Mike Labinjo

When Mike Labinjo passed away at 38 in September of 2018, there was a wide outpouring of support from the Michigan State, NFL and CFL communities. Labinjo, a Toronto native, shone for the Spartans from 2000-03, then spent three years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins before heading to the CFL, where he played for the Calgary Stampeders from 2007-11 and was crucial to their 2008 Grey Cup victory. Around Labinjo’s death, though, there was very little information on what happened to him, with reports at the time just saying he died in his sleep and that his death wasn’t determined suspicious.

Well, 20 months later, that’s changed rather dramatically.

Sammy Hudes of The Calgary Herald writes that Calgary police, in consultation with the office of the chief medical examiner, announced Monday that they’ve now deemed Labinjo’s death suspicious. They added that items were stolen from Labinjo’s home immediately after his death, and they’re looking for the suspects involved:

Through a theft investigation, police said they discovered that multiple items, including sports memorabilia, were stolen from Labinjo’s home immediately after his death.

That included two championship rings with Labinjo’s name inscribed on the side. Police have not recovered those rings.

Police are looking to identify four suspects in connection with the thefts.

“We are asking for the public’s help to identify four suspects believed to be responsible for the theft of the stolen items and notify us of their current whereabouts,” Calgary police said in a statement.

…“Investigators believe that these individuals may also have knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Labinjo’s death.

Here’s a police-supplied photo of those championship rings, an NFC championship with the Eagles in 2004 and the Grey Cup championship with the Stampeders in 2008:

Mike Labinjo's missing rings.

Photos of the suspects involved (including one of two suspects carrying a large duffel bag) can be found in the police release here, which also contains a statement from the family:

My name is Randy Labinjo. This is my mother Margaret Labinjo. We would like to thank you for taking the time to be here with us today.

On September 21,2018, my brother Michael Labinjo passed away. To all who knew Mike, he was a caring, kind, gentle and loving person. To me, he was my brother. I love him. When I lost him, I lost a part of myself that I can never regain. I think about growing up together and the things I learned from him. I will continue to remember all the memories we shared together.

Mike loved his daughter Hailey. She was his world. Hailey now has to grow up and experience things without Mike in her life. I can’t imagine how hard this has been and will continue to be for her. My heart breaks for her.

My mother lost her first-born son. I see her pain and it makes me sad. She struggles to accept the realization that Mike is gone. No mother should have to lose their son. I love you mom.

We are asking that anyone with any information about Mike’s death please come forward or call The Calgary Police Service. You can remain anonymous. I would also like to thank the Calgary police for all the work they have done involving this case.

Thank you.

This is a very strange story, and it’s unclear why this came to light so much later. Anyone with information about the theft is encouraged to contact the Calgary police at 403-266-1234, or the Homicide Unit tip line at 403-428-8877, or to submit anonymous tips through Crime Stoppers.

[The Calgary Herald; Labinjo photo via CFL.ca]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.