Clarence Crothers endured multiple surgeries to deal with his severe neck and back pain – caused by years as a heavy labourer – and used an electric wheelchair to get around, but he always maintained a positive spirit.
“He never wanted to be a burden to anyone … He never gave up,” says Arthur Mannhofer, Crothers’ best friend of 25 years.
Now, Mannhofer and others are reeling as they try to come to terms with Crothers’ death and a pressing question: Who would want to kill their buddy?
Crothers, 62, was found dead at about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday in his suite in the Lynnhaven Society’s McMath apartment building in the 33000 block of Braun Avenue in Abbotsford.
Police and ambulance were called to a “suspicious circumstance” in the building. They have not elaborated on what precipitated the call.
When they arrived, they found Crothers, who had sustained injuries “consistent with homicide,” said Cpl. Megan Foster of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT).
IHIT then took over the investigation, and is working with the Abbotsford Police Department and the BC Coroners Service to determine what happened. The cause of death has not been released.
Around noon on Thursday, heavily armed police officers entered an apartment building across from where Crothers had lived. Witnesses reported seeing numerous police vehicles and officers arrive on scene at about noon.
One woman said police had guns pointed towards the third floor of the complex, while others entered the building. The officers left the scene less than 30 minutes after they arrived, and it is not known if anyone was taken into custody.
IHIT would not provide details on the raid.
Mannhofer said he and others who knew Crothers are at a loss as to who could kill their vulnerable and much-loved friend. Crothers, he said, was a social, outgoing and upbeat person who had no enemies.
“He was a really good man. He would give the shirt off his back to anyone,” Mannhofer said.
He said Crothers moved into the Lynnhaven affordable-housing complex when it first opened three years. He was grateful for the opportunity because, until then, his sparse disability income had made it difficult for him to find a suitable home.
Crothers had breakfast most mornings at the Salvation Army on Gladys Avenue and often spent his afternoons socializing with people in Jubilee Park, located a block away from his home.
Mannhofer said that although some of the visitors to Jubilee Park are drug users, Crothers wasn’t one of them; he simply loved to be around people.
“He’d talk to anybody,” Mannhofer said.
The pair first met about 25 years ago, through mutual friends, after Crothers moved to Abbotsford from Merritt. They formed an instant bond that saw them share many interests over the years, including camping and fishing.
Mannhofer’s three sons also grew to love Crothers, and referred to him as “Grandpa C.”
Crothers had spent a career as a heavy-duty welder, but the hard physical labour began to take a toll on his body several years ago.
Although he and Mannhofer could no longer partake in some of the activities they previously enjoyed together, their friendship remained strong.
“He was like my brother. He was family. I would have done anything for him, and he would have done anything for me,” Mannhofer said.
Crothers was also close to his only child, an adult son who also lives in Abbotsford and is devastated by his father’s death, Mannhofer said.
He said thosewho knew Crothers hope answers come fast and that someone is arrested and charged.
“Everybody I know is saying, ‘Who could have done this?’ … To be murdered in your own home – there’s no words for it.”
Foster said Crothers was last spoken with at his home on Monday at 10 p.m.
“It remains early in the investigation, and police are working tirelessly to determine the motive for this tragic death,” she said. “Mr. Crothers was not known to police, and a priority of our investigation is to speak with anyone who knew him.”
Anyone with information can contact IHIT at 1-877-551-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.