A Lake Country man charged with killing his wife in 2016 has had his second-degree murder charge stayed by Crown Counsel.
Arlene Westervelt died on June 26, 2016, following a canoe outing on Okanagan Lake with her husband of nearly 30 years.
Originally, RCMP believed the 56-year-old woman had drowned.
Her husband, Bert Westervelt, reported the canoe capsized during their outing, according to RCMP, who added neither had been wearing life-jackets at the time of the incident.
Westervelt’s body was recovered from the lake, about 24 metres from shore.
In April of 2019, nearly three years after her death, the B.C. Prosecution Service announced a charge of second-degree murder against her husband.
Friends of the former public health nurse actively followed the court proceedings at B.C. Provincial Court in Kelowna, but offered little comment on the murder charge.
“They had several times where they went out on the lake and had picnic lunches across the lake,” Cathy Vissia told Global News outside the Kelowna courthouse on Nov. 18, 2019. “They had their favourite spots. They did go on canoes.”
Vissia described Arlene as a, “young, healthy, beautiful, athletic, strong, vibrant woman.”
Bert Westervelt called the staying of the second-degree murder charge “bittersweet,” referring to being released from criminal involvement but living with the reality of his wife’s tragic death, and confirmed the development to Global News in a phone conversation on Wednesday.
On July 14, instead of setting a date for a preliminary hearing that was expected to take five weeks, the B.C. Prosecution Service made a complete about-turn and declared it would no longer be pursuing a criminal charge against the 63-year-old Okanagan man.
“After carefully reviewing new information relating to this matter, Crown Counsel determined that the B.C .Prosecution Service’s charge assessment standard was no longer met,” spokesperson Alisia Adams said by email.
Adams did not disclose what new information had come forward to prosecutors.