Police have brought in additional resources to a rural B.C. farm where human remains were discovered over the weekend, expanding search territory while cautioning that it is still too early to draw any connection to the disappearance of several women from the area.
Investigators brought heavy excavation equipment onto the farm on Wednesday, including a skid-steer loader and a large trailer, as well as additional staff from their major crime and specialized forensic identification units.
Police set up two large white tents next to several smaller ones at the dig site, signalling an expansion of the search area.
Corporal Dan Moskaluk, spokesman for the RCMP's Southeast District, acknowledged the angst in the Okanagan community and warned against speculation.
"We're aware of the speculation in the community, and in the media, around the discovery of the human remains and potentially them being linked to a number of ongoing missing persons investigations," he said on Wednesday.
"Until these remains have been positively identified, it's too early in the investigation to say whether the investigation is linked or not to any ongoing missing persons investigations."
Cpl. Moskaluk said it still cannot be confirmed whether there is one victim or more.
"All we've stated at this time is that they are human remains and are being treated as suspicious," he said.
He said there is no timeline for the search. Trucks bearing portable toilets and kitchen appliances such as a coffee maker, microwave and mini-fridge indicated it could continue for some time.
Cpl. Moskaluk said police have been in touch with the owners of the property and would be likely relocating their farm animals later on Wednesday to ensure their proper care.
The RCMP began searching the site last Thursday and on Saturday announced that human remains had been found at the site.
The 10-hectare property, according to land records, is owned by Wayne and Evelyn Sagmoen, described in documents as a "bridgeman" and "administrative assistant."
One of the couple's sons, Curtis Sagmoen, was charged Oct. 17 with seven offences, including possessing weapon for a dangerous purpose and pointing a firearm.
Curtis Sagmoen is in custody and scheduled to appear in court in Vernon on Thursday.
Police have not linked the charges against Curtis Sagmoen to the search of the site.
The North Okanagan RCMP also issued a public warning to the general public and female sex workers on Oct. 13, citing a "woman being threatened by a man with a firearm in a North Okanagan rural area."
Since February, 2016, several women have gone missing in the region.
They include Caitlin Potts, 27; Ashley Simpson, 32; Deanna Wertz, 46; Nicole Bell, 31; and Traci Genereaux, 18.
RCMP statements describe Ms. Wertz and Ms. Potts as First Nations and Ms. Genereaux, Ms. Bell and Ms. Simpson as Caucasian.
Last year, First Nations leaders organized a large search for Ms. Potts, while community advocates have held walks and rallies to draw attention to all of the missing women.
Late Tuesday night, about 60 people gathered outside an elementary school in Silver Creek for a candlelight vigil.
Minnie Kenoras, whose daughter was killed by a partner in the area nearly 20 years ago, was among those in attendance.
"I have anger," she told the group. "Why is this happening?"
Chief Wayne Christian of the Splatsin First Nation called on people with information to come forward.
"Silence is no longer acceptable," he said.
In a Facebook message, Ms. Genereaux's father, Darcy Genereaux, said he has endured "the hardest months in my life with my baby girl missing."
Ms. Genereaux was last seen this past May in Vernon.
"I just want her to be safe anywhere she is," Mr. Genereaux said.
According to Canada's National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, 62 per cent of missing adult cases were resolved within 24 hours and 90 per cent within a week.
"Most missing-persons investigations are concluded not long after the disappearance of the person, with a positive outcome," Neil Boyd, a professor at Simon Fraser University's school of criminology, said Wednesday in an e-mail.
"Only a small percentage of all missing persons turn out to have been the victims of a homicide. What is worrying about these disappearances is the length of time they have been missing – three of the five for more than a year, and the other two for about five months and two months respectively," he added.
"When we add to that the fact that they are all young or relatively young women, and missing from a relatively small geographic area, we have a legitimate concern that some or all of them may have been the victims of crime," he said.