Imagine a two-week camping trip with your family. It’ll be great! You may load an old RV and a small boat on the roof. This vacation will bring together three generations of your family, and you are looking forward to it tremendously.
The unforgettable camping trip of August 1982
This is exactly what the Bentley had in mind during the summer of 1982. To get to Wells Gray Provincial Park from their Kelowna home, George and Edith Bentley (66 and 59) travelled with their daughter Jackie Johnson (40), son-in-law Bob (44) and grandchildren Janet (13), and Karen (11), all of whom had travelled from their home. It was approximately a three and a half hours drive.
Two weeks passed. Bob was a full-time employee at Gorman Brothers Lumber in Westbank, where he had not reported to work in several days. Now many of Bob’s coworkers began to express concern about this because Bob had never missed a day of work in his 20 years of employment life. As a result, his coworkers called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and they launched an investigation into the disappearance of the family.
Disappearance and search for the Bentley family
The large search, which was centred around Wells Gray Park, was unsuccessful in its attempts to find the family. However, it wasn’t until about a month after they went missing that a mushroom picker reported seeing an old burnt-out truck in the woods that looked identical to the vehicle Bob was driving.
With the assistance of the mushroom picker, the RCMP were able to locate the vehicle and made a gruesome discovery. The burned corpses of the four missing people were discovered inside.
But what the officers found inside the trunk of the car was far worse than what they had imagined. Inside the trunk, they discovered the remains of two young girls. But there was not much left. Whoever murdered the girls used an accelerant on their bodies.
Forensic examination of the bone fragments revealed that they were shot with a .22 calibre gun. It was initially suspected that a local was responsible for the murders due to the vehicle’s location in an easily accessible place.
Meanwhile, detectives identified what they believed to be the murder site, 20 kilometres from the burned-out Johnson car was found. It was at the Old Bear Creek Prison Site. They discovered .22 calibre shot casings and beer caps from a brand known to be Bob Johnson’s favourite. Full bottles of the same beer were found cooling in a nearby stream. Two sticks with sharp ends were also discovered, which were most likely used by the two girls to roast marshmallows.
However, the Bentley family’s 1981 Ford truck and camper, as well as their camping gear, boat and motor, and other belongings, were still missing.
The search for the camper
Despite a thorough search, they were unable to locate the camper that the Bentley family had travelled in during their trip. The police received a tip that the camper had been spotted going eastbound with two French-speaking individuals in the driver’s seat. Because the males spoke French, the police assumed that they were on their way to Quebec, which in the end proved to be false.
Police reconstructed the camper, complete with the aluminium boat on top, and travelled across the country to gather more information for the inquiry. Sadly, the attempts led to nothing new.
It took over a year for a couple of forestry workers to discover the camper and report it to the RCMP. It was burned, just like Bob’s car earlier that year. The place was roughly 20 km from the murder site and 30 km from where Bob’s burned car was found.
David Shearing the killer
A total of 13,000 tips were received by police in this investigation. A caller informed them about a man named David Shearing. Who had been involved in a deadly hit-and-run a year prior and had seemingly escaped justice. He told police that, over a year earlier, David Shearing had enquired about how to re-register a Ford pickup and repair a hole in its door. David lived three miles from the site of the murders and the police had never released the information about the bullet hole.
The Mounties learned that 23-year-old David Shearing had previously been in trouble with the law. He had been arrested for assault, drinking and driving, and drug possession. David had lived in the area all of his life and knew the park and the roads.
Police tracked down David Shearing on November 19, 1983 in Tumbler Ridge north of Kamloops where he was slated to appear in court in a few days for possessing stolen stuff. He was taken into custody to be questioned. Although they had precious little hard evidence against him, police felt Shearing was their man.
Sgt. Eastham’s deft questioning brought down the man who had allegedly stolen the lives of six innocent people. David Shearing gradually recounted how he had followed the victims to their campsite and stalked them. He had his eye on the two young girls. Using his .22 calibre Remington pump-action rifle, he had first shoot all four adults as they sat around their campfire. Then shot the girls as they slept in the tent, saying he only wanted to rob them.
According to the police, He kidnapped the two girls, sexually assaulting them for days before shooting them in the back of the head. He told the RCMP that he put the bodies in their car, drove it up the mountainside at night, and set it on fire with five gallons of gasoline.
He returned for the camper unit a few days later and drove it back to his nearby property, only to burn it later when he discovered how difficult it was to re-register. Shearing went on to say that he had looted the camper of anything he thought was valuable. Later, police recovered many of the items he had stolen. Most were at his parents’ ranch, where he lived.
It was also discovered through David Shearing’s closest friend, Ross Coburn, that he was with him when he ran over drunk lying on a Wells Gray Park road in 1980, killing him. The accident was never reported to the police.
The trial of David Shearing
David Shearing was charged with six counts of murder on April 16, 1984 and pleaded guilty. The next day he was sentenced to six concurrent terms of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
In September 2008, David Shearing was up for parole. The National Parole Board ruled that he still had violent sexual fantasies, had not completed sex offender treatment, and was not ready for freedom. His second application, in 2012, was also rejected. and he withdrew his application in 2014 before a decision was made.
David Shearing, now known as David Ennis, applied again in 2014, then withdrew the request a month before the hearing. In the meantime, online and paper petitions garnered 15,258 signatures urging the parole board not to release him. Family members of the Johnsons and Bentleys also appealed for relief from the agony of reliving the tragedy and campaigning against Shearing’s release every few years.