RCMP say the mother and stepfather of a little boy are being held in custody on first-degree murder charges following “painstaking” efforts by police on Vancouver Island to get all the evidence to prosecutors.
Const. Richard Johns of the Port Alberni detachment said Monday that Rykel Frank, 28, and Mitchell Frank, 29, are expected to make a court appearance this week following their arrest on Friday.
Six-year-old Dontay Lucas was found dead in a home in March 2018.
Sgt. Clayton Wiebe said the long wait for charges has been frustrating for the boy’s family, his Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation and police officers who worked on the “sad” case.
It took time to gather a large amount of material including reports from the coroners service and other agencies as well as on forensics before the BC Prosecution Service could approve charges, he said.
“Television makes homicides look very easy (to solve). In fact, they’re not. Four years is a long time to wait for answers and unfortunately, these things are just very complex,” Wiebe told a news conference.
He said the couple, who are now married, had other children in their care but they no longer live with them.
A bail hearing for the Franks will be set following their appearance in court on Wednesday, Wiebe said.
“This is a tragic investigation that affected numerous people,” Wiebe said, citing those connected to the little boy, including his classmates.
Wiebe said he could not say why the couple was charged with first-degree murder, which involves intent, because that would be providing details that will have to be revealed in court.
Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which represents 14 First Nations in three regions of Vancouver Island, said concerns about the long investigation without charges had many in the community questioning the whole process.
“We raised it with the Attorney General’s (Ministry) in January. We said this is ridiculous.”
The ministry did not respond to their requests for an explanation, Sayers said.
Tribal council vice-president Mariah Charleson said she last saw the boy when he was about three years old.
“I remember him down below in the intertidal zone in Hesquiaht village, and he was just so amazed at all these little crabs. And he would point to a big rock and ask me to flip it over for him. I flipped it over and then you would see his big smile light up.”
Charleson said members of the community are heartbroken by what happened to the boy and know how hard his family has pushed for justice as the years dragged on without anyone being arrested.
“They didn’t stay silent, they continued speaking, fighting for justice for the last four years for Dontay.”
Charleson said the family and the entire community will need culturally appropriate services through a trial that may include disturbing details about how the little boy died.
“That wound is going to be opened up again.”