SUN PEAKS, B.C. — It's been close to a full year since the disappearance of Ryan Shtuka in Sun Peaks — a case that's left his family, police and the public frustrated.
There has been little to no physical evidence in the case, meaning nothing points to 21-year-old Ryan leaving the mountain. His mother Heather says there's also nothing pointing to where Ryan is or could have gone in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2018.
He was last seen leaving a party on Burfield Drive that morning, and when he failed to show up for work or contact anyone later that day, a missing person's report was filed.
LISTEN: CFJC Today's Ashley Legassic discusses Heather Shtuka's concerns with the ongoing investigation
"I mean, I have nowhere else to look," Heather says. "I don't have anywhere else to search; there's nobody else that's given me anything that's valid. Where on that hill? I mean it's such a vast area. Could he have been moved, could he have been taken? I don't know what those scenarios are."
On top of the lack of evidence, Heather says the family has had to overcome the hurdle of a lack of consistency within the Kamloops Rural RCMP Detachment.
Since Ryan went missing in February 2018, there have been two superintendents in charge of the Kamloops RCMP, three Staff Sargeants in charge of the rural detachment, and two constables specifically investigating Ryan's case.
Cpl. Mike Mucha is currently the acting officer in charge of the rural detachment until a new commander is named. He's been working on this case since day one, and says the movement in the detachment is something out of the detachment's control.
"We've had two staff sargeants retire this year on us and it's something that's beyond our control and it happens in every business," he says, adding that the shuffling has no impact on open files. "As a matter of fact we do carry a lot of oversight as the investigation continues... particularly with this investigation, it is a priority for us. I firmly believe that the more eyes on this file and looking over it gives us better review and better ideas and potential for solving it if we can."
Despite the family's frustrations when it comes to consistency in the detachment, Heather agrees that fresh eyes on the case never hurt.
"You can imagine from a parent's perspective how difficult this has been and how distressing this has been to find out that there is not really consistency," she says, "that again — perhaps for the fourth time — that we have to tell somebody who Ryan is, we have to convince them of Ryan's importance and what he would do and what he wouldn't do, which we've done for the last three times."
"I'm really trying to be positive and thinking, okay, so fresh eyes come into this case that has just sort of been sitting there with no real progess that we're aware that has been made. Although that doesn't mean there hasn't been (progress); it's just not information that we're privy to."
Heather is worried that Ryan's case will fall through the cracks without ever being solved, and her family wonders what will happen next.
Much of the family's frustration came on the evening of Jan. 4, 2019. Heather and her husband Scott had reached out to the Staff Sargeant at the rural detachment to try and set up a conference call.
"I think that was the worst part, this feeling of great despair when we found out... that the Staff Sargeant who pointedly told us that they would be the only point of contact that we would have, and that we were to contact them and no one else, that they retired with no information given to us," she says. "There was no email sent to us, there was nothing. The only way we found out was a kickback email that we sent to them to set up a conference call."
Heather adds that there's still been no information given to her family about a different point of contact.
"I think it's obviously a struggle, and logically I understand that there's only so much information that we're going to be given [because] it's an ongoing investigation," she says. "We've encountered hurdle after hurdle just in terms of how the investigation has gone so far, how much information we've received, just things like that just in general."
Mucha says Ryan's case is still a major priority for the detachment, with officers consistently still following up on tips.
"The file will always be left open and all tasks will be followed up until we eventually, hopefully, find Ryan. And if not, we continue to work on it constantly," he says. "These files are never closed anymore. Back in the old days — back in probably the '60s — files tended to be closed, but even some of those files that we still have are opened up again."
Although Sun Peaks is growing and becoming a more popular tourist destination, it doesn't have its own RCMP detachment. It's an issue Heather thinks should be looked at more closely.
"I keep reading it's a great destination place for winter seasons and it's pushing to be that all around destination. But there is no real form of security up there, and even during these winter months, there is no person that's situated up there at least during that time period to provide support and protection to the residents, the guests and their workers," she says. "I think people always react. We'll be very reactive when a situation comes, but isn't it time to look at it and go, 'Okay, what proactively can we do?'"
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