A friend of the man accused of sexually assaulting and prostituting his teenage stepdaughter said he conducted his own investigation in Penticton for months.
Les Bowick said he knew the man, whose name is under publication ban in order to protect the teenage girl, for 15 years and noticed something different about the family when they returned to live in Penticton from a short stint in Surrey.
“Things were a little bit different,” said Bowick. “(The stepfather) was acting a little stranger. They seemed different than what they were when they left.”
Bowick said the stepfather seemed to have a lot of energy and he suspected he was doing drugs. He testified he asked the stepfather and was told it was because he was on a antideppresant drug given to him by a doctor. Bowick said he has known the stepdaughter since she was just a toddler and recognized she seemed “absent minded” and “generally in a depressed state.”
“I knew something was wrong, I had a feeling inside that made me want to know more,” said Bowick.
Bowick, who admitted a criminal record which included living off the avails of prostitution while in Edmonton in 1986 that landed him in jail for 18 months, said he had lived a “rough life” on the streets himself. Bowick said at times he provided the stepfather with marijuana to sell because he noticed the family was broke. He said he saw the stepfather selling cocaine out of the family’s hotel room at the Stardust Inn and that the stepfather was selling drugs at the Soupateria property near some garbage bins.
“That area is basically the land of drugs. People go there maybe to eat, but most go there to find their supplies — drugs and stuff,” said Bowick, who added the bench on Martin Street by the Soupateria is well-known as the place where hookers sit.
Bowick testified he watched the Soupateria area covertly upwards of 30 times during the lunch hour and sometimes in the evening trying to get evidence that his friend was pimping out the teen girl.
The man said he did not want to confront the stepfather before having proof that he was prostituting his daughter in Penticton. Bowick recalled one occasion, while watching from afar, when he observed a blue minivan pull up to the bus stop where the accused is said to have been arranging dates for his teenage stepdaughter. Bowick said as he approached the stepfather he was noticed and the vehicle abruptly left. He testified the stepfather brushed it off as a drug deal.
“I could sense it. I could see all the signs were there but I couldn’t catch him red-handed,” said Bowick.
During court proceedings on Wednesday, Bowick said had he got the proof he needed, he would have confronted the stepfather first.
“I would have stopped this if I had gotten the proof I wanted. I would have went to (the stepfather) first and tried talking to him,” said Bowick.
Testimony was also heard on Wednesday from the girl’s school principal, who explained her poor attendance record, frequent pick ups just off the schoolgrounds by her father who was on foot and RCMP picking up the teen for shoplifting had set off flags that something was wrong. This was coupled by the vice-principal seeing the girl at the Soupateria bus stop, commonly known as a bad area in Penticton, and the principal seeing the girl there himself on a Friday night. The principal said he observed a vehicle slow down by the bus stop and a conversation occuring between the stepfather and the vehicle occupant. The teen girl was seen by the principal in the general vicinity.
Michelle Boehm, a youth family worker for the Boys and Girls Club, testified that she had a meeting with the teen and asked if she was prostituting.
“She didn’t want to say much at the time. Her hair was in her face, she was hunched forward and just shook her head no. She was quiet and withdrawn,” testified Boehm.
After the initial meeting, Boehm said she saw the teen again during one of her routine checks at the Soupateria to visit with some of the youth in that hang out in that area.
“Her dad was there staring in the background,” said Boehm. “It was almost like she knew he was watching. He was standing and glaring from afar. It was evident she was aware.”
Since the girl’s stepfather was arrested, Boehm said she has seen a noticeable difference in her. She said her hair is pulled back now, she has conversations, smiles and is more confident. The court heard the girl possibly will even graduate this year.
The trial is scheduled to run until Friday. See Friday’s edition of the paper for more or visit www.pentictonwesternnews.com for updates.