Clifford Joseph’s family is holding on to hope their loved one may still be alive, as Manitoba RCMP continue hunting for his alleged killer, Eric Wildman.
His close-knit family said they feel the 40-year-old father, who disappeared on June 7, may be out there.
“I still don’t believe it,” Joseph’s younger sister Felicia Joseph told Global News Thursday. “I believe that he’s alive. I’m kind of holding on to that.”
Joseph vanished from his home outside Stead, Man., in the RM of St. Clements, after last being seen around 3:30 a.m. that Monday morning. His girlfriend found his abandoned vehicle at his neighbour Eric Wildman’s property.
“His truck was hidden behind some bushes with his door open and his phone (inside), and it made it look like he had jumped out or ran from something,” Felicia said. “It made no sense.”
Felicia, 37, describes her brother, “Cliffy” or “Bucky,” as a smart “country boy” who knew his way around the outdoors and worked as a commercial fisherman. She said the evidence they’ve seen has left the family confused.
“He would not park on a property 200 feet from his own backyard,” she said.
Police remain tight-lipped about the investigation and won’t reveal why they believe Joseph is dead, despite the fact they have not found his body.
“This is not common but not completely rare,” Manitoba RCMP Sgt. Laura LeDrew told Global News Wednesday. “Just based on items at the scene and forensic evidence, etc., we are able to determine it is indeed a homicide.”
But Felicia said until his body is found, she doesn’t believe it.
Joseph’s disappearance comes months after losing their mother in November, who held the family together like “glue.”
“It’s just hard,” Felicia said. “There’s no pain relief.”
Felicia remembers her brother as an “all-around good guy” who would “give the shirt off his back to anybody.”
Joseph moved south of Stead, Man., more than 70 km northeast of Winnipeg, after their mother died in November. Felicia said her brother wasn’t friends with his neighbour Wildman, the 34-year-old man now suspected of killing him. The circumstances surrounding Joseph’s disappearance are puzzling to her.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Felicia said.
“He would never leave his daughter,” she said, adding Joseph would ask her for help if he needed it, just like he’s done in the past.
The Joseph family comes as a “package deal,” she said, often sharing dinners together and taking care of Joseph’s 13-year-old daughter.
Lack of information from RCMP ‘frustrating’: victim’s sister
Felicia said she first heard her brother was missing when his girlfriend messaged her to check if she’d heard from him.
Once the RCMP was called, Felicia said it took many hours for one officer to arrive.
Since giving her statement to Mounties, Felicia said she hasn’t received updates from them and learned of her brother’s homicide elsewhere.
“It’s pretty brutal actually… especially when there’s a crazy man out,” she said. “It’s just really frustrating.”
Felicia said the inundation of condolences has been “overwhelming.”
“My head was just all over the place, just like scattered.”
Felicia also voiced frustrations about the picture of Joseph circulated by RCMP.
“He isn’t what they’ve made him out to look like,” she said, adding the whole ordeal has been “awful.”
LeDrew said Thursday RCMP along with specialized units continue to comb the Whiteshell region for Wildman, after receiving a tip from the public of a sighting east of Whitemouth Wednesday night.
Police also set up roadblocks, she said, but haven’t confirmed any other sightings since then.
“We are still following up on numerous tips coming in,” LeDrew said.
RCMP are focusing their search on the Whiteshell area but have resources spread out across the province, LeDrew said.
“It’s a bit of a challenge, however, we do have suitable resources in place for that,” she said of the Whiteshell’s many bushes, roads and trails.
RCMP say the public should remain vigilant. Mounties describe Wildman as six-feet-two-inches tall, weighing 170 pounds with blue eyes.
Police are asking Manitobans not to approach Wildman and to call 911 if he’s spotted, or the RCMP tip line at (431) 489-8551.