A Cumberland man has been charged with first-degree murder in a fatal hit-and-run involving a cyclist in Courtenay last week.
Steven Henry Squires, 45, is charged with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Rodney Kelly, and one count of failing to stop at the scene of a crash causing death.
Squires remains in custody and has his next court appearance Feb. 29 in Courtenay.
Comox Valley RCMP were called to a report of an injured cyclist on the Comox Valley Parkway near Minto Road in Courtenay just before 11 p.m. on Feb. 8.
The cyclist, identified in court documents as Kelly, was found by a passerby who called 911. Paramedics and a crew from the Cumberland Fire Department provided treatment but Kelly later died in hospital.
A red and white Specialized bicycle was discovered by the side of the road nearby.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit took over the investigation and the vehicle suspected to have been involved was located on Saturday.
Police had appealed to motorists who were in the area for dashcam video. They also asked people to report vehicles with very recent damage to their front end.
Under the Criminal Code, first-degree murder is planned and deliberate.
Asked how common it is for motorists in fatal hit-and-runs to be charged with first-degree murder, Alex Bérubé, media relations officer for the RCMP, said he couldn’t comment, as the case is before the courts.
“The details stemming from the charges will be part of the court proceedings,” he said.
Local media have identified Kelly as the brother of murder victim Leanne Larocque-Kelly, who died in 2016.
Larocque-Kelly’s obituary lists Rodney Kelly as her brother. Her ex-boyfriend, Michael Philip Simard, was convicted in 2019 of second-degree murder in the fatal shootings of Larocque-Kelly and her boyfriend, Gordon Turner.
Cumberland Mayor Vickey Brown said the small community is in mourning. “Everybody’s really quiet and just sort of processing what’s happened,” she said.
There was a lot of talk about the incident on Friday and about plans for a safe cycling route between Cumberland and Courtenay, Brown said, but after news of the first-degree-murder charge laid against Squires, residents are in shock.
“The charge of murder is alarming for anyone. So I just want people to take a minute to not jump to conclusions, because we don’t really know what’s going on yet,” she said.
Brown said she isn’t sure if the two men knew each other. She said she knows Squires — who is a volunteer in the community and active in the arts and culture scene — a little bit and she knows some of Kelly’s family.
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells, meanwhile, noted that some people are going online to express outrage on Squires’s social media account. Wells called on everyone to try to remain calm and let the justice system do its work.
“I don’t want our community to become too angry or too focused on vigilantism or being keyboard warriors. It’s really much better done through the court system,” said Wells. He noted that cycling between Cumberland and Courtenay involves riding on busy roads with high speed limits without much light.
The municipal and regional governments have identified the need for a safer cycling route between Cumberland and Courtenay as a priority.
Anyone with information about what happened is asked to call the major crime information line at 250-380-6211.