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'So angry': Chilliwack woman with dementia taken by sheriffs without notice to family, husband says
CHILLIWACK -- A Chilliwack man is demanding answers after his wife was taken into custody by the BC Sheriff Service without his knowledge.
Susan Woodrow has dementia and her sudden disappearance last month triggered a massive search effort.
The arrest happened Jan. 22 at the couple’s home on Cultus Lake Road, near the Chilliwack River.
“I got out of the shower and came out to the living room and my wife wasn’t around,” said Frank Woodrow, her husband. “She often goes upstairs and lies down. She does that many times a day.”
He says he went to check on her a short time later, but she was gone.
“We truly started to fear, fear for the worst,” said a visibly emotional Woodrow.
He scoured the town, driving to all of their regular stores and restaurants, but she was nowhere in sight.
Woodrow’s brother lives nearby and even checked his security cameras, but they never saw her walk by.
“Then, the worry got worse,” said Woodrow.
Concerned something was wrong, the family called Chilliwack RCMP.
Officers arrived a short time later and searched the property.
Due to the home’s rural location and proximity to the river, Chilliwack Search and Rescue was called in to help.
“That’s when I got a called from a person from the BC Sheriff’s Office that I can go pickup my wife,” said Woodrow.
He says his wife was picked up on a warrant over some credit card debt, something he had no knowledge of and his wife would likely not remember.
When he arrived at the Chilliwack Law Courts, Susan was standing outside in the dark all alone, he said. She was not dressed for the weather, wearing a thin sweater and flip flops.
“I was just so angry and actually walking back to my truck, the first impulse I saw a sheriff’s car and I just wanted to beat the hell out of it,” he said.
He says both he and the RCMP had told the Sheriff’s office that Susan had dementia.
She had little recollection of how she had gotten there.
“There needs to be changes," Woodrow said. "This isn’t the way you should treat anybody when you take them away from home, there should be notification.”
He’s written a letter to the sheriff service, demanding answers.
The B.C. Attorney General’s Office issued statement Wednesday saying, “We sincerely regret the distress caused to this individual and her family.”
The sheriff service is looking into what happened and is reviewing its processes.
“We want to make sure there is proper coordination between agencies and that we involve the family where appropriate to support peoples’ well-being,” read the AG's statement.
“There are a lot of gaps in the system here," said Sam Noh, a co-founder of BC Silver Alert, which sends out warnings on social media about missing seniors.
"Dementia is a complex problem," Noh said. "There needs to be preventive measures."
Both Noh and Woodrow are now calling on the province to create a province-wide alert system, similar to Amber Alerts.
“There’s just so many things wrong with this story,” said Woodrow.
He said he has reached out to MLAs to get their help to improve the system, but has gotten nowhere, so far.