Acquaintance of arson suspect worried for her safety

Charges resulting from Westbank Lions Hall fire investigation raise concerns for West Kelowna woman.

Amanda Nevdoff says she’s living in fear, wondering if she’ll face further reprisals from a former acquaintance she believes is bent on revenge.

Nevdoff learned last week that her friend’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Kerry Cooper, was charged with arson relating to the Sept. 1, 2013, fire that extensively damaged the Westbank Lions Hall.

The historic site was the venue she’d booked for her wedding, which was to take place the same day as the blaze. And Cooper, the boyfriend of her bridesmaid, was expected to attend as a guest.

Cooper, 30, remains in police custody and the charge against him has yet to be proven in court, but Nevdoff said she has reason to believe its validity.

“His behaviour is erratic,” she said, adding that since her wedding he’s shown anger toward her on social media sites and later, she alleges, through much more tangible acts.

“It baffles me that he has so much anger toward me,” she said.

Nevdoff said she thought they had a “cordial” relationship before the wedding, but she never cared much for Cooper, who had constant blowups with his girlfriend at the West Kelowna mobile home park where they all lived.

“They were constantly arguing in the house, or even outside, and it was loud enough that the whole neighbourhood could hear,” she said.

“The whole neighbourhood was freaked out by him.”

Nevdoff advised her friend to split from Cooper, but the relationship continued in an on-again off-again fashion and she washed her hands of the matter.

She told her friend that she was welcome to bring Cooper to the wedding, that was waylaid by the inferno.

“That whole day was pretty wild,” she said, adding that it ended up being amazing thanks to the community stepping up and offering her an alternate venue.

But, the positivity of that occasion was muted in the months that followed.

In the days after the inferno gutted the hall, a mutual friend referred Nevdoff to what’s believed to be Cooper’s Facebook page. There, he posted a series of comments, and news footage of the fire along with the caption, “haha f*** u Mandy.”

And, she and her family allege that in the months since the wedding, Kerry has repeatedly lashed out at them, volleying threats in their direction and even going so far as to slash one family member’s car tires, repeatedly.

She claims police are aware of these acts, though no charges have been laid against Cooper for them.

Now he’s been charged with arson, she feels a modicum of relief, though not entirely.

“It’s good he’s been arrested, but we don’t know when he’ll be released,” she said.

“We have no idea what he’ll do.”

She doesn’t want to stay in her Boucherie Road home, but with a young child at home and a baby on the way, mobility is not in the cards.

“I don’t know what we’ll do,” she said.

The fire that engulfed the Westbank Lions Community Centre started around 8 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 1, and quickly spread through the original wooden hall portion of the structure, which dates back to 1928, as well as the added on portions.

The entire building was renovated in 1980 when it was moved back from its original position nearer to the road and the addition was completed.

Damage was estimated in the ballpark of $1 million.

kmichaels@kelownacapnews.com