015.
Media reports said Heppner was under investigation after more than $24,000 disappeared from a GoFundMe account she had set up for the family of truck driver Roger Belanger, 29, of Sudbury, who died in a car accident in July 2015.
Heppner, who was living near Fort McMurray, Alta., at the time, had been an acquaintance of Belanger’s.
About 170 people donated to the campaign, but the family didn’t receive any of the funds and learned the account had been emptied. Police were called in to investigate, but no charges had been laid.
Heppner’s mom, Anna Carlson of Clifton, Illinois, stated on her Facebook page that Heppner was pressured by someone else to take the money out of the account, and then left the province.
“She left because she was scared. I told her that she should turn herself in, but she was scared…. She tried to pay the money back. Even one of her friends was willing to sell his semi to help her pay it back,” Carlson wrote.
It’s unclear if the GoFundMe money has anything to do with the alleged murder at this point.
A day after Armstrong was charged, an RCMP Integrated Homicide Investigation Team press release said police thought Armstrong and Heppner knew each other.
“Our early investigative theory supports this as a targeted homicide and it is believed that the victim and suspect were known to each other,” IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Stephanie Ashton said April 1, 2016.
Armstrong is next due in court in Chilliwack Sept. 29 where he is scheduled to plead guilty.
– with files from Vikki Hopes, Abbotsford News