Yellow police tape cordoned off an entire rural property on Monday and officers were stationed at entry points as residents struggled to take in the news that human remains had been found on the bucolic site owned by long-time residents described by neighbours as helpful and caring.
Investigators worked under white tents on the farm at 2290 Salmon River Rd., in the Silver Creek area about an hour's drive east of Kamloops, surrounded by trees and foliage that shine in vibrant hues of red and orange in the fall sun.
Police have not described the remains or said whether they are from one or more people. Nor have police linked the search at the property to any other investigations.
But the news that police had found human remains at the site has rattled people in the region, where several women have gone missing over the past few years and where police earlier this month warned of a "possible risk to the general public and women sex workers" after a woman reported being threatened by a man with a firearm in a North Okanagan rural area.
According to an Oct. 13 police statement, investigators arrested a 36-year-old man "known to frequent the Okanagan and Shuswap areas" and released him without charges.
That man was described as a known drug user, 5 foot 6, weighing 140 pounds with dirty blond hair.
Police did not identify the person.
Neighbour Troy Adams, who has lived in the area for nearly 20 years, said he first knew something was amiss when he noticed a large police presence in the middle of last week. "Everybody's shocked," he said.
The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said on Thursday it was conducting a search of property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road. On Saturday, the RCMP Southeast District major-crimes unit and Vernon North Okanagan RCMP confirmed human remains had been found on the property.
Land title documents say the property is owned by Wayne and Evelyn Sagmoen. Their son, Curtis Sagmoen, is in custody on charges brought earlier this month.
The charges, with an offence date of Aug. 27, include uttering threats and possessing a weapon for dangerous purposes.
Police have not linked the charges against Curtis Sagmoen to the search of the Salmon River Road property.
Court documents say Curtis Sagmoen was born in 1980, making him either 36 or 37 years old.
Kristie Clark, a neighbour and a close friend of the Sagmoens, said it has been difficult to process the slow trickle of news and urged the community to reserve judgment.
"Wait until the facts come out from the police, because it hurts for everyone involved and it hurts our community," she said. "Stop assuming that this whole family is in on this conspiracy, that we had a serial killer amongst us. Who knows? We don't know. And we will not know until we find out the facts."
Ms. Clark said the entire Sagmoen family has always been kind to her. She recalled that they trained her horses for free when she boarded them at their farm. Curtis Sagmoen had helped chop firewood on her property, she said.
"They're very nice people and I consider them good friends," she said. "They've always been there for me."
The police search follows months of uncertainty and anguish for families of women who have gone missing in the region.
Caitlin Potts, 27, who is from the Samson Cree First Nation in Alberta but had been living in B.C., disappeared from Salmon Arm on Feb. 22, 2016. On April 27, 2016, Ashley Simpson, 32, disappeared from Yankee Flats Road, which runs parallel with Salmon River Road. On July 19, 2016, Deanna Wertz, 46, also disappeared from Yankee Flats Road. Several more women have since gone missing in the region, including Nicole Bell, a 31-year-old who was last seen on Sept. 2 this year in the Sicamous area, east of Salmon Arm, and was reported missing on Sept. 7.
By late Monday afternoon, about 20 people from various First Nations gathered for a drum prayer in front of the property.