Backhoe operator says he thought hole was for dead cats

Crown closes case in double-murder trial

Kamloops Daily News
December 3, 2013 01:00 AM

A backhoe operator who dug an extra hole outside the Knouff Lake home where Roy Fraser lived thought it was intended as a gravesite for any of the 60 cats at the property.

But eight months later, RCMP dug up the bodies of Damien Marks, 31, and Ken Yaretz Jr., 25, from a shallow grave at the same location.

The 56-year-old Fraser is charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in the two men's deaths.

The Crown closed its case Tuesday with testimony from hoe operator Eugene Galean as well as an RCMP DNA expert who testified on blood samples found on the property and in Marks' van.

The case for the Crown is based entirely on circumstantial evidence.

The defence may opt to call witnesses for its case. The jury is scheduled to return Thursday.

Galean testified Tuesday in the trial. He worked alongside Fraser for several weeks at another Knouff Lake home installing a metal roof. Galean said he picked up Fraser each day at his residence because the Knouff Lake man had no vehicle.

The job site was about a kilometre away.

Galean said he asked Fraser why he had no vehicle in a community where everyone was dependent on automobiles to get groceries.

"He said he loaned it to someone and he didn't bring it back. It was a fellow who apparently lived with him for a while."

Galean, like other witnesses, testified Fraser showed anger when he talked about his missing vehicle in the fall of 2008.

"He was a little burned-off about it."

The Crown has entered evidence during the 3 1/2-week trial that Fraser was increasingly angry with Yaretz Jr. for taking his truck late in 2008 and never returning it. He told several people, including RCMP he was upset about his missing truck.

Prosecutors Joel Gold and Tim Livingston have also suggested Yaretz Jr. and Marks may have been driving up to Fraser's home on April 17, 2009, to take valuable wildlife mounts in order to pay Yaretz Jr.'s debts.

Galean said he agreed to do some work with a skid-steer backhoe late in 2008 as payment for Fraser's labour on the roof. He first dug a trench for a new septic field. After that was done, he dug a hole, about three-feet wide by seven-feet wide.

"I'd dug the hole because I figured he'd bury the cats there," Galean said, adding he counted 18 cats on Fraser's sundeck at one time.

A month after the two men were reported missing, RCMP raided Fraser's property, finding the two men's bodies in a shallow grave. There is no suggestion the hole dug by Galean eight months earlier was a premeditated move prior to the murders.

RCMP found another, stolen skid-steer on the property. Evidence of Marks' DNA was found on the machine's skid plate.

The search of the property also found blood beneath the entryway of Fraser's home, in a floor joist, matching Yaretz Jr.'s. Inside Marks' workvan, RCMP found samples of his blood.

DNA expert Laura Reader said the chance of the blood belonging to someone else is one in 470 billion.

A forensic pathologist testified earlier in the trial that both men suffered .22 bullet wounds to the side and back of the head, while Marks also had stab wounds. The barrel and action of a .22 rifle, matching the same type as the bullet that killed the two men, was found on Fraser's property inside a hollow log.

Through cross-examination, the defence has suggested that Yaretz Jr., a gang associate, owed drug debts to a Kelowna gang, providing another possible reason for his death.

In addition, witnesses testified both men had loaded guns with them in the months leading up to their disappearance.

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