The name of Keith Wiens is one that never passes her lips.
“I call him the animal, because I can’t say his name out loud,” said Donna Irwin, the sister of Lynn Kalmring who was shot and killed in a domestic assault.
Aug. 16 marked one year since Kalmring’s death. Her common-law partner, Wiens, is accused of the murder but was released on bail. He returned to live in the home where Kalmring’s body was found in the gated community of Sandbridge, but that all changed on Jan. 18 when he was placed back in jail for allegedly breaching his conditions. Still, the family said they feel as if they are the ones locked up.
Gathered in her niece’s tattoo shop in downtown Penticton last week, Irwin said it is the first time she has been to Penticton since her sister died. Sitting across from Irwin on a couch is Kalmring’s son, Joe Kuroaka, whose bodybuilder physique can’t hide the pain in his eyes as the family talks about the only thing they feel will give them freedom — life in jail for Wiens.
“I’m holding back tears right now, it is very hard,” he admits, adding he doesn’t expect a trial to take place until late-2013.
Kuroaka brought his two children with him from Alberta to Penticton. He had hoped to get access to his mother’s house in the gated community of Sandbridge, where she had lived with Wiens.
In particular, he wanted to get a cabinet that has sentimental value to him. He said he has mixed emotions being back in Penticton, a city he considered his home, but now is spoiled with a horrible memory. Kuroaka looks out the window at his kids playing and said he feels the most emotional about how they will never get to truly know their grandmother.
“My mom took my daughter to her Arizona house two years ago and this summer she was going to take my son. He asks all the time, ‘How come I don’t get my turn from grandma?’ He is never going to get that experience ever. So when you ask how you get this right, nothing will make that right,” said Kuroaka.
Members of the family have been gathering signatures from across the country asking the federal government for stricter bail requirements for violent crimes and a second petition proposing amendments to the National Victims Bill of Rights.
They presented both to MP Dan Albas last week and said they were told he would be presenting them to the House of Commons in September. It is one way, the family said, they have kept busy during this past year waiting for the justice system and also a way to keep Kalmring’s spirit alive. The family has also been fighting to try and gain access to the Penticton house Kalmring lived in with Wiens and the house in Arizona, of which Kalmring’s name was on the title. The family said it has been a chess match of lawyers and struggles with the man accused of killing Kalmring.
“It’s not bad enough we don’t get an opportunity to mourn or sit down and go through her things and laugh and cry, we don’t get to do any of that. We just have to fight this bastard the whole time. No one should have to go through that,” said Kalmring’s daughter Brandy Cummings. “They are little things not of value that we want. Personal things that were sentimental to her and to us.”
Cummings points at a simple reddish brick sitting on a desk in the tattoo shop — an item some may perceive as having no value. A closer look reveals a fish that Cummings painted on it before gifting it to Kalmring in 2009. It’s an item her mother placed in her garden at the Sandbridge home. Cummings said it is things like this brick that they care most about. Without them, Cummings said it is hard to move forward.
“I still feel the need to go back to the house all the time, even though I can’t see in the windows and everything is closed off. I just feel like there is something still there,” she says while sketching a dragonfly, a favourite thing of her mom’s that the family is all going to get a tattoo of. “I don’t know why, but I find myself often sitting in front of the house. I don’t know what I am doing there, but I know that house and it is hers.”