The man stabbed to death in his North Kamloops apartment two months ago was a celebrated author who was working on his second book. He left behind a daughter and two grandsons who had only recently begun to know him.
Kevin White was also a longtime alcoholic who often found himself on the margins of society, a lifestyle that formed the basis of much of his writing.
White, 59, died following a violent altercation inside a Carson Crescent apartment building on March 28.
Described by friends and family as a travelling busker, White moved to Kamloops last year to be close to his daughter, whom he hadn’t seen much of in the preceding 20 years.
“He was a travelling man,” Jane Hainstock, White’s 26-year-old daughter, told KTW.
“He lived in the mountains. He was a hitchhiker and a busker. He made his money playing in the street.”
A year ago, White was presented with a Best New Manuscript Award from Castle Quay Books Canada, a Christian publisher based in the Toronto area. His book, Dancing on a Razor, was celebrated in the Canadian Christian non-fiction genre.
“This is not a typical ‘alcoholic gets saved’ kind of book,” White was quoted as saying in a press release dated May 21, 2019, calling the tome “an intriguing and truly rare story” with broad appeal.
White was not saved from his alcoholism, though he did enjoy bouts of sobriety while in Kamloops in the last months of his life.
Hainstock said her dad arrived last fall and stayed with her for a couple of months.
“He had his issues, but he wasn’t drinking,” she said. “He was doing his sober thing and he was writing another book.”
Here is an interview Karen Stiller of Faith Today magazine conducted with White in June 2019:
Hainstock, a mother of two young boys, said White was also getting to know his grandchildren.
“With my children, oh man, they loved him so much,” she said.
“They’re shy little boys and they adored him. He taught me so much, too, and I longed for him. He was just someone you would look at and think nothing of, but in reality, he was the most down-to-earth, smart man.”
Hainstock said she kicked her father out of her house in December after he started drinking again. He moved into a downtown rental.
According to Hainstock, tensions were high.
“I was like, eff you,” she said. “The sole reason he came out here was to get to know me and my kids. I was like, ‘You’re not going to come here and lose yourself — you’re not going to know me by doing this.’”
White came to Kamloops from Ontario, where he had lived for years. He spent much of his time in the Huntsville area, about 200 kilometres north of Toronto, in the Muskoka region.
“He was the most eccentric man I’ve ever known,” Jessica Knight, a close friend of White’s in Huntsville, told KTW. “He had quite a life growing up.”
According to Knight, White’s younger years were spent riding the rails across North America.
Knight said White’s writing career began when he shared a journal he’d written while sober with his doctor’s wife. She got him a meeting with a publisher and Dancing on a Razor followed.
“He was always a happy-go-lucky guy, but he had so many physical ailments,” Knight said.
“To listen to the stories he’d tell and the people he’d met along the way, I really don’t know what else to say. I’m happy he’s at peace now.”
White’s physical ailments landed him in Royal Inland Hospital earlier this year.
After a period of heavy drinking in early January, White was told he would need spinal surgery.
Hainstock said her dad was not comfortable with the procedure.
“He said, ‘I feel like this is going to kill me, one way or another,’” she said. “Sure enough, he was murdered in his neck brace — sleeping, resting, recovering after his surgery.”
Hainstock said her dad was taking the novel coronavirus pandemic seriously in the weeks leading up to the night he died.
She and others at the scene of the stabbing say police were wrong to say the incident took place at a “house party.”
At the apartment unit on March 28 were White, two of his roommates — friends from Ontario — and a young man whose mother also lived in the suite.
“After he moved in there, I knew he was back in his addictions, but he was taking it [COVID-19] seriously,” Hainstock said.
“I’d go in there and take him pre-cooked meals and put them in his freezer. He would not let anybody in except his roommates. I knew my dad wasn’t letting anyone in the house and, if you left, there were masks and gloves.”
Caleb Crookes, 21, was inside the apartment unit when White was murdered. According to Crookes, the assailant was a neighbour who kicked down the door unexpectedly, attacking everyone inside.
