HERE’S a look back at what went down during the Surrey Six murders trial over the past year:
CROWN Counsel Mark Levitz in his final submissions in July told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge that a powerful body of circumstantial evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that accused Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston were co-perpetrators in the Surrey Six murders of October 2007.
They took part because it was a Red Scorpion motive and they were obliged to assist, said Levitz.
Jamie Bacon, a Scorpion leader, who is currently in jail, wanted drug dealer Corey Lal murdered because he didn’t pay a $100,000 tax he had imposed on him. Getting rid of Lal would protect the Red Scorpions’ reputation and, by extension, their business interests. Violence was integral to the business and the gang fostered a fearsome reputation, Levitz said.
Haevischer and Johnston went to Balmoral Tower along with Person X, who cannot be identified because of a court ban. Levitz cited evidence that Haevischer had confessed to killing three of the victims and Person X killed three others.
Besides Lal, his brother Michael Lal and associates Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo as well as bystanders Ed Schellenberg, a fireplace repairman, and Chris Mohan, 22, were murdered.
Levitz , defending Person Y, one of two major Crown witnesses, told Wedge that his prime motivation for coming forward was that he was disillusioned with a life of crime and wanted to be done with the game. He had pleaded guilty to two unrelated murders and was serving a life sentence with no possibility for parole for 25 years. He may have hated Bacon and disliked Johnston, who he testified had confessed to the murders, but that didn’t mean he lied at the trial.
Regarding the other key witness, who was Haevischer’s girlfriend and can only be identified as K.M. because of a publication ban, Levitz said she felt pressured to do the right thing by somebody she considered her family. He noted that to all intents and purposes, she was a dedicated and loyal member of the Red Scorpions and had grave misgivings about cooperating with the police.
BACK in September last year, at the start of the trial, Levitz told Wedge – in the judge-alone trial – that on the day of the murders, Person X went to the building and got a fob from a Red Scorpion associate who lived there to gain entry. He then went to a nearby Korean restaurant where Person X received a Glock handgun from another person, who would testify later. The same gun was later traced to three of the murders: Michael Lal, Chris Mohan and Ryan Bartolomeo.
Johnston and Person X then went to Haevischer’s apartment in Surrey where two handguns were cleaned with Windex and bullets were wiped clean.
Just by chance, police happened to be running an unrelated surveillance operation at the apartment and evidence from that will be part of the case.
The three men then left wearing hoodies and gloves, driving to the Balmoral in Haevischer’s BMW.
After the murders, the three were seen driving back to Haevischer’s apartment. Johnson was seen carrying a plastic bag full of cell phones and money. Haevischer and Johnson cleaned the clothes and the cellphones were boiled and later destroyed together with their clothes. Haevischer later got someone to take his BMW for cleaning, said Levitz.
He showed the court photos of the six victims laying on the floor of the Balmoral apartment as he related what happened. The bodies were found in two groups of three.
On one side of the living room in front of a loveseat near the fireplace Corey Lal, Edward Narong and Ed Schellenberg lay face down on their stomachs side by side.
He said the evidence will establish that the heads of all three were covered when they were shot.
He said forensic evidence will show that Corey Lal was shot three times in the back of the head and two bullets were found in his head.
Narong was shot twice in the back of the head or neck and one bullet was found in his head.
Schellenberg was shot twice in the back of the head and both bullets were found in his head.
The other three victims were found on the other side of the love seat.
Michael Lal was shot twice in the back and had a gunshot wound to a hand.
Mohan was shot twice on the side of his face and neck.
Bartolomeo was shot four times in the back of his neck and head.
Bartolomeo and Mohan were found face down while Michael Lal was found face up.
Levitz said a Glock and an Ultrastar handgun, found inside the apartment, were used to fire 19 shots – the magazine capacity of the two weapons.
NORMAN Carothers, who was then the building manager of Balmoral, told the court that after searching for Schellenberg for more than half an hour, he finally went and knocked on apartment 1505. He propped the door open with Schellenberg’s dolly because he suspected a gas leak. Then he started hollering for Schellenberg. He said he grabbed someone who he thought was Schellenberg and dragged him for a short distance. Then he saw the scene and backed out.
He called his wife to contact 911 because something had happened up there with everybody on the floor and blood.
