A “powerful body of circumstantial evidence” proves that Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston are guilty of killing six people in a Surrey apartment tower, the Crown stated during the first day of closing submissions at the Surrey Six trial on Wednesday.
Prosecutor Mark Levitz, speaking in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, said Haevischer and Johnston are guilty of conspiracy to kill rival drug leader Corey Lal, and of the first-degree murder of Lal and five others on Oct. 19, 2007.
Included in the slaughter were two innocent victims – fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford, and Christopher Mohan, 22, who lived across the hall from suite 1505, the scene of the mass killing in the Balmoral Tower in Surrey.
The three other victims – Michael Lal, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo – had gang and drug connections.
Levitz said the evidence presented by 73 witnesses and 80 days of testimony proves, in part, that the two accused killed Lal as a gesture of loyalty to their fellow gang members.
“Haevischer and Johnston participated in this because they were Red Scorpion members … They were obliged to assist … even though they might not have known Corey Lal or had any individual personal (animosity) against him,” he said.
The Crown’s submission to Justice Catherine Wedge encompassed five volumes, with 10 chapters to be presented in court this week. Defence submissions are expected to start next week.
Levitz referred to the volumes as the Crown’s “roadmap” of the case, including what he said are 30 points of fact.
Levitz stated the killings were initiated by Jamie Bacon who, along with Michael Le, was co-leader of the Red Scorpions at the time.
Le had initially gone on trial with Haevischer and Johnston last September, but pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to murder Corey Lal. He then became a star witness for the Crown.
Levitz said Bacon had a “beef” with Corey Lal, whose group was infringing on the Red Scorpions’ drug-trafficking operations, which they wanted to expand from Surrey into Abbotsford, Mission and Maple Ridge.
Bacon had ordered Lal to pay a $100,000 “tax,” and when Lal didn’t pay, Bacon wanted him killed, Levitz said.
“If nothing was done, it would make the Red Scorpions look weak,” Levitz said, adding that the gang fostered a reputation for intimidation and violence.
He said Haevischer and Johnston, along with a third man, who can only be identified as Person X, agreed to do the hit on Lal, and the other five were killed to eliminate witnesses.
Person X previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case and is serving a life sentence, but did not testify at the trial.
Another witness, who can only be identified as Person Y and who is serving a life sentence for two unrelated murders, testified that he was involved in the plan to kill Lal. He also testified to the roles that Haevischer and Johnston allegedly played.
Levitz said this testimony, among others, and evidence that includes cellphone records and video surveillance in and around the Balmoral Tower on the day of the killings proves that the two accused are guilty.
He said the killings were “planned and deliberate executions.” Evidence at the trial showed that two guns were used and 19 rounds were fired. The six men were shot either in their backs and/or the backs or sides of their heads.
They were then placed in two groups of three.
Speaking outside of the courthouse, Eileen Mohan, the mom of victim Christopher Mohan, said the trial has been “very emotional,” but she has been there every day to represent her son and hope that justice will prevail.
“I don’t want another family to go through this and another child to be taken like this,” she said.
Closing submissions are expected to last through next week. The judge is not expected to issue her verdict until the fall.
Bacon will be tried separately on one count each of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder. He was living in Abbotsford at the time of his arrest.
Another man, Sophon Sek, is also awaiting trial – on a charge of manslaughter – in the case.