RCMP used Twitter Wednesday to keep Manitobans up to date on the hunt for a suspected killer they believe is armed and dangerous.
Eric Paul Wildman, 34, was spotted driving east on Highway 44 in Lockport Tuesday, which RCMP called a "credible sighting."
Wildman is wanted in the disappearance of Clifford Joseph, 40, who rented a property next to Wildman’s in the RM of St. Clements near Stead, about 70 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Wildman, described as 6-2, 170 pounds with blue eyes, is suspected of killing Joseph, who was last seen on Road 44 East in the RM of St. Clements early June 7. His body has yet to be found. No motive for the crime has been released.
Late Tuesday, RCMP posted to Twitter that the suspect was driving a charcoal-grey 2020 Chevrolet Equinox with Manitoba licence plate KGE 368. Then, Wednesday afternoon, police revealed the alleged killer rented the SUV Monday at Winnipeg’s airport. Late Wednesday, RCMP tweeted Wildman had been seen again, this time driving eastbound on Highway 44 east of Whitemouth.
RCMP said investigators obtained surveillance footage showing Wildman at the Lowe’s home improvement store on Panet Road at about 6:40 p.m. In the footage, he can be seen getting into a cab at 6:55 p.m. He was dropped off at the airport.
RCMP said he then entered the terminal and approached a car rental kiosk just before 7:30 p.m., where he obtained the vehicle.
In screen segments of the surveillance footage provided by the RCMP, Wildman is wearing a grey T-shirt with an unclear graphic logo, a white camouflage baseball cap, dark shorts and dark running shoes.
RCMP have repeatedly warned the public not to approach him, but instead call 911 immediately.
Police found Wildman’s vehicle last Friday. Officers recovered guns, ammunition, police tactical equipment, clothing patches and other items resembling police clothing while executing a search warrant of the vehicle Sunday. They said he may be in possession of more police equipment.
Joseph’s vehicle was found by his girlfriend parked outside Wildman’s home the day he was reported missing and several of Joseph’s personal items were found on the road leading into his property, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre said Tuesday.
Joseph is the second person in three years to disappear from the house neighbouring Wildman’s rural property that’s riddled with burned-out vehicles.
Vernon Karl Otto, 66, went missing May 29, 2018. He was last seen at about 1 p.m. that day, working in a field near his home.
His disappearance was considered suspicious, RCMP said at the time. He was never found, but his white 2005 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 extended cab pickup truck was discovered burned and abandoned a short distance from his home. The truck was found the day after he went missing, but police didn’t go public with the discovery until mid-summer.
Although RCMP issued a news release and made multiple posts on social media about Wildman’s whereabouts Wednesday, spokespeople did not respond to detailed questions from the Free Press.
Those questions centred around the resources, including equipment and manpower, dedicated to the search.
It’s unclear how large the search area is, whether police have or will deploy aerial surveillance or whether police will consider calling in additional resources from out-of-province as was done during the manhunt for the accused B.C. spree killers over rough terrain in northern Manitoba near Gillam in 2019. Police have not said whether the search includes canine units or a tactical vehicle.
It’s also unclear if additional safety protocols and precautions are undertaken by the RCMP for its officers during hunts for armed and dangerous suspects.
In a strange twist, Wildman’s late father shot a Mountie near Elkhorn in 1962, when he was 14.
"His early years were ones of rebellion and defying authority," reads the 2017 Free Press obituary for Allan Lloyd Wildman.
Tony Cooper, at the time a 22-year-old constable, was shot in the back during a car chase. A group of teens in a car stolen from Winnipeg drove away from the Virden Esso with a tank of gas and police gave chase.
Cooper commented on the elder Wildman’s online obituary.
"Back in March 1962, we had an encounter near the Saskatchewan border. All has been forgiven and he is to be remembered for changing his life around," Cooper wrote.
The elder Wildman and injured Mountie met in 1976, Cooper wrote. The elder Wildman wrote his master’s thesis about the shooting and his life as a teenage delinquent and wanted to meet his victim to talk about what happened, the Virden Empire-Advance reported.
Cooper is quoted as saying Wildman did not show remorse.
The obituary says Allan Wildman studied social work and was employed as an addictions counsellor.
— With files from Malak Abas
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.