Call for help leads police to South Surrey homicide victim
A South Surrey neighbourhood was behind police tape Friday, after a phone call for assistance that morning led officers to the scene of a murder.
At least nine marked police vehicles and an ambulance could be seen after Surrey RCMP got a call for help shortly after 10 a.m. from inside a house in the 2500-block of 156 Street.
Monday morning, IHIT confirmed the victim as 52-year-old Timothy Szabolcsi, who had recently appeared on popular U.S. television show, Dr. Phil, for an episode entitled “Did she marry an impostor?”
The RCMP’s Intergrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) and emergency response team searched the neighbourhood, eventually swarming a house neighbouring the one in which Szabolcsi’s body was found, just south of Sunnyside Park.
IHIT spokesman Sgt. Bari Emam told Peace Arch News at the scene Friday that police believed the incident focused on Szabolcsi and there was no threat to public safety.
However, as the investigation progressed into the afternoon, a large gathering of residents was repeatedly told to stay behind police lines for safety reasons.
By 1 p.m., a police dog was searching the area and officers expanded their area of interest, prompting complaints from residents who were unable to get past the police tape to retrieve vehicles parked in the now-restricted zone.
Soon after, officers – with firearms unholstered – focused their attention on a nearby house. They called for someone to exit the home, then could be seen speaking to a man outside the residence. The man challenged officers, repeatedly stating no one else was in the house and that the police didn’t know what they were doing.
By 1:30 p.m., the cordoned-off area was extended further and, shortly before 2 p.m., the tactical team arrived at the scene.
At 2:30 p.m., RCMP surrounded the neighbouring house and, through a megaphone, ordered a suspected occupant “to exit the house through the front door with your hands up.”
Moments later, members of the tactical team entered, then exited empty-handed, before police returned focus to the rancher that Szabolcsi was found in.
According to neighbours, police had visited the area a week prior asking if there had been any gunshots heard.
One neighbour noted he had heard four to five “pops” prior to police arriving on scene Friday.
Shortly before 4 p.m., Emam issued a news release calling for anyone who was in the area Thursday night to 10:30 a.m. Friday morning who witnessed anything suspicious to call the IHIT Tipline at 1-877-551-4448 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (to remain anonymous) to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
“Our investigators will be at the residence most of today to determine what took place,” Emam said in the news release. “We have no information about a motive at this time. I can confirm that the incident was isolated only to this one residence and the victim. We have no public safety concerns as a result of this case.”
Police tape remained at the house over the weekend and forensics was still in attendance Monday morning.
Monday, police confirmed Szabolcsi had been shot.
On March 27, Szabolcsi and his then-wife, real estate agent Sheri Brown, appeared on Dr. Phil. In the online episode synopsis, Brown claims Szabolcsi told her he was a “retired doctor, former professional hockey player, wealthy businessman and Canadian Air Force pilot.” After fearing he was unfaithful, Brown uncovered information that Szabolcsi had operated a pain-management clinic in Texas without a medical licence and under a different name and had spent one year in prison for stealing $30,000 from the parent company of the clinic.
Szabolcsi’s death was Surrey’s third homicide of the week – a tweet from IHIT shortly after noon Friday confirmed “a new homicide in Surrey” – following the death of a man found in a Whalley apartment stairwell Monday and a man killed in a Newton brawl early Thursday morning.
It was also the area’s third homicide in a little over a year. In April 2013, White Rock resident Craig Widdifield was shot in a shopping centre parking lot in the 15700-block of Croydon Drive, just east of Friday’s shooting. The following November, 44-year-old Corey Bennett was murdered in a targeted home invasion in the 2600-block of King George Boulevard. Two suspects – Matthew Rene Bernard, 27, and Donald James Chad, 30 – are facing charges in connection with his death.