Crookes was stabbed in the neck. White’s two Ontario friends and roommates, Ian McKay and David Gronberg, were also slashed by the attacker, Crookes said. White is believed to have been stabbed in the heart.
“It was a random,” Crookes told KTW. “I did not know him. I was just there to be with my mom, my little brother. I ran three blocks after he did that, trying to find help.”
Crookes said the scene was nothing like the “house party” described by police in a press release in the hours after White’s murder.
“It was not a house party like the news said,” he said. “He kicked down the door and that’s when he killed Kevin. It was a tragedy.”
Crookes’ mother, Christine, said she was just getting to know White.
“He was a pretty interesting guy,” she said. “He was a busker all over the world. He just got out of spinal surgery. He didn’t deserve to be murdered. He was bed-ridden, mostly. He was a really good person.”
Christine Crookes said she called 911 after returning home and finding the aftermath of a bloody attack.
“I walked in and Kevin had been stabbed in the heart,” she said.
“He was instantly — for him to die that way, after all he’s been through. It was all from behind. My son got stabbed, the other guys. They’re saying it was a random thing, a psychopath thing. Why the hell would somebody do that? Why the hell would somebody stab that many people?”
“Jane? Tracy’s daughter?”
That’s the Facebook message Hainstock said she received three years ago that reintroduced her to her father.
Aside from a handful of brief encounters in her childhood, Hainstock did not know White.
“After that, he called me and we talked for five hours on the phone,” Hainstock said. “It was amazing. To me, it was just God.”
A series of visits and interactions followed, Hainstock said, not all of which were pretty. But she was confident when White moved to Kamloops last year that he was doing it for the right reasons.
“I fell in love with him when we reconnected,” she said. “Immediately, our connection was just amazing. And he was the same with his grandkids.”
Hainstock said she feels like she did everything she could.
“I tried so hard to help my dad,” she said.
“I wanted him to be who he could be as a sober father. That’s what he wanted, too. Everything he did was for me. Oh, my God, I miss him so much.”
Hainstock and her father were not on good terms when he was killed. She said they had been fighting in the days before his death.
“Me and my dad had actually got into an argument before he died,” she said. “I know how much he loved me. The fact we weren’t on good terms when he died, it sucks. But I know how much he loved me. He tried his whole life to find me.”
Hainstock said her first reaction when police arrived at her door with news of her father’s death was negative.
“I was like, ‘What did he do?’” she said. “
‘Did he fall down the stairs?’ I thought he died because of his own shit. When I found out he was murdered, it blew my mind. Of all people.”
Hainstock said she had a tough time explaining her father’s death to her boys, who had only recently begun to get to know “Grandpa White,” as they called him.
“My oldest was so used to Grandpa White being with us,” she said.
“I said, ‘Grandpa White’s in heaven now with God. He’s sitting right beside us and he’s watching over us and we’re not going to see him again for a very long time.’ He was like, ‘OK, mom.’”
For most of her life, Hainstock’s father was a memory. Now, after a brief flurry of a relationship followed by his murder, he will go back to being the same.
“We searched until we found one another,” White wrote in Hainstock’s copy of Dancing on a Razor.
“You are my beautiful child whom I love and always will be mine. Tough, dangerous and delightful.”
Hainstock said she will cherish the memories made and lessons learned in the last years of her dad’s life.
“I’m going to remember him by his kindness and his understanding of people, just accepting people for who they are and what they are,” she said.
“Prior to him coming in to my life, I was very angry and judgmental. It sucks.
“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. But I have a whole new perspective now.
“You have to treat people with love. I’m going to remember my dad by treating the human population the way he did — with love. I’m so thankful that I got to know him.”
Michael Wayne Palmer, 43, is charged with one count of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with the incident that killed White and left three other men injured, according to court documents.
Palmer was arrested in the early-morning hours of March 29 and remains in custody.
He is scheduled to have his bail hearing on June 11 in Kamloops Law Courts.