The driver in a fatal crash near Hope, B.C. Monday is suspected in a jewelry store theft committed just hours earlier – and police believe the woman who died might have been his lookout.
The suspect, whose name is being withheld by authorities, was behind the wheel of a black SUV that plowed into a maintenance vehicle on Highway 3 this week.
The driver fled the scene as his passenger, Danielle "Deedee" Charlton, was fighting for her life, and Mounties are still trying to locate him. Charlton did not survive.
On Wednesday, police revealed both the driver and passenger are believed to be involved in an early morning heist at Ted Allen's Jewellery in Nelson, a roughly 500-kilometre drive from the crash site.
"We don't believe that the events are directly related to each other, but we do feel very strongly that the same parties are involved," Sgt. Nate Holt of the Nelson Police Department said.
Surveillance video captured just one suspect, a man who was wearing a disguise, committing the smash-and-grab theft. He was recorded using a hammer or similar tool to break through the front window of the store, then shattering several display cases.
Holt said that suspect has been identified and is known to police, but his name is not being publicly released. Investigators also suspect Charlton was involved.
"We can't say for certain until we get a chance to speak to the male, but we have a strong feeling that she was," Holt told CTV News.
The total value of items stolen and damage to the store is estimated at $30,000, according to police.
The deceased’s family told CTV News she became engaged just days before her death, and that police have asked them to get in touch with her fiancé. Several of them have reached out but have been unable to reach him.
Charlton’s stepfather, Robin Deschene, said she was a kind and loving parent who will be greatly missed.
“She was a real nice person. Everyone liked her,” he said.
Police said the suspects in Monday’s jewelry heist are believed to have fled Nelson in a stolen Chevrolet Equinox with stolen licence plates.
Later that day, a black SUV that witnesses said was speeding rammed into a maintenance vehicle near Hope. The impact left the SUV mangled and debris scattered across the highway.
Two B.C. wildfire crews were the first to arrive at the scene and tried desperately to save Charlton's life. But as firefighters were administering CPR, a man witnesses believe to be the SUV driver stole their truck and drove off.
"Somebody had come running up and said the guy just took off. He took off with the crew cab, forestry crew cab, and he went weaving through all the accident stuff," Warren Hobart said.
Hobart said he noticed a case of beer on the ground among the other debris. Police have not said whether alcohol was a factor in the collision.
The firefighters' truck, a white Ford F350, was recovered in Hope the same day, but there was no sign of the suspect, who is described as a thin, white man, 5-9 or 5-10 tall, with short, dark hair and stubble on his face.
Anyone who sees him or has information on the crash is asked to call the RCMP's Fraser Valley Traffic Service at 604-702-4039 or the Hope RCMP detachment at 604-869-7750.