For nearly a year, the Napope family grieved for the son and brother they knew they’d lost.
Troy Napope was declared missing in June 2015. His car was discovered burned out and left on the side of the road, though his body wasn’t found until almost a year later.
In a case marked by delays, Napope’s disappearance wasn’t even declared a homicide until the end of Nov. 2015, despite the burned out hulk of his car being found. It was another six months before his body was found, when the RCMP’s Underwater Recovery Team discovered his remains in a slough west of the city, a fair ways away from the torched car.
Rumours as to who were involved constantly swirled, though nothing was concrete.
Every few months RCMP would announce a new detail in their search, whether it was directions for residents to check their backyards if they lived near the Saskatchewan Penitentiary or combing through the forests near where his car had been found on Whitestar Rd.
Finally, in March 2016 a break in the case resulted in two men being charged with Napope’s murder. Braidy Chase Vermette was charged with first degree murder and Skylar Patrick Bird was charged with first degree murder, arson and forcible confinement.
“It’s heartbreaking and unbelievable,” Napope’s sister Christine Napope said outside P.A. Provincial Court after the arrests. “We’re going to remain strong.”
Throughout it all, the family said they’d known Vermette was behind the killing.
“We all knew who it was,” Napope’s cousin Annie said. “Everyone knew who did it but he wasn’t getting charges laid on him. That was the hardest thing…didn’t seem fair at all.”
With Troy’s alleged killers charged and behind bars, his family could truly begin to heal.
But the case was about to take another dramatic turn.
Like something straight out of a crime thriller, Vermette escaped custody with the help of two gang associates and his girlfriend.
He broke out when being taken to Victoria Hospital at the end of March for a self-inflicted wound. When he and two correctional officers arrived, they were greeted by two men with less-than-noble intentions. Wade Halkett was armed with bear spray and he used it against the officers. His brother Richard Favel had a shotgun.
Vermette and his crew completed their daring escape as the two officers were still disabled by the stinging spray.
The escape sparked a massive manhunt which saw Vermette’s face plastered on national news. Corrections investigated how the escape could have happened while police tracked down Vermette, his girlfriend Tristen Smith and their accomplices.
Halkett and Favel were taken into custody without incident. They both pleaded guilty to weapons charges.
Vermette and Smith were found in a house only 15 minutes outside of town in the RM of Buckland roughly a week after escaping.
S.W.A.T. rolled in and apprehended the two in a fiery incident.
Neighbours recalled the heavily-armed officers barging into the house while the building burned from the inside.
“(The police) were trying to get (the residents) out of the house but they just would not leave,” neighbour Barret Laird said the day after the arrest. “Like, she was dragged out kicking and screaming while the house was engulfed in flames.”
No one has any idea how the fire started, whether the occupants of the house were attempting to burn evidence or it was just a candle which was knocked over in the chaos.
After a traumatic year for the Napope family, Troy’s alleged killer was behind bars once more. It’s where he’s stayed as the court case winds on.
Both accused have provincial court appearances in January.
The Napope family, who have already waited seventeen months to see justice served, will have to wait a little longer.
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