Burns Lake resident Albert Giesbrecht, who was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Raymond George Bishop last May, will be released on bail soon.
According to unconfirmed reports, he could be released as early as Thursday.
Giesbrecht appeared in Smithers Supreme Court last week for a judicial interim release hearing (bail hearing), which is where a judge decides whether to release the accused person from custody while they wait for trial.
Although the judge had indicated that a decision on his release would not be made until Dec. 11, the court decided last Friday that Giesbrecht could be released on a “recognizance of bail,” which comes with the imposition of a financial penalty if the accused does not follow the conditions of release.
His sureties - Calvin and Debra Giesbrecht - signed an agreement Monday which makes them liable to pay $75,000 if Albert fails to attend court or breaches a condition of his bail order.
As part of the 22 conditions of his bail order, Albert is not allowed to go to the area known as Southside, which is located south of Burns Lake. He also must not have any contact or go to any residence, school or workplace of 24 people, including some members of Bishop’s family.
He must be confined to his Burns Lake residence under house arrest, 24/7 commencing upon release. The only times he may be absent from his residence are in an ambulance for a medical emergency, or in the presence of one or both of his sureties to travel to a probation office or to attend scheduled court appearances.
In addition, he must surrender all travel documents, including any passport, and must not obtain any further travel documents. He must also not possess or use any device capable of accessing the Internet.
Jennifer Petersen, whose aunt is Albert’s ex-wife, said the 22 bail order conditions are “loose,” and that they make her feel unsafe.
“The property he is going to be on is five acres, which borders with forests. Also, anybody is able to go there… someone could bring him a gun,” she said.
Petersen said she was shocked when she learned that Albert would be released.
“I was shocked, completed floored and gutted by it,” she said. “This response from the judge was so unexpected. We all thought this was a formality. No one thought he could get out and come back to the community.”
Her Facebook post asking for “justice for Ray” and urging residents to contact Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad and Mike Farnsworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, had been shared almost 200 times as of Monday morning.
Petersen added that the bail release of someone charged with first-degree murder is a broader issue that needs to be discussed.
“This shouldn’t be allowed,” she said. “The system needs change, this should never happen.”
Sheralyn Bishop, Raymond’s daughter, said her family was also surprised by Albert’s release.
“As a family, we’re outraged,” she said. “We never saw this coming, and I think we’re all still in shock.”
The 22 bail order conditions also didn’t make her feel safe.
“The conditions have minimal monitoring,” she said. “There’s no real way to monitor him round the clock. People can come and go to his residence as they please.”
“Basically we feel very unsafe as a family,” she added.
Sheralyn said her family will be pursuing an appeal process to ask for Albert to wait for trial in custody.
When asked about her father, Sheralyn said Raymond was a good neighbour and friend.
“He worked hard his whole life and he took care of the people he loved,” she said. “He loved his community and he died protecting it.”