His wife, Tracy Carothers, told the court that she was so concerned about apartment 1505, which was frequented by people who were apparently buying and selling drugs, that she suggested to Schellenberg that it wouldn’t be a good environment for his nephew Zach, who was servicing the units with him. So Schellenberg decided to go to apartment 1505 himself.
Before she spoke to him, she had knocked on the door of apartment 1505 and was greeted by two Asian men and the apartment’s tenant, who she knew as Chris Baldini. She also came across a young Asian man in the hallway who walked into that apartment. Schellenberg entered the apartment as she left the floor.
Tracy testified that the security cameras in the parkade had been stolen and had not been replaced by October 19, 2007.
ZACHARY Brown, who was servicing gas fireplaces with his uncle Schellenberg, testified that while he was in apartment 1508 he heard “four or five steady noises” which he described as “sort of a background noise” coming from another part of the floor. He said they were “very steady and grouped together” and “was one, two, three, four, five.”
Under cross-examination, he confirmed that he initially he had told police that he didn’t think the noises were gunshots but “sounded like hitting on the wall.”
Brown also told court that he had serviced the apartment of murder victim Chris Mohan whom he called “just a nice kid like myself” and who was wearing basketball shorts and a sweater.
He said when he had completed the last job of the day, he saw his uncle’s van parked outside. When he returned home, he received a call from the resident of the last apartment where he had worked that there had been a gas leak and “something bad had happened.”
HELEN Lee told Wedge that she was with her three-year-old son in the Balmoral Tower parkade after attending a Bible study when she was almost hit by a black BMW that suddenly backed up about 2:25 p.m. on October 19, 2007.
She said the men, who wore hoodies and leather gloves, appeared to be very angry and that scared her. So she took her kid and ran to her car. The men wore hoodies and leather gloves.
She saw the men getting out of the BMW as she pulled out. She said she phoned her friend in the building to warn another person to wait before leaving because of the scary men. She thought they were thieves.
She also told the court that she saw one of the men with a hoodie and gloves holding a door open in the parkade.
Lee testified that the day after the murders her husband along with the husband of a friend who had also seen the men in the BMW took a statement the women and their husbands had written about the incident to the police. Police took their formal statements some days later.
Young Mee Kim, who had also attended the Bible study at Balmoral Towers, testified that she was headed to her vehicle in the parkade when she three young men who got into a black BMW. As she was driving out, the BMW sped past her in the wrong side of the exit ramp.
She said Lee who left the Bible study before she did and had warned her about the strange men she had seen entering the parkade.
Both women were cross-examined by defence lawyers.
JUSTIN Chahil, who was sentenced to a year in prison for drug trafficking, told the judge that Corey Lal and Edward Narong were the leaders of the drug group. He testified that he started dealing drugs with the two at the age of 15. They used to traffic heroin and cocaine from Vancouver to Abbotsford and the Balmoral Towers apartment was the central point of their drug dealing.
Chahil dropped off Narong at the Balmoral on the day of the murders. They were to go to a Vancouver Canucks hockey game. But he never saw Narong again.
Chahil told court under cross-examination that Narong wore expensive jewellery and carried tens of thousands of dollars.
THE trial brought out some weird facts about gangs. Earlier this year, a Crown witness who can only be identified as “Y” and who was a gang enforcer testified that he was surprised when Red Scorpion gangster Jamie Bacon confessed that he had killed two men in east Vancouver back in May 2004 for Sandip Duhre.
Phil Hothi and Herman Dhillon were shot at the house of Chinese-Canadian drug dealer Tommy Ho Sing Chan, who was himself shot dead at downtown Vancouver’s Richard’s on Richards nightclub in 2006. Vancouver Police told the media at the time that the two South Asians were known to them.
Duhre himself was shot dead in January 2012 at the Bar One restaurant in downtown Vancouver Sheraton Wall Centre in the 1000-block of Burrard Street.
And a Red Scorpion gang founder testified that they used to conduct a ceremony for new members: they would make a cut on their hands and mix their blood and then burn incense to the God of Guan – the god of gangsters!
He also revealed that when he began dial-a-dope lines at the age of 18, just one of them got him $125,000 and $150,000 a month. He used to buy cocaine from the Triads.
THE false glamour of gangs was brutally exposed at the trial earlier this year.
