Judge orders two trials for Pickton to avoid mistrial

Deciding on 26 counts of murder too much for one jury

Neal Hall, with a file from Miro Cernetig in Victoria
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The case involving Canada's alleged worst serial killer will not proceed as one large trial but as two separate trials, the trial judge ruled Wednesday.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice James Williams decided a trial involving an unprecedented 26 counts of first-degree murder would be too much of a burden on the jury who will hear the case against Robert (Willie) Pickton.

Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie, said earlier this year that the "epic" murder trial could last for two years, which the defence felt was too long for a jury.

The judge had the same concern, deciding to trim 20 counts from the current indictment, dividing it into two trials. The Crown hasn't decided which trial will start first -- the six-count trial or the 20-count trial.

"I am satisfied that the interests of justice require severance from the present indictment," the judge said in a three-paragraph summary of Wednesday's ruling.

Williams added he was concerned "that proceeding to trial on the indictment as it is presently constituted will impose an unreasonable burden upon the members of the jury in terms of the anticipated duration of the trial, the volume and nature of the evidence, and the complexity of the legal tasks that this case will require of them."

The judge said he recognized that "some inconveniences will result from this order. However, the proper exercise of my discretion to maximize the likelihood that this trial will proceed properly to verdict without mistrial makes necessary an order for severance."

Williams ordered that Counts 1, 2, 6, 7, 11 and 16 -- the charges related to the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Marnie Frey and Georgina Faith Papin -- be heard as a separate trial.

"The evidence in support of those counts is materially different than that with respect to the others such that it justifies this outcome," the judge noted.

"It is important to understand that this order does not in any way bar the prosecution of the severed counts," he added.

"Each count will be permitted to proceed. The effect of this order is simply to require that the matter be dealt with in separate trials rather than one large trial."

A 12-person jury is selected for a criminal trial but the longer the trial proceeds increases the likelihood that jurors will be forced to drop out due to health or family problems.

Once two jurors are excused from a jury, a mistrial could be declared, which would result in a new trial.

Unlike the United States, alternate jurors cannot replace jurors once a trial begins.

Geoff Gaul, a spokesman for the B.C. Crown's criminal justice branch, said Wednesday's ruling did not reflect on the strength of the prosecution's evidence against Pickton.

"What is vitally important to understand is that the court has not ruled that any of the 26 counts should not proceed; that any of those counts are not worthy of prosecution," he said. "All 26 counts remain very active."

Brenda Faith Papin

Gaul said the team of prosecutors handling the Pickton case have not decided which trial will proceed first.

"It will be for the prosecution to decide whether the six proceed first or whether the 20 counts that have been severed will proceed first," he said. "And that's a decision we will make in the coming days."

Still, the decision is expected to lengthen the trial proceedings, which began earlier this year but have been subject to a sweeping ban on publication in order to protect Pickton's right to a fair jury trial.

The actual trial before a jury isn't expected to begin until later this year or early next year. The first trial could last for a year or more. The second trial may be shorter because of evidence already established at the first trial.

Pickton was originally charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder, but one count involving an unknown woman -- identified on the indictment as simply Jane Doe -- was earlier stayed by the trial judge, who is a former criminal defence lawyer and RCMP officer.

Pickton, who co-owned a pig farm in Port Coquitlam, is accused of killing 26 women who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside.

The remaining 20 counts include the first-degree murders of Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock, Heather Bottomley, Jennifer Lynn Furminger, Helen Mae Hallmark, Patricia Rose Johnson, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving, Inga Hall, Tiffany Drew, Sarah Devries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Diana Melnick, Debra Lynne Jones, Wendy Crawford, Kerry Koski, Andrea Borhaven and Cara Ellis.

"I'm furious," said Marilyn Craft of Calgary, who reported her daughter Cynthia Feliks missing nine years ago.

Marnie Lee Frey

"I'm going to be dead before I see any justice," said the 62-year-old. "I'm sick of it. I can see it taking another year if they take the six first."

If Pickton is convicted at his first trial, Craft is worried that the Crown won't proceed with a second trial.

"I cannot see them spending money on another trial," she said. "We have no say in it, that's what is frustrating."

Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn went missing from the Downtown Eastside -- though no charge was laid against Pickton -- said of the judge's ruling: "It sounds like he's trying to expedite things. That sort of shortens the horizon."

Other alleged victims of Robert Pickton


- Jacqueline McDonell, who was last seen in January 1999.

- Diane Rock. Last seen: October 2001.

- Heather Bottomley. Last seen: April 2001.

- Jennifer Lynn Furminger. Last seen: December 1999.

- Helen Mae Hallmark. Last seen: October 1997.

- Patricia Rose Johnson. Last seen: March 2001.

- Heather Chinnock. Last seen: April 2001.

- Tanya Holyk. Last seen: October 1996.

- Sherry Irving. Last seen: April 1997.

- Inga Hall. Last seen: February 1998.

- Tiffany Drew. Last seen: March 2000.

- Sarah Devries. Last seen: April 1998.

- Cynthia Feliks. Last seen: December 1997.

- Angela Jardine. Last seen: November 1998.

- Diana Melnick. Last seen: December 1995.

- Debra Lynne Jones. Last seen: December 2000.

- Wendy Crawford. Last seen: December 1999.

- Kerry Koski. Last seen: January 1998.

- Andrea Borhaven. Last seen: March 1997.

- Cara Ellis. Last seen: January 1997.


GEORGINA FAITH PAPIN, 38, was a mother of five who vanished from the Downtown Eastside in 1999. In September 2002, members of the RCMP-Vancouver Police missing women's task force visited Papin's brothers Rick and George to confirm her remains had been found on the Pickton farm.

Elaine Allan, a former co-ordinator at a drop-in centre for sex trade workers, said Papin was well liked.

"She was just so well respected. People just always said the nicest things about Georgina -- she was fun, she was beautiful, she was kind, everyone loved her," she said in an earlier interview. "From the time she went missing, everyone just talked about it because she was so popular."

Papin's brother Rick, who gave a blood sample so police could match his DNA to his sister's, said she had a troubled life growing up in Alberta, moving around between foster homes, group homes and a residential school.

Papin was one of 10 children to be taken away from her parents. She started taking drugs and began working in the sex trade when she was only 11.

In her 20s, Papin moved to Las Vegas where she worked in a restaurant by day and on the streets at night to support her first child. When she moved back to B.C., she had four more children.

The last time Rick saw his sister was in February 1999, when she was living with a boyfriend in Mission. Weeks later, she was dropped off at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre on East Hastings and never seen again.

Pamela Fayerman

SEREENA ABOTSWAY, 29 when she was reported missing on Aug. 1, 2001, was one of the first women whose remains were identified after police began searching the Pickton farm.

Sereena Abotsway

Her uncle, Albert Abotsway, said his niece's parents were separated and both died young, her father of a drug overdose on the Downtown Eastside.

Abotsway lived in foster homes and got involved with drugs, prostitution and jail as a teenager.

At her memorial service in March of 2002, friends and family remembered her as a bubbly, outgoing young woman with a big heart and a roaring laugh, despite her troubled childhood.

Her one-time priest, James Comey, said at the time that she loved to sing, "not always on key. I remember her as a happy child, very outgoing, very affectionate."

Abotsway was removed from foster parents Bert and Anna Draayers' home at age 17 when she became violent. The Draayers say she was placed, against their advice, in a group home with street-wise teens and ended up hooked on drugs and working in the sex trade.

Near the end, her friends said, she had been worried she would share the fate of other women missing from the Downtown Eastside.

In her final years, she went through a full-immersion baptism in Burrard Inlet and her pastor, Randy Barnetson, said she was trying to turn her life around.

When Abotsway disappeared, there was a warrant out for her arrest on a charge of stealing chocolate bars.

Bill Boei

MONA WILSON was among the last women to go missing from the Downtown Eastside, and her murder was one of the first with which Robert (Willie) Pickton was charged.

Mona Wilson

Wilson was 26 when she was last seen by friends on Nov. 23, 2001 and was reported missing a week later. Her family realized something was wrong one month later. It was the first time she hadn't joined the family or at least called at Christmas.

Her sister Ada recalls Wilson as a dreamer, the youngest of five siblings who still believed in unicorns even as she grew up and became addicted to heroin.

