'We are in shock'; Mother reacts to son’s death in custody at Sask. Penitentiary
The mother of a 37-year-old man who died in custody at Saskatchewan Penitentiary this week said her family is devastated.
Christopher Van Camp was found dead in his cell just after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. “We are in shock and we're angry because of the things that led up to it,” said Van Camp’s mother, Lauren Laithwaite via telephone from Calgary on Friday morning. “Right now we're just making arrangements for him to come home so we can put him to rest and it's the hardest thing I've ever done."
Van Camp had been serving a more than five-year prison sentence for armed robbery, fraud, committing theft, and break and enter, according to the Correctional Service of Canada.
Police charged Tyler Vandewater – another inmate – on Friday morning with second-degree murder in this case. Vandewater will appear in Prince Albert Provincial Court on June 14. An autopsy was expected to be performed this week on Van Camp’s body, but the results have yet to be released.
Van Camp had been serving a five-year, five-month and 12-day sentence for armed robbery, fraud, committing theft, and break and enter, according to the Correctional Service Canada. Laithwaite said her son had been paroled on April 24 and returned to Calgary with conditions that he couldn’t use alcohol or drugs.
She said Van Camp had been battling a drug addiction for most of his life and was on the road to recovery. “He was always thought of as a wonderful friend, he played competitive hockey, and then suddenly the dark years came in his late teens,” Laithwaite said. “He started doing drugs and once he started doing drugs, crime came to feed the addiction and it became a vicious circle.”
Van Camp had enrolled as a student at SAIT upon returning home and moved in with a family. On May 24, he ran into troubles with drugs once more and overdosed on a combination of cocaine and fentanyl. Laithwaite said her younger son found Van Camp near death.
Van Camp was transported to the Foothills Hospital in Calgary and put on life support. Laithwaite said her son spent five days in a coma. “He was on a full ventilator that was breathing 100 percent for him and he also had pneumonia of the lungs that had to be dealt with that was very serious.”
On May 29, Van Camp woke from his coma. The following day, guards from the Bowden Institution, in central Alberta, arrested Van Camp for breaching his conditions for drug use. On Friday, Laithwaite said her son was taken to Bowden and was told in a phone call by her son that he had been re-located to Saskatchewan Penitentiary and was not feeling well.
On Wednesday, a pastor called Laithwaite to tell inform her of her son’s death. She later learned that her son had been assaulted. "They put a guy who just came out of life support, there's no way that body could even do anything against somebody trying to attack him and yet a man walks into his cell and murders him, that's why I am angry.
Laithwaite said she is considering a civil lawsuit against the penitentiary and has contacted lawyers.
Van Camp’s death was the second death in a matter of hours at Saskatchewan Penitentiary. Daniel James Tokarchuk, 44, was more than 12 years into a life sentence for second-degree murder. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead at 4:24 a.m. Authorities are not considering his death to be suspicious.