Calgary police have charged a man following an investigation of alleged kidnapping, drugging and sexual assault of multiple women from the city and area.
In March, police began an operation after investigating several allegations of a man targeting women who worked in Calgary’s sex trade.
Between December 2021 and March 2023, at least three women were believed to have been approached by a man on 19 Avenue S.E. in the Forest Lawn neighbourhood, where the women were allegedly drugged and then taken to a property east of the city, where police said they were physically and sexually assaulted.
CPS Supt. Cliff O’Brien said police started to receive “small pieces of information” about the missing women and checked with partner agencies, who received similar “small pieces of information.”
“These investigations are like jigsaw puzzles,” he said.
On April 6, CPS executed a search warrant with Alberta RCMP in a rural property on Vale View Road in Rocky View County. Officers took one man, a tenant of the property, into custody.
O’Brien said there was a very long list of CPS and RCMP resources involved with the investigation of the shop space and surrounding property being searched.
“Yes, we used cadaver dogs,” the CPS superintendent said, noting thousands of exhibits were gathered. “The investigators were being very thorough.”
Richard Robert Mantha, 59, faces 16 charges:
- one count of kidnapping
- two counts of forcible confinement
- two counts of administering a noxious thing
- one count of sexual assault
- two counts of sexual assault with a weapon
- one count of sexual assault causing bodily harm
- one count of assault with a weapon
- two counts of uttering threats
- one count of pointing a firearm
- three outstanding warrants for sexual assault, assault causing bodily harm and fail to attend court.
Mantha is due to appear in court on Wednesday.
O’Brien said the three outstanding warrants were “from RCMP jurisdiction” but declined to provide further details.
Neighbours told Global News Mantha went by the nickname “Poncho.”
The owners of the shop space Mantha was renting said he had been a tenant from them for about a year and a half, describing him as a “bit of a hoarder.”
“He would be driving in the middle of the night with his big truck,” Muriel Lock said Friday.
“I can tell you the homeowners of that property have cooperated with the police and the accused was living in an outbuilding on that property,” O’Brien said Monday.
The search of the acreage east of Chestermere was expected to be finished on Tuesday, with the investigation to continue after that.
O’Brien acknowledged the investigation could lead to search warrants for other properties or result in further charges.
“Over the past several weeks, this investigation has evolved rapidly,” A/Staff Sgt. Shelby Stewart said in a statement. “We are grateful to the victims who have come forward and trusted us with this investigation and ask anyone else with information to contact police.”
Police have also put wrap around supports in place for all of the victims.
O’Brien said CPS is checking its missing persons cases as part of the ongoing investigation.
“We’re not ruling anything out,” he said.
Anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault is asked to report it to police, and CPS reminds victims there is no statute of limitations on the reporting of sexual assault in Canada.
The CPS superintendent credited the work of patrol officers and investigators speaking with members of the community to gather the information that led to the search warrant and arrest. Recognizing the strained relationship that can exist with police, O’Brien especially credited the bravery of the sex trade workers and victims who came forward.
“I think we’d be pretty tone deaf if we didn’t hear from what women in sex trade have been talking about for four years now, which is that they sometimes don’t feel comfortable coming forward, they feel that sometimes they’re not going to be believed, and so as a result, they don’t come forward,” he said. “And so really, for these particular victims to come forward and talk to us, very courageous and we’re very appreciative that they did.
“Any time we’re taking somebody off the street that is committing these types of horrendous crimes in our community, it’s a big deal.”
Anyone with information about this incident or any other crimes can call police at 403-266-1234. Anonymous tips can also be provided to Crime Stoppers.