The trial of the man accused in the brazen shooting death of 28-year-old Craig Widdifield in South Surrey more than three years ago launched Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.
As Widdifield’s mother, Nadia, listened from the gallery – sitting just a few feet from the man accused of killing her son – Brody Robert Paterson chose to be tried by judge alone and entered a not-guilty plea to the charge of first-degree murder.
“I plead not guilty,” Paterson told Justice Peter Voith from across the high-security courtroom.
Paterson was arrested two years ago in connection with Widdifield’s April 24, 2013 death, which occurred just before 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Morgan Crossing shopping centre, in the 15700-block of Croydon Drive. Police at the time described it as a targeted shooting.
In announcing Paterson’s arrest in October 2014, Asst. Supt. Dwayne McDonald of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team described the shooting as a “murder conspiracy.”
Monday, Crown David Sim told the court that witnesses will testify that they saw Widdifield shot and killed by a lone gunman as Widdifield was getting into his white Mercedes SUV. The gunman, wearing a hoodie, exited from the passenger side of a blue Jeep Cherokee that was parked next to Widdifield’s Mercedes, ran around the front of the vehicle and fired multiple times at the young father, Sim said.
The gunman then got back into the Jeep through the passenger-side door and sped off.
According to Sim, one witness – whose name and any identifying information is protected by a publication ban – who saw the shooting followed the Jeep Cherokee to the area of 165 Street and 28 Avenue, where the driver was seen getting into a grey Honda Accord.
Another witness – who Sim said the court will hear had been directed to wait with the Honda at that location – will testify a man he described to police as “white boy” arrived in a blue Jeep Cherokee and got into the Honda “wearing gloves which were duct-taped to the sleeves of his shirt” and carrying a large-calibre handgun.
Two days later, police seized the Honda with Paterson at the wheel, Sim said.
Sim told the court witnesses who will testify include police officers, a pathologist, a fingerprint analyst and civilians who were in the area when Widdifield was killed.
Surrey RCMP Const. Kirk Fraser took the stand Monday morning.
He told the court he was the first officer to arrive at the scene, and described seeing a lot of people in the area of a toy store, pointing towards a white Mercedes SUV.
Fraser said he stopped by the SUV, got out and observed that the driver-side door was open and “a male was lying on the ground facing up” next to the vehicle.
“He had a single gunshot wound to his forehead,” Fraser said.
The individual showed no signs of life, Fraser told the court.
Shifting from “life preservation to scene containment,” Fraser said he covered the victim with yellow emergency blankets after noticing residents of nearby condominium units were outside with their phones, and was concerned that people would post images of the victim on social media.
He also testified that he saw what appeared to be a bullet hole in the SUV’s windshield, and that he found what he believed to be a bullet on the ground near the door of the toy store.
Other officers were expected to testify Monday and Tuesday, with civilian witnesses scheduled to appear starting today (Wednesday).
Outside court, Widdifield’s mother said she did not want to make a public statement.
The trial is scheduled until Nov. 7.