Exhausted after two sleepless nights awaiting a verdict, families of two men murdered by Roy Fraser wept and hugged after the jury found him guilty of first- and second-degree murder.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson sentenced the 56-year-old Fraser to a life sentence, with no possibility of parole for 25 years — mandatory in first-degree murder. He will serve a concurrent sentence of 10 years for the second-degree murder of Yaretz Jr.
The sentencing judge called murders of Damien Marks, 31, and Ken Yaretz Jr., 25, "unspeakable acts of execution-style brutality of two men who had their whole lives in front of them."
Outside the courtroom, families said they were relieved the 12-person jury accepted the Crown's argument that Fraser committed second-degree murder by killing Yaretz Jr. on his doorstep and first-degree murder by killing the fleeing witness Marks.
Both cases were built on circumstantial evidence.
"Common sense put Roy Fraser on the scene on the property and he committed those murders," Ken Yaretz Sr. told reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict Saturday morning.
"It's been a hard five weeks for both families, a lot of sleepless nights."
Following a five-week trial, the jury began its deliberations at mid-day Thursday. After deliberating Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning, it reached a verdict by 10 a.m. Saturday.
"He destroyed what's left of my life," said Marks's mother, Donna Kowalski.
She called the verdicts "the best we could hope for.
"I got worried at the end. I believed in the jury — they're sensible people."
Both Marks's and Yaretz Jr.'s family were in the courtroom for each day of the trial.
"They could have hung him and there's no closure," said Marks's father, Robert. "I don't know where people get that word from."
Nonetheless, Marks said the finding of first- and second-degree murder came as an "immense relief."
The two men were unearthed by RCMP investigators in May 2009 in a shallow grave on Fraser's Knouff Lake property, a month after they went missing.
The Crown's theory was the two men were en route to Fraser's home on April 17 to pick up Yaretz Jr.'s furniture and to take two valuable wildlife mounts from the marijuana grower and roofer.
Prosecutors said Fraser, frustrated with bullying from Independent Soldiers associate Yaretz Jr., killed him on his doorstep.
Investigators found Yaretz Jr.'s blood beneath the entryway of Fraser's house.
Fraser then shot and stabbed a fleeing Marks, a plan that constituted first-degree murder.
Both men were shot in the back and side of the head with a .22 rifle of the same type found dismantled and hidden on the property.
Marks's blood was found in his work van, an attempt made to clean it up. The Crown theorized Fraser cleaned up the van and returned it to the apartment where he believed Marks lived.
While the Crown didn't have to suggest a motive to obtain convictions, it theorized that Fraser was angry after months of bullying by Yaretz Jr., including taking his truck and never returning it, pocketing money from a grow-op they'd partnered on and taking growing equipment from his property.
Yaretz Jr. had drug debts and a witness testified that he told him he could get wildlife mounts to sell — mounts owned by Fraser.
Testifying in his own defence, Fraser said he didn't kill the pair and had no knowledge of their deaths or burial on his property.
Throughout the trial the defence sought to tarnish the victims: Yaretz Jr. as a thug with dangerous enemies and an unpaid debt; and Marks as a cocaine addict whose association with Yaretz made him both dangerous and a target.
Witnesses testified both men had handguns in the months before their deaths. But Robert Marks said he believes the gun spotted by Damien's roommate was Ken Yaretz Jr.'s.
Similarly, Yaretz Sr. said his son was miscast.
"I don't appreciate what the media's been doing for the past five weeks, four and a half years.
"The public doesn't know my son, doesn't know Damien Marks . . . .
"We'll live without our boys for the rest of our lives."