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Schools on alert as Lumby death sparks community outrage

‘The grief is quickly turning into anger, as people go longer without any answers’: Mayor
Tatjana Stefanski’s body was found April 14 in a rural area near Lumby. (Jason Gaudreault Facebook photo)

Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton is voicing his frustrations, as confusion and anger mount over the death of Tatjana Stefanski.

“The community has gone from shock and awe to anger,” Acton told The Morning Star, on Wednesday, April 17.

Stefanski was reported missing by the RCMP on April 13, after departing unexpectedly, from her Lumby home, with her ex-husband, later identified by family as Vitali Stefanski. RCMP did not provide any updates until two days later, when they stated that they located a “deceased female on Sunday, April 14,” near Mabel Lake Forest Service Road during their investigation into an alleged abduction.

The RCMP arrested a man in the general area on Sunday, April 14, but he was released “the next day, with a series of mandatory conditions to abide by.”

The investigation has since been turned over to the RCMP Southeast District Major Crimes Unit.

The Lumby mayor says the village’s schools are on alert as is the community after hearing the distressing news of the alleged kidnapping followed by Stefanski’s death and a possible suspect’s release from custody.

“It just seems odd that someone who is a suspect of something like that gets to sort of go and do whatever they want while everyone else hides behind lock and key,” Acton said.

He suggested there is a flaw in the legal system if “you don’t have anything in place where you can hold,” someone arrested in connection with a death for 24 hours.

However, he acknowledged that he doesn’t know exactly what that change looks like, as it is the first time he is facing something like this as a mayor.

Staff Sgt. Kris Clark of the Southeast District Major Crime Unit told the Morning Star that, “The police do not have the authority to hold someone indefinitely until the investigation is complete. Suspicious death investigations are complex and can take time.”

Acton said he is worried about how the community will react to this recent incident.

“Facebook is rife with misinformation, and people are feeling anxious about this because they don’t have some solid facts. I know that police hands (sic) are tied, they don’t want to do anything that’s going to chance to hurt their investigation,” he said. “At the same time, a quick response with some facts about how things work and letting people know that they are safe, not safe or what they should do in general. A media release would certainly help.”

The situation was compounded by the fact that the RCMP initially released information with the wrong names of both Tatjana (spelled Tatiana in an original RCMP release) and the alleged suspect, Vitali Stefanski (called Vitali Steffen in the same original RCMP release).

The incorrect names drew ire from an individual on Facebook, Kristine Steffen, who posted to the Vernon Rant and Rave group, “My father who happens to have the same name as the ex-husband, is receiving threats and messages from strangers. Please do your research before messaging people and I highly suggest not messaging people who are in active investigations etc. What happened is truly horrible we are trying to get in touch with the RCMP to fix this issue, no luck so far. We send our prayers to the family.”

This added more fuel to Acton’s fire regarding a policy change.

“We need to be far more prepared for situations like this,” said the mayor. “Have some plans in place, so the public can feel at ease, or a way to detain people until we know that the public is safe. I would hope that the powers that be are taking a hard look at this.”

READ MORE: Daughter speaks out after mom found dead following alleged abduction in Lumby

READ MORE: RCMP correct wrong, misspelled names in alleged Lumby abduction

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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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