Janet (left) and Karen Johnson. (Shelley Woods Boden/Facebook)

Petition to keep Wells Gray murderer in jail garners 39K signatures and counting

Family and friends compiling victim impact statements to keep David Ennis behind bars.

Every two years, Tammy Arishenkoff prepares to start petitioning the government. She doesn’t need a reminder. The date – when her childhood friend and her family were murdered in Wells Gray Park – is etched in her mind.

She has one thought: to keep their murderer, David Ennis, formerly Shearing, behind bars.

“I don’t want to see other families have to go through this,” Arishenkoff said. “I don’t care if he’s allowed to have these parole reviews, he hasn’t served enough time for what he did to these families, that’s why we keep pushing forward.”

In 1982, Ennis murdered George and Edith Bentley of Port Coquitlam along with their daughter Jackie Johnson, her husband Bob and their two daughters Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, of West Kelowna, at a campsite in Wells Gray Park.

After shooting the four adults as they sat around a campfire, Ennis held the two girls captive for a week, sexually assaulting and torturing them before killing them. He then put all six bodies in the family car and set it on fire.

The family’s camper truck wasn’t found until 14 months after the murders, on an old logging road near Trophy Mountain. Police began to question suspects in Clearwater again, but it wasn’t until November 1983 that Ennis was taken into custody. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in April 1984 with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Since 2008, Arishenkoff relives the murder of her childhood friend, Karen, and her sister Janet. Every two years, she and the victims’ family and friends, have gone door to door, sharing a petition to persuade the Parole Board of Canada to keep Ennis behind bars.

The friends and family of the Johnson and Bentley families have established a core group of 12 people who have become “seasoned experts” at fomenting momentum when the time comes, said Arishenkoff.

“We never really got a rest,” said Arishenkoff. “You’d have a hearing, and then you maybe get a few months, and then you get the notice for the next hearing.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arishenkoff and the rest of the group were unable to petition door-to-door this year, but it didn’t stop them from trying to get the word out about Ennis’ parole hearing. She started an online petition and a Facebook group dedicated to bringing people together who would like to help.

In a little over a week, the change.org petition has garnered more than 39,000 signatures, more than doubling Arishenkoff’s original goal of 15,000. The petition will remain active until April 15.

In addition to the petition signatures, Arishenkoff, along with others in the group, will be putting together victim impact statements for the parole board to review.

Although the time between parole hearings has been changed to five years, potentially giving victims and their loved ones a break between hearings, she said it doesn’t get any easier. Every time, the wounds are re-opened and the memories re-lived.

Her friendship with the girls and their memory gives her motivation and strength.

It’s a lot to endure, even every five years, but she said every step they take is very important. She has nieces that are now in their 20s that remind her of Janet and Karen. When you’re close to somebody who dies in such a horrific way, she added, it messes you up, makes you angry and even more determined to see him stay behind bars.

“He’s already had more of a life than he gave them an opportunity to ever have,” said Arishenkoff, noting Ennis got married and has two kids. “He took all of that away from them…he gets to have visits with her and play house and live.”



newsroom@clearwatertimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Rendering of the proposed Esquimalt public safety building. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt blazes new trail toward modern public safety building

Township using alternative approval process for first time to gauge public support for proposal

Landmarks such as Howard the giant gnome at Galey's Farm in Saanich make a stunning backdrop for celebratory dance in the Greater Victoria Festival Society trailer for its coming Dance Victoria campaign. (Screeshot/Greater Victoria Festival Society)
Residents’ videos help campaign Dance Across Victoria

Celebratory dance clips to be compiled into Greater Victoria Festival Society video

Reynolds Secondary School’s spring musical Freaky Friday features Grace Fouracre as teen Ellie Blake (left) who swaps bodies with her overworked mother, Katherine, played by Nadia Lurie. (Photo courtesy Reynolds Secondary School)
Saanich high school goes virtual with Freaky Friday musical

Reynolds Secondary theatre program to livestream performances March 9-12

Saanich Fire Department. Black Press Media File Photo
Fire displaces three Saanich families from two homes

Saanich firefighters found the fire had spread to a neighbouring home upon arriving

Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read