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Family of Marshal Iwaasa want to have missing person’s case classified as ‘criminal’

Click to play video: 'Family of Marshal Iwaasa discusses petition to have missing person’s case classified as ‘criminal’' Family of Marshal Iwaasa discusses petition to have missing person’s case classified as ‘criminal’
The family of Marshal Iwaasa - who has been missing since November - held a press conference to discuss the petition they launched online asking Lethbridge police to classify Iwaasa’s disappearance as criminal. As Taz Dhaliwal explains, the change could mean more resources for investigators – Aug 17, 2020

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the story incorrectly represented evidence gathered at the scene. It has been updated to reflect that no usable fingerprints were developed from the evidence. Global News regrets the error. 

It has been exactly nine months since Marshal Iwaasa “suspiciously” disappeared from southern Alberta and his family says they still don’t have answers as to what could have possibly happened to him.

The then-26-year-old was last seen in Lethbridge on Nov. 17, 2019 and his burnt-out truck was found in the backcountry near Pemberton, B.C. a week later.

On Monday, his family held a news conference to discuss a petition they recently launched online asking Lethbridge police to classify his case as criminal in order for it to be further investigated.

The petition calls for items found in relation to the case to be tested for DNA, and asks for a more thorough search of Iwaasa’s last known location — a storage unit in Lethbridge.

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It also calls for a fire investigation report to be completed and given to Lethbridge police after Iwaasa’s torched truck was found in a remote area last November. There has been no sign of him since.

Read more: Family of missing Lethbridge man visit burnt out car with help from off-roaders

Additionally, the petition asks for more collaboration between Lethbridge police and the private investigators hired to work on the case by Iwaasa’s family.

“From what we’ve learned along the way, there’s some barriers when it’s not considered criminal,” said Paige Fogen, Iwaasa’s sister.

“There’s barriers to what the police are allowed to access and look into, there’s barriers as to the historical data they can gather on my brother to see what was happening prior to his disappearance,” she added.

The petition, released on Friday, has already garnered more than 3,000 signatures. Iwaasa’s loved ones say starting the petition is not a personal attack on the police, but rather a “strategic” move on their part to try and receive some concrete answers.

“The police service is a service we’ve all bought into, we’ve all supported,” said Dawson Fogen, Iwaasa’s brother-in-law.

“Part of this petition is to then give the people that are paying the taxes that then go to the police service, to be able to say, ‘We do want this to investigated criminally.'” he said.

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Fogen goes on to say they feel these requests are something the family shouldn’t have to ask for nor petition for.

“We shouldn’t have to ask for the last place Marshal was seen to be investigated, that’s insane, this should have been done nine months ago.” Dawson said.

Read more: Sister of missing southern Alberta man provides update on family’s search near Pemberton, B.C.

The family says its private investigative team has already completed its fire investigation report, which found arson to be the cause of Iwaasa’s truck being burned.

The family adds they’re still awaiting the results of a fire report requested by police. The family says they wish the report had been conducted back in November when Iwaasa’s truck was first discovered, rather than in June.

Click to play video: 'Police search for missing Alberta man, truck found ‘torched’ near Pemberton, B.C.' Police search for missing Alberta man, truck found ‘torched’ near Pemberton, B.C.
Police search for missing Alberta man, truck found ‘torched’ near Pemberton, B.C – Nov 28, 2019

Police say there is no concrete evidence that Iwaasa had even been in the area where his truck was found.

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Investigators have said fingerprints are among the pieces of evidence gathered in relation to the case, but they won’t be tested unless the case is deemed criminal.

At this point, Iwaasa’s family is keeping an open mind as to what could have happened to Iwaasa, including the possibility he may have unfortunately been involved in criminal activity prior to his disappearance.

“I don’t believe he was into drugs, but, you know, I’ve never ruled out anything and I never believed my brother would go missing, so at this point, everything’s on the table,” Paige stated.

Family members say they’ve connected with other families who also have loved ones that have gone missing in B.C., and they are frightened by the significant number of men they’ve notice disappear in areas not far from where Iwaasa’s torched truck was found.

“This isn’t a unique story, this happens all the time…there’s something wrong and something needs to be looked at,” Dawson said.

“The distance between Lethbridge and Vancouver isn’t the Bermuda Triangle of [missing] young men. Something’s happening there and it needs to get looked into,” he said.

Lethbridge police released a statement on Monday in response to the petition. It reads:

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“The Lethbridge Police Service understands the family of Marshal Iwaasa is seeking answers in relation to his disappearance, and we can assure the community the investigation will remain open and ongoing until he is located.

“A thorough and comprehensive investigation has been undertaken and any and all new evidence or information that comes to light in future will continue to be vigorously pursued.

“From the onset of the missing person investigation, Iwaasa’s disappearance has been considered suspicious, however, as previously stated, there is no credible, corroborated or compelling evidence to suggest foul play or that the matter is criminal in nature.

“Not all information and evidence in this case has been or can be shared publicly or with the Iwaasa family in order to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

“LPS is aware of an online petition initiated by the Iwaasa family to have the missing person case re-classified as criminal, however in order for any investigation to be deemed criminal there must be evidence to support that a crime has occurred.

“With respect to the Iwaasa investigation, there is no such evidence and the matter cannot be re-classified at this time.

“No further comment or interviews will be provided in relation to this matter.”

Read more: Marshal Iwaasa investigation: What we know about the missing Calgary man

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Regardless, Iwaasa’s family says they will continue their fight for answers in Iwaasa’s disappearance.

On behalf of the family, Tammy Johnson, Iwaasa’s mother, says they are continuously thankful for all of the attention Iwaasa’s case has gained.

The Find Marshal Iwaasa page on Facebook has nearly reached 13,000 members, which family members says will help keep his case relevant.

With files from Global News’ Quinn Campbell

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