Two-part Pickton trial draws fire from family

Sept 9, 2006

VANCOUVER -- Cynthia Feliks was not among the alleged victims of Robert Pickton when charges of first-degree murder were laid against the Port Coquitlam farmer in 2002. Her name was added to the list three years later, on May 25, 2005.

But now, Ms. Feliks has once again been left out.

Crown prosecutor Michael Petrie told the court yesterday that Mr. Pickton will face murder charges this winter for allegedly killing six women. A trial on charges of murder of 20 more women will be put over for later.

Ms. Feliks's name was not among the six. Her stepmother, Marilyn Kraft, felt betrayed by the announcement.

"They will go ahead with six, and all the other families will be left with nothing," Ms. Kraft said yesterday in an interview from Calgary. "They will not have another trial. This is it."

Ms. Kraft has been fighting authorities for nine years over the disappearance of her stepdaughter, who was last seen on Nov. 26, 1997. She said she sat through court hearings in 2003 to hear the evidence against Mr. Pickton and is aware of what prosecutors believe happened to her stepdaughter.

She is extremely upset that Ms. Feliks's alleged murder would not be before the court this winter.

"It took years to get the charges laid. Finally they laid the charges and now, what do they do?" she said.

The charges were split into two groups because a trial on 26 charges would have been too hard for the jury, she said, referring to a recent court ruling.

"But what about the families? This is so hard on the families," Ms. Kraft said. "I'm so tired of fighting. There is no justice for these women."

The decision to proceed with only six charges of murder follows a court ruling in August that split the charges into a group of six and a group of 20, based on the evidence. The prosecution had the option of which group would proceed first.

Mr. Petrie said the prosecution would go ahead with charges related to the alleged murder of Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

Stan Lowe, a spokesman for the prosecution team in the Pickton trial, told reporters the prosecution is focusing its attention exclusively on the trial of six counts of first-degree murder.

"Once that matter is completed before the courts, [the prosecution] will shift its focus to the remaining trial," he said.

He added that it's important to remember that all the counts remain before the courts.

Mr. Lowe also said the strength of the prosecution's case remains unaffected by limiting the trial to six murder charges.

"It's not a matter of strength at all. It's just a matter of the Crown adjusting its prosecution."

The prosecutors had to make adjustments in their strategy after taking into account a court decision that found that proceeding on all the charges of murder would be unmanageable for a jury, he said.

"Our role as Crown counsel is to respond professionally to the ruling," Mr. Lowe said. "Once the ruling was made, it was a matter at that point of adjusting to the ruling and making the most prudent decision, knowing all the circumstances."

Defence lawyer Peter Ritchie told reporters the decision to go ahead with six charges and delay 20 doees not reflect anything about the case. "[Mr. Pickton] is presumed innocent, according to our law, and that is the presumption that everyone acts under in our country," Mr. Ritchie said.

Asked whether he thinks a trial on 20 charges would ever proceed, Mr. Ritchie said, "That's speculation I prefer not to engage in at this stage."

The court is expected to continue reviewing the admissibility of evidence during the fall. Jury selection is slated to begin Dec. 11 and the trial is to begin on Jan. 8.

Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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