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'We don't feel safe': Lumby woman's death being investigated by B.C.'s police watchdog

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The death of a woman in Lumby, B.C., is being investigated by the province's police oversight agency.

The Independent Investigations Office said in a statement Friday police were called in December 2023 regarding "concern for the safety of a woman." That woman was found dead on April 14, 2024.

One day before the victim was found, Lumby RCMP issued a statement seeking the public's help to find 44-year-old Tatjana Stefanski. At the time, police said she was seen "speaking with her ex-husband before departing unexpectedly with him." 

Stefanski's partner of four years, Jason Gaudreault, identified her as the victim in that death. Police said a man "was arrested in the general vicinity" of where Stefanski was found, but said he was released with conditions. 

“We don’t feel safe,” Gaudreault told CTV News via text message. He and Stefanski’s two children are now in hiding out of fear for their safety.

Gaudreault declined an on-camera interview due to the emotions of receiving Stefanski’s ashes today.

“Tatjana is home now,” read a text from Gaudrealt.

“This kind of thing just doesn’t happen around here,” said Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton.

Acton told CTV News he’s frustrated with how police have dealt with protecting Gaudreault and the children.

“There’s something really lacking in our system when a stepfather has to harbour children himself for their safety,” said Acton. “It’s just unacceptable in today’s day and age. We should be doing something for the family. It’s not like it happens every day and it’s a huge expense to the taxpayer to step up and help someone like this. So, it’s pretty frustrating.”

Acton says he has personally reached out to Lumby RCMP to help keep the family safe.

Lumby resident Tawnya Ferris says the normally pleasant small town of around 2,000 people has been on edge since Stefanski’s disappearance.

“As a parent, I'm telling my kids 'Don't talk to strangers,' you know, 'Be cautious and make sure you're home at a reasonable time,'” said Ferris. “I used to tell them make sure you're home when the street lights come on."

Ferris, who owns Okanagan Outpost, is selling merchandise, including T-shirts and decals that read ‘Justice for Tatjana.' All proceeds to go support Stefanski’s family.

“Lumby, being a small town, people rally together. Support each other,” said Ferris.

In its statement Friday, the IIO said it's investigating "what if any role police action or inaction may have played in the woman's death."

"Given the complexity of all investigations into this matter, no further information will be provided at this time," the IIO said.

The IIO looks into all incidents involving police officers in B.C. that result in death or serious harm, regardless of whether or not there is any allegation of wrongdoing on the part of police. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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