The suspect in an armed robbery two years ago in Oliver left the Penticton courthouse as a free man on Tuesday after the person he allegedly robbed failed to show up for trial.
Joshua James Merlyn Penner, 21, was due to stand trial in B.C. Supreme Court on a single count of robbery related to an incident July 12, 2019, at Oliver Family Grocery.
The alleged victim was identified in court documents as store clerk Barbara Simpson, making her testimony key to the case. However, her non-appearance Tuesday prompted Crown counsel Andrew Vandersluys to drop the charge against Penner.
“The named complainant, Barbara Simpson, has made it very clear she does not want to co-operate and does not want to participate in the court process…. In the circumstances, Crown no longer has a substantial likelihood of conviction and Crown is directing a stay of proceedings,” said Vandersluys.
Police at the time said Penner was wearing a mask over his face and had a knife in his hand when he walked into Oliver Family Grocery around 7 p.m. on the day in question and demanded cash and cigarettes.
The clerk was able to pull the mask away long enough to get a look at the suspect's face before he fled, according to police.
Based on the clerk’s description, police then linked Penner to a similar armed robbery at week earlier at the Chevron gas station in Oliver.
Penner wasn’t charged in relation to that earlier robbery.
Police also said at the time that Penner was new to the area and subsequently granted bail on the condition he not return to Oliver.