More than 60 kilometres east of the southern part of Calgary, Alex McNeil and his dog Bleve boarded a small boat on Friday, ready to get to work on the Bow River near Carseland.
Bleve, a three-year-old German shepherd, is a certified cadaver dog trained to detect the scent of human remains underneath the water.
“We do the Calgary Stampede dog show,” McNeil said.
“This is our other job.”
McNeil, like dozens of others over the past two weeks, is volunteering his afternoon to search for the body of Shane Smith.
Police believe the 20-year-old man was killed late in the evening on June 6 at a home in southeast Calgary.
While investigators have since charged three men in connection to Smith’s death, the young man’s body has never been recovered.
Investigators believe Smith’s body was placed in the Bow River after he was killed, but an intensive, police-led search effort throughout the summer was unsuccessful.
On Aug. 18, at the request of Smith’s family, police allowed volunteers to take part in searches on the Bow.
“[The Smith family] contacted me about seven weeks ago to start helping organize searches,” McNeil said. “Once it was released to search and rescue, with my resources and resources I knew of, I organized some other teams to come in here as well.”
Volunteers with experience in underwater searches, ground searches and aerial searches are all working on finding Smith’s remains, according to McNeil.
“2020 is throwing curveballs [and] now, for a family to have to deal with something like this, it’s unimaginable,” McNeil said.
Cassandra Smith, Shane Smith’s sister, said the search process has been gruelling for the family.
“It is extremely taxing on the family,” she said. “You can see it’s taking a toll emotionally, physically and it’s really hard because you know what you’re looking for. Preparing yourself for that is extremely difficult.
“My dad does not sit at home ever. He is out doing something whether he’s on the water, walking the water, flying his own drone over certain areas he can’t get to or out putting up flyers and talking to people.”
Cassandra said her mother, Shirley Smith, has been working tirelessly to organize search parties and direct volunteers, while Cassandra herself is often tracking information on social media and joining search parties.
The family is now concerned about how much time has passed and the winter months ahead.
“We’re very nervous. You know in September the water is getting low,” she said. “We want to get this done, we need him found before it starts getting cold and we don’t know what to do anymore.”
The family is asking people who live along the Bow River to look around their properties for any signs of Smith.
A Calgary police spokesperson said an annual, large-scale sweep of the Bow River will take place either at the end of September or the start of October.
On June 16, 24-year-old Ian Charles Abercrombie was charged with second-degree murder in connection to Smith’s death.
In August, 23-year-old Andrew Leger-Wagner and 24-year-old Andrew Thomas Bablitz were also charged in connection with the investigation. The charges they face include obstruction of justice, indignity to a human body and two counts of firearms trafficking.
The investigation into Shane Smith’s death is ongoing and anyone with information on the case of on the whereabouts of Smith’s remains is asked to contact Calgary police at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.