By Jensen, Randy on June 17, 2020.
Lethbridge Police continue to investigate the disappearance of a 26-year-old Calgary man with Lethbridge connections and are working with B.C. RCMP to plan an exhaustive search of the remote and mountainous area where his burned-out vehicle was found last November.
Search efforts were suspended over the winter months but as a result of the ongoing snow melt, a preliminary search was initially conducted by Pemberton RCMP last month, Lethbridge police said in a release. The May search did not yield any new results and an exhaustive search of the terrain will be scheduled as soon as possible.
Marshal Iwaasa was last seen by relatives in Lethbridge on Nov. 17, 2019. He told his family he was returning to Calgary, however, he has not been seen or heard from since. On Nov. 25 a burned-out vehicle was located in the B.C. backcountry and Pemberton RCMP confirmed it belonged to Iwaasa. Family were notified of the discovery of the vehicle and subsequently reported Iwaasa missing.
An extensive and comprehensive investigation to locate Iwaasa and determine the circumstances of his disappearance has been undertaken and continues. The case has garnered significant attention on social media which has resulted in a number of assumptions and speculation.
From the onset of the investigation Iwaasa’s disappearance has been considered suspicious, however, there is no credible, corroborated or compelling information to suggest foul play or that the occurrence is criminal in nature, LPS said in the release.
The investigation has determined that prior to his disappearance Iwaasa had hidden the fact he had stopped attending post-secondary classes. In examining Iwaasa’s personal affairs in the months leading up to his disappearance – including interviews with close friends as well as his financial, medical and social media activity – there is evidence to suggest he was experiencing stress in his life and had become withdrawn.
Iwaasa was last confirmed to be in Lethbridge on Nov. 17 when he said he was leaving to go to his storage locker. The storage locker key and out logs corroborate his code was used to enter the facility and then approximately two hours later leave the compound. By the time LPS assumed carriage of the investigation closed-circuit TV footage was no longer available.
When the vehicle was located and the scene examined there was no evidence to suggest a criminal offence had been committed and no evidence to suggest anyone other than Iwaasa was present when the vehicle was burned. It has not been conclusively determined if the vehicle was burned intentionally or as a result of an accident.
Some of Iwaasa’s clothing was found in a trail leading away from the vehicle into the forest. Investigators are aware there is a discrepancy between photos taken by the original hikers who located the scene and called police and RCMP photos taken when officers arrived some time later. Police said it is possible other backcountry users encountered the items prior to RCMP arrival, and police are asking anyone who may have happened across the scene and inadvertently disturbed the items, to come forward.
All evidence that has been seized has been forensically processed, where possible, including all available electronics. The electronics that could be examined contained information linking them to Iwaasa. Several devices were old and did not contain current or recent data. In addition, fingerprinting has been conducted with no usable prints developed from the processed evidence.
All evidence is being retained for potential DNA testing. The evidence cannot be DNA tested by the RCMP crime lab unless officers have reasonable grounds to believe a DNA-designated criminal offence has been committed. At this time no such evidence or grounds exist. If a private lab were to conduct DNA testing immediately, the items may not be accepted by the RCMP lab for processing in future and any evidence recovered may not be admissible in court.
Iwaasa’s burned-out truck remains where it was discovered due to the extremely challenging remote terrain. Due to the winter conditions when the vehicle was first located and now a rock slide blocking the access road, it is impossible to have a tow truck access and remove the truck at this time. Upon being located, the truck was examined at the scene.
The vast majority of the information learned during the investigation to date has been shared with Iwaasa’s family, however, not all relevant and pertinent information has been shared with the public or on social media forums. The investigator’s report contains additional details and insights into the circumstances, scene and evidence which has not and will not be shared in order to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
To date every tip and piece of information that has been disclosed to police over the past seven months has been investigated. There have been numerous reported sightings of Iwaasa in many jurisdictions throughout Canada – often at the same time. Every tip has been followed up and every tip with enough information that could be corroborated has proven not to be Iwaasa.
Throughout the investigation officers have continued to monitor Iwaasa’s personal affairs including potential personal contacts as well as social media, phone, medical and financial activity. Since Iwaasa’s disappearance there have been no footprints of life.
As the investigation continues, and plans for an exhaustive search of the mountain terrain are finalized, any additional information about Iwaasa’s disappearance that comes to light will be investigated. Police continue to ask anyone with information to come forward.