A naked sex offender in the river at a busy downtown Kamloops beach this summer was not indecent, a judge has ruled, finding the Crown case against him too thin to convict.
Kenneth Wickstrom stood trial on one count of committing an indecent act in a public place. The charge stemmed from an alleged incident at Pioneer Park in June in which the 66-year-old was accused of stripping naked in the river and exposing himself to beachgoers.
Police were called to Pioneer Park at about noon on June 27 for a report of a naked man in the South Thompson River.
Court heard a number of witnesses said they saw Wickstrom naked in the river. One witness who said he saw Wickstrom naked said he “shrugged it off” and did not think to call police.
Other witnesses said they thought Wickstrom’s shorts were sitting low on his waist, but had not been completely pulled down.
A witness who testified at trial said he spotted a man with his shorts down standing in thigh-high water, his penis exposed. According to the witness, the man then came out of the water with his shorts pulled up and asked him graphic sexual questions about his wife.
Court heard the alleged exposure lasted one to two minutes.
June 27 was one of the hottest days on record in the city, part of the record-setting "heat dome" hot spell that scorched the Kamloops area. Highs in the Tournament Capital on June 27 topped 43 C, according to Environment Canada, with a temperature of about 38 C over the noon hour, when the Pioneer Park incident is alleged to have taken place.
Defence lawyer Kristjan Thorsteinson suggested Wickstrom’s shorts slipped inadvertently while he was wading in the river.
Kamloops provincial court Judge Ray Phillips said he wasn’t convinced of Wickstrom’s guilt based on the evidence of the witnesses who testified at trial, so he found him not guilty.
“I would think that had the accused been naked for that long in a public place there would be no shortage of people coming forward with their concerns and observations,” he said.
“I accept that, at some point, the accused was naked. … However, it appears it was momentary.”
Wickstrom has a lengthy criminal record with more than a dozen convictions for committing an indecent act in a public place.
Wickstrom was jailed and placed on a 12-month probation term in November for his most recent conviction, which came after he exposed himself to a woman walking her dog in the school yard at Ralph Bell elementary on April 20, 2020.