On the button pinned to her lapel is a smiling blond woman wearing a captain’s hat with a sparkling lake in the background.
I know these buttons. They never mean good things.
The picture on Shelley Pertelson’s button is of her sister, Lynn Kalmring, who, at age 55, died after being shot in the face in Penticton this August. The accused killer is Kalmring’s common-law spouse, Keith Gregory Wiens, a retired RCMP officer.
I don’t have a button, but every time I walk down our office hallway there’s a similar photo. Louise Phillips, our office manager, smiles her gentle smile in the image — a remembrance of what the Observer staff lost last February when Louise was stabbed to death by her estranged husband Jim.
And so Pertelson, who lives in Salmon Arm, and I shared a strange kinship when she came into the office to talk about her sister’s death and the fall-out from it.
In the days following her sister’s death and the murder charges against Wiens, the family was shocked to discover the 56-year-old could be released on bail as he awaited trial.
This was similar to the reaction at the Observer when we learned Jim Phillips might also be released into the community as the justice system moved along.
How could someone be accused of such a violent crime and then be free to walk around that same community almost as though nothing really happened?
Our staff wondered about this, Louise’s family wondered, and now Kalmring’s friends and family also ask that question.
In both cases, the accused killers were released on bail after posting monetary bonds and agreeing to certain conditions, such as residing at a specific address. Many at the Observer were upset by the judge’s decision — especially because of the outcome. Jim Phillips later killed himself while out on bail, despite warnings he would do just that if released.
Wiens now resides in the home where Lynn Kalmring was killed. Her relatives are unable to access her personal things, they live in fear of seeing him on the streets of their small city.
And so, Lynn’s family members have decided to try and make a change in memory of their mother, sister and friend. They have started two petitions calling for changes to the justice system. They want stricter bail requirements in cases of violent crime and changes to the National Victims Bill of Rights, giving victims, among other things, a direct voice at bail hearings.
“The only way things can change is for people to say they’ve had enough and do something to change things. We want to do this for Lynn’s memory and we hope one day there will be a change to the law — Lynn’s Law,” says Pertelson.
Petitions are available online at www.justiceforlynn.webs.com. They are also available to sign at Super Save Gas and at the Observer office.
The goal is 100,000 signatures. Shelley is signing for her sister, I’m signing for Louise — but sadly, we are also signing to improve the situation for victims yet to come.