Friday April 18, 2014

Jury deliberates in double-murder trial

Defence contends there is reasonable doubt in circumstantial case

A jury is expected to begin deliberating Thursday whether Roy Fraser murdered two friends, buried them in a hole on his property and took extensive measures to clean up and hide evidence.

Lawyers for the defence and Crown completed final arguments Wednesday, both asking jurors to use “common sense.”

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson began his instructions to the jury in the afternoon and is slated to complete his address Thursday morning.

The jury will then be sequestered until it comes back with verdicts on the first-degree murder charge in the death of 31-year-old Damien Marks and second-degree murder in the death of 25-year-old Ken Yaretz Jr.

“Mr. Fraser didn’t kill these individuals,” said defence lawyer Jordan Watt, urging the jury to find there is a reasonable doubt in what is a circumstantial case.

“Blood (found in Fraser’s house and Marks’s van) does not describe what happened, where these individuals were killed, how they were killed or in what order,” Watt said.

Crown lawyer Joel Crown retold the prosecution’s theory of what happened at Fraser’s home. The 56-year-old man, enraged by months of bullying by gang-associate Yaretz Jr. — including taking Fraser’s truck for months and leaving him without transportation —  shot him to death in his entryway.

To hide the crime, he killed a fleeing Marks — first stabbing and then shooting him to death.

Family of the two victims sat in the front row, as they have every day. Also spectators at the trial Tuesday and Wednesday were as many as 10 plainclothes Mounties, many from the serious crimes investigation unit.

The five-week trial has heard from 40 witnesses. The two men were last heard from April 17, 2009. Their bodies were found buried on Fraser’s property a month later by police.

Gold said the location of Yaretz Jr.’s blood found beneath the entryway in Fraser’s house makes it exceedingly unlikely he was killed anywhere else.

The Crown alleges Fraser moved quickly to dispatch the bodies in a hole already dug on the rural property at Knouff Lake and then took steps to hide the crime by cleaning up and returning the van to what he believed was Marks’s apartment.

“Does it make sense he’s killed anywhere else?” Gold asked the jury that will decide Fraser’s fate.

“The only reasonable, rational and logical inference is Mr. Fraser committed these murders.”

While the defence has suggested Yaretz Jr. had enemies in the criminal world — both he and Marks had handguns at some point — Gold said there is little reason gang enemies would cover their tracks at Fraser’s home.

The two men were killed with a .22 rifle, the same type found partially disassembled and hidden on the property.

In a gang scenario, “wouldn’t you expect a handgun to be used?” said Gold.

But the defence cautioned the Crown has no direct evidence that Fraser killed the two friends.

Neither Fraser’s DNA nor fingerprints were found in Marks’s van returned to his former apartment and cleaned up to conceal blood.

Watt said involvement by Independent Soldiers in the two men’s lives, as well as connections to Kelowna-based Kingpin Crew, made the pair potential targets with many enemies.

“An individual in his (Fraser’s) circumstances wouldn’t kill over a truck.”

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