A drug trafficking case that has dragged through the Penticton courts for more than four years was delayed again Tuesday when it was revealed one of the accused is likely suffering from COVID-19, while her co-accused is recovering from a gunshot wound suffered while on bail.
Cheryl Lynn Aeichele and Elkena Michael Knauff were convicted in B.C. Supreme Court in June 2020 on three counts each of possession of drugs for the purposes of trafficking. They were arrested on the charges in September 2017 outside the Penticton Walmart store.
Following their convictions, the pair applied to have the case tossed due to delays, but that effort was shot down by a judge in April 2021.
They were finally due to be sentenced Tuesday, but the case hit another speedbump.
Court heard Aeichele wasn’t in attendance due to a suspected case of COVID-19, while Knauff was behind bars for allegedly breaching a bail condition that required him to stay in Penticton. Knauff’s alleged breach of that condition occurred Nov. 5 when he was shot in Surrey.
Justice Gordon Weatherill offered Tuesday to sentence Knauff immediately and deal with Aeichele at a later date pending COVID-19 test results, but that plan quickly fell apart.
Knauff’s lawyer, Michael Patterson, said his client would prefer to be sentenced at the same time as Aeichele and that Knauff is now seeking out drug counselling programs before addressing the court about his efforts to rehabilitate himself while in custody.
Justice Weatherill said it’s worrisome this case continues to drag on, noting the convictions were registered in June of 2020, but agreed to adjourn the matter until Thursday to set new sentencing dates “as soon as possible.”
Court heard previously that plainclothes members of the Penticton RCMP Targeted Enforcement Unit were parked at Walmart on Sept. 17, 2017, and observed two known drug users hanging around the store for about two hours, before the pair approached a white Ford Explorer that was parked on the north side of the building.
Suspecting a dial-a-dope transaction was in progress, the officers parked their unmarked vehicle behind the Explorer and walked up to the SUV to find Aeichele in the driver's seat and Knauff in the passenger seat. The officers talked to all four people at the vehicle, but did not feel they had grounds to make an arrest, so they left.
The officers then watched as Aeichele backed out in the SUV, revealing what appeared to be a small baggie of drugs that had been tossed under the Explorer.
At that point, the officers moved back in and arrested Aeichele and Knauff. Mounties recovered cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from the scene.