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Salt Spring man charged with murder in death of his mother

A 22-year-old Salt Spring man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of his mother, Heather Jones, in early December.
Heather Jones.jpg
Heather Jones has been identified as the woman found dead in a Salt Spring Island home on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.

A 22-year-old Salt Spring man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of his mother, Heather Jones, in early December.

Martin Vandenberg, who had been apprehended under the Mental Health Act, was arrested Friday without incident by members of the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit.

“We understand that the news of Heather’s death was shocking to all those who knew her and to the close-knit community of Salt Spring Island,” said Sgt. John Ferguson, an officer with the major crime unit.

“We would like to thank the community of Salt Spring for their assistance and support throughout this investigation.”

Vandenberg is expected to appear in Victoria provincial court on Tuesday.

The family feels that two members have now been lost, said Paul Large, who is engaged to Jones’s sister, Tammy Walker.

“We really feel that the system has failed,” he said. “The system as it’s set up doesn’t help people with mental illness unless they hurt themselves or someone else.”

Vandenberg’s father, Martin Vandenberg Sr., is upset that he wasn’t told his son was going to be moved from Royal Jubilee Hospital to police cells on Friday.

“I don’t get why they took him out of the hospital, he was getting help there. He was getting assessed,” Vandenberg Sr. told the Times Colonist.

“Putting him in a cell won’t do him any good. Now he’s more isolated than he was before.”

He said he last talked to his son on Thursday. His son stared straight ahead and looked dazed.

“He’s not normal. He’s not the same person. He was all drugged up. You can tell in his eyes he’s not really there.”

Vandenberg Sr. received a call from an investigator with the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit on Friday evening, after charges were announced. The investigator did not explain to him why police decided to move his son from the hospital to the police cells, Vandenberg Sr. said.

He said his son was diagnosed with a learning disability at a young age. The younger Vandenberg finished high school, but was “pushed through,” his father said. “He can barely read and write.”

Vandenberg was on social assistance for a disability and would help out at his father’s four-acre farm, where he also lived.

Vandenberg Sr. said his son has been taken to hospital over the years to be assessed.

His son was always discharged without a proper diagnosis or long-term help, he said.

“We tried to get help all over the years, over and over again. He was never diagnosed. People just kept hemming and hawing and passing us around.”

Jones, 47, was born and raised on Salt Spring, and ran a taxi company on the island.

Salt Spring RCMP were called to Jones’s Maliview Road home shortly before noon on Dec. 6. Jones was found dead in the duplex she shared with her adult daughter.

Martin Vandenberg was arrested that day, then released from police custody and apprehended under the Mental Health Act.

Under Section 28 of the act, a police officer might apprehend and immediately take a person to a doctor for examination if the officer is satisfied the person is a danger to himself or others and is apparently a person with a mental disorder.

A doctor is then responsible for determining whether a person should remain under the care of a medical professional or be released from hospital.

A memorial service for Jones is being held today at 11 a.m. at the Community Gospel Chapel on Vesuvius Bay Road on Salt Spring.

— With files from Jeff Bell and Katie DeRosa

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