One of her school teachers, Joanna Lundy, said Wilson had struggled to overcome a troubled past that included abuse.

She had pleaded guilty to shoplifting and was sentenced to 30 days in jail a few months before disappearing.

ELAINE ALLAN, who worked in a Downtown Eastside drop-in centre for sex trade workers, described Wilson as a very sweet young woman who had experienced a lot of violence. She wanted to kick her serious drug problem but couldn't get a space in a treatment centre.

"She was firmly entrenched in the survival sex trade," Allan said in a previous interview. "She was such a sweetheart. She had been out on the street for a long time."

Her boyfriend, Steve Rix, said the two of them had shared an apartment for two months before she went missing.

"We had a nice place," he said previously. "A warm apartment in a basement suite with a nice bed and TV. We weren't homeless."

Bill Boei

ANDREA JOESBURY was just 23 -- a beautiful young woman with blond hair and an engaging smile -- when her doctor reported her missing in June 2001 after she stopped picking up her methadone treatments.

Andrea Joesbury

Joesbury was born in the Lower Mainland. Her grandfather, Jack Cummer, said she had an abusive father, and lived at times with her grandparents in Nanoose Bay.

She was a moody and disruptive teenager and struggled in school.

"She went to Vancouver because she was looking for love," Cummer said in an earlier interview. "And she found this guy, and she fell in love with him. She was a young, naive girl -- 16 years old -- not knowing what's going on.

"Eventually she phoned and let me know he was 15 or 20 years older than she was, so it gave her two things: A man she loved and a father figure. But she was put on the streets because he was a drug dealer."

Her heroin addiction escalated after her baby daughter was seized from her, said her mother, Karin Joesbury.

The baby was adopted but Joesbury had been talking about trying to get her back.

Friends said she would go to the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam to party.

She stopped calling family members in June 2001, and early in 2002, police said her remains had been found on the farm.

Karin Joesbury has filed a civil lawsuit over her daughter's death.

Bill Boei

BRENDA ANN WOLFE was born in Pincher Creek, Alta., on Oct. 20, 1968 and was last seen in February 1999 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, where she worked in the sex trade.

Brenda Ann Wolfe

She frequented the Women's Information Safe House drop-in centre where workers remembered her as a sweet individual.

Like most other victims, Wolfe struggled with addictions. She was not reported missing until April 2000.

In May 2002, her boyfriend and relatives were told that her remains were found on the Pickton farm.

Pickton was charged with Wolfe's murder on May 22, 2002. The indictment lists the date range of her death as sometime between March 5, 1999 and February 5, 2002.

Pamela Fayerman

MARNIE FREY liked the simple things in life, like spending time with her grandmother at her home on the banks of the Campbell River.

She loved small animals and helping others. She was one of 63 women -- most of them prostitutes -- who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Like many of Robert (Willy) Pickton's other alleged victims, Frey struggled with addiction problems. Thirteen years ago, when she was only 18, she gave birth to a daughter who was raised and adopted by her parents. Frey vanished in August 1997 and it wasn't until the fall of 2002 when her remains were found on Pickton's farm.

Marnie Lee Frey

RCMP Inspector Don Adam went to the Campbell River home of Frey's parents to break the news. Her mother, Lynn, said the news only brought more anger, not closure. She had walked the streets of the downtown area for years trying to find her daughter.

Family lawyer James Hormoth said Lynne kept receiving tips about the Pickton farm but, when she turned them in to the police, they didn't act.

At a memorial service held in December 2002, attended by about 150 people, former Campbell River mayor Jim Lornie read a message from Frey's father, Rick, calling her a "carefree, loving girl."

United Church Reverend Bill Rasmus also said at the time that family members told him Frey was so giving, "she would take her shoes off and give them to someone else and walk home barefoot."

Frey's mother Lynne said her granddaughter has been preparing a victim impact statement for the trial.

Pamela Fayerman

Profiles of Georgina Faith Papin, Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Elaine Allan, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Marnie Frey. Ran with fact boxes "The remaining 20 counts against Robert Pickton include the first-degree murders of:" and "More than statistics: Missing women had real lives, children, families and friends", which have been appended to the end of the story.

 The Vancouver Sun 2006

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The Vancouver Sun - Article



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Updated: August 21, 2016