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Family of former CFLer Mike Labinjo says police bungled investigation into his death

Last Updated Feb 18, 2021 at 9:16 am MDT

CALGARY – Over two-and-a-half years since the death of former CFL star Mike Labinjo–and 10 months after police deemed his death suspicious – Labinjo’s family is calling out “sloppy” police work.

In an exclusive interview with CityNews, the family points to a series of mistakes Calgary police made during the investigation and a lack of action they feel is turning the case cold.

Labinjo’s surviving relatives believe his killer is still out there.

Labinjo was a star with the Calgary Stampeders from 2007-2010. He was found dead in his southwest Calgary condo on Sept. 21, 2018. He was only 38.

ORIGINAL STORY: Former Stampeder Mike Labinjo dead

At the time, police did not believe his death was criminal in nature. Just days later, his family flew west from Toronto to collect his belongings but were shocked to find his condo in disarray.

“We noticed right away that the place was kind of in a ransacked condition. There were garbage bags filled with his belongings, in different rooms, drawers were emptied completely. My brother had a safe and the imprint of the safe was on the ground but the safe was not there. And then we saw a huge bloodstain on his bed,” recalled Labinjo’s brother Randy.

“And so I started kind of freaking out and I got really mad and I turn to his friends and I was like, ‘Hey, where’s Mike’s stuff? What is going on here? Why is stuff missing?”

Randy says Mike’s identification and wallet were also missing. He urgently called Calgary Police and says it took 24 hours for an officer to arrive.

“I asked him, I said, ‘Did you guys check the cameras to see who was here around the time when Mike passed?’ He said, ‘There’s cameras?’”

Randy also handed the officer Mike’s cell phone. Randy says later that night police said there were four people seen on camera emptying out the footballer’s home.

In May 2020–more than a year-and-a-half later—Calgary police released still images from security camera footage during a press conference with the family, showing four people entering Labinjo’s condo just before his death.

READ MORE: Former Stampeder Mike Labinjo death deemed suspicious

Police also revealed for the first time a number of Labinjo’s personal items were missing, including a championship ring. Tips from the public provided them with new information on the case.

“What we’re trying to determine is if Michael’s death was intentional and if that intentional death was used to facilitate the theft of his personal items,” said Martin Schiavetta with CPS on May 11 of last year.

Police at the press conference officially declared his death suspicious.

For months afterward, Labinjo’s mom Margaret called CPS sensing their frustration every time until an officer calls informing the family she’s handling the case.

“In my mind, we’ve now given you the footage, my brother’s dead, you guys are the police, what are you doing? I thought, in my mind, that they would be actively doing something. There’s missing items, they could be searching for these people, I thought something would be [done]. But every time I called her, she gave me the same response: ‘We’re waiting for the Medical Examiner’s report,’” said Randy.

“I told [the officer], ‘These people killed my brother. If they’re willing to rob him, they killed him. If he’s dead, now they’re responsible.’ And she said, ‘Well, you know, I agree, but every time I take it to homicide [detectives] they tell me there’s nothing here, just put it to bed.’”

The family revealed to CityNews that Mike’s daughter was home the night her father died and both saw and interacted with four people in the home.

“And my granddaughter is telling [Randy], she saw the four people. Two female and one male, one had red hair. And she asks, ‘Can I see my dad?’ because she didn’t know these people and they said to her ‘No, your dad is dead, go back to your room,’ because she had her own bedroom,’” said Margaret.

The family says they were told by CPS that the police interviewed Mike’s daughter, but she stayed in her room and only heard voices that night.

CPS says the investigation into Labinjo’s death remains active.

“Investigators continue to collect evidence and speak with any identified witnesses. To protect the integrity of this investigation we are unable to speak further about any details that may later be used to the detriment of potential court proceedings,” reads a statement from Calgary police.

“We appreciate Mr. Labinjo’s family is seeking justice and we are committed to doing everything we can to determine exactly what led to his death.”

This is the first in a series of stories CityNews has on the death of Mike Labinjo. CityNews will have more on this story later this week.