Family members of a man who’s been missing since November are calling on Lethbridge police to “reassess” the investigation into his whereabouts by designating it a criminal matter.
Calgary man Marshal Iwaasa was last seen leaving his mother’s home in Lethbridge on Nov. 17, 2019.
He was supposed to return to Calgary that same day, but police confirmed Iwaasa was still in Lethbridge around 8:30 a.m. the following day in the north side industrial area between Sherring and Churchill Industrial Park.
Family members say that his specific code was used to gain access to a storage unit he shares with his sister on Nov. 18.
One week after he was last seen, his truck was found burned out in the backcountry near Pemberton, B.C., north of Whistler.
Items belonging to Iwaasa, as well as items not belonging to him, were found at the scene.
The RCMP searched the area for just over a week before Lethbridge police took over the missing person investigation.
Additional searches also took place in May and June, but Iwaasa’s body has not been found.
Iwaasa’s family has launched a petition requesting that police classify his disappearance as criminal in nature.
His sister Paige Fogen said doing so would allow investigators to probe his activities beyond the last time he was seen. It would also allow police to access additional cellphone and bank records of Iwaasa.
But she said they’ve been told the case doesn’t meet the criteria for a criminal investigation.
“A lot of the barriers that we’re finding about tracing the historical information of my brother and whereabouts, his movements — whether that’s through his cellphone, his banking, his health records — are due to just being considered a missing person case,” she said.
The family is also calling for police to test items found at the scene of his burned truck, as well as those in the storage unit, for fingerprints and DNA evidence.
A “thorough search” of the area surrounding the storage unit is needed, they say.
Fogen said there’s a mounting level of frustration with police.
“Honestly, I never thought that in November, when we got that call about my brother’s truck being found, that we would still be here nine months later with no real answers,” she said.
“That’s obviously quite distressing for myself and my whole family and I think that’s why we’ve gotten to this point now where we did release the petition requesting for it to be formally considered a criminal case.”
In a statement, the Lethbridge Police Service said it can assure its 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,” Lethbridge police stated.
“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.”
Police added they have not shared all information and evidence connected to the case publicly, nor with Iwaasa’s 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,” it said.
“With respect to the Iwaasa investigation, there is no such evidence and the matter cannot be re-classified at this time.”
Fogen said the family has hired local private investigators to help probe her brother’s whereabouts and that they hoped for increased collaboration with Lethbridge police.
Iwaasa is described as 5’11 tall and weighing around 170 pounds, with brown eyes, shoulder-length brown hair that is usually tied back and a moustache.
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