The hollowness of the concept that gangs are like families with loyalty and they have a great time was graphically brought out by the testimony of Crown witness Y.
The witness, who was a protector of Red Scorpion leader Jamie Bacon, told court that he later realized that loyalty among criminals was “just a big mirage.” He said: “So many of the homicides that you hear about usually end up being by ex-friends.”
He decided to become a police witness when he realized that the gang members were trying to kill him. So much for family and loyalty!
He also revealed how he and other gang members, including Jarrod Bacon, were addicted to the powerful painkiller oxycodone because it ‘took the edge off’ when there were “so many different people trying to kill you.”
And last December, Haevischer’s former girlfriend, who could only be identified as KM, testified that she was “pretty stressed out” because she felt the police were looking for her. She said that after the murders, the gang became paranoid about police and things started to fall apart. The tensions and infighting within the gang intensified as they realized that police were watching them.
She said she really didn’t want to become a witness because the gang members were “my family and I loved Cody more than anything.” She “hated cops” because she felt she was a gangster herself.
But she had a rude awakening.
AS I reported a couple of weeks ago, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC (CFSEU-BC), the province’s anti-gang unit, has ongoing investigations and we will learn of them as they get sufficient evidence to charge and arrest gang members.
But some other things are more obvious, such as the high profile trials.
CFSEU-BC speokesperson Sgt. Lindsey Houghton told me: “In the next six months to a year we are going to see a number of high-profile court-related matters come to fruition. The first of those is going to be the first verdict in the Surrey Six coming in early October.”
Well, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge delivered her verdict in the trial of Cody Haevischer and Matt Johnston on Thursday (October 2) and found the two each guilty of six counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the Surrey Six murders.
Houghton then noted: “Not long after that the trial of Jamie Bacon is going to start and then we will have the trial for the murder of Jonathan Bacon and the attempted murder of James Riach and Larry Amero.”
Surrey Six co-accused, Jamie Bacon, who is being tried separately, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Corey Lal and, along with Haevischer and Johnston, conspiracy to commit murder in Lal’s death.
In the Jonathan Bacon case, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen has ruled that the murder trial will be held in Kelowna. There is a publication ban on whatever was spoken at the hearing at which lawyers for the three accused – Jujhar Khun-Khun of Surrey, Michael Kerry Hunter Jones of Gibsons, and Jason Thomas McBride of North Vancouver – had applied to move the trial out of that city.
Bacon was killed on August 14, 2011. Bacon, Larry Amero, a full-patch Hells Angels member from White Rock, and James Riach of the Independent Soldiers along with two women, one of whom is related to several Hells Angels members in Haney, were attacked in Kelowna. While Bacon was killed, Amero and the two women sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Riach, who was also injured, fled the scene.
Khun-Khun, Jones and McBride were arrested on February 22, 2013, and charged with the first degree murder of Bacon as well as four counts each of attempted murder.
Manjinder “Manny” Hairan, 29, who was shot dead on January 15, 2013, in Surrey, is believed to have also been involved in the Kelowna shooting.
HOUGHTON also pointed out to me at the time: “Only weeks ago, [there was] the arrest of Cory Vallee down in Mexico and his extradition to Canada. He was one of Canada’s most wanted men involved in the gang conflict at its height and he’s accused of murder. So we expect that sort of trend to continue – these very high profile things from 2008-09 and 2010-11 now coming to fruition as they make their way through the courts.”
Vallee was arrested in Guadalajara, Mexico, on August 13 after four years of evading police in connection to the homicides of Jonathan Barber and Kevin LeClair. On May 9, 2008, at about 10 p.m. shots rang out in the 7000 block of Kingsway in Burnaby. Several rounds of gunfire hit a black 2008 Porsche Cayenne that was driven by 24-year-old Jonathan Barber. Barber was killed in the hail of gunfire. The vehicle was associated with the Bacon brothers and this was apparently a case of mistaken identity.
On February 6, 2009, 27-year-old Kevin LeClair, a high-ranking Red Scorpion member and very close associate of the Bacon crime group, was murdered in a hail of gunfire during a brazen daytime shooting. The gunfire erupted throughout the quiet community of Walnut Grove at the Thunderbird Shopping Center as LeClair left a restaurant and lounge located in that plaza.