The second morning of court, January 15, we were apprehensive about the upcoming Medical Examiner’s report, knowing it would detail and explain what Paul’s injuries were. But that wasn’t first on the agenda. And it wasn’t worst.
First came the audio interview conducted in an RCMP officer’s car between a cop and the accused (who I’ll refer to as C.) on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. The officer, who was working on his scheduled day off because of this investigation, explained most kindly and respectfully to the accused that the car he had reported stolen had been located.
“Cool,” said the young man.
There was something so pitiful about hearing someone make such bold-faced lies when the police officer in the interview, and everyone later in court knew none of it was true. Lying after the fact makes everything so much worse, doesn’t it? This entire case has highlighted for me that trying to cover sin with lies ends up backfiring, making the crime even more public.
The officer urged C. to be sure to tell the truth, that he (the cop) was a straight-shooter who would only tell the truth and expected the same. The accused was quite agreeable to all this, stating that he had and would tell only the truth.
Then the cop gave him the bad news.
“Your vehicle was involved in a criminal offence,” the cop said.
“Was it wrecked?” C. asked, with expressions of shock. “I don’t wanna get involved in anything like that. I just wanna get my car back.”
“Well, you are involved,” the officer said, “because your car was used in a criminal activity.”
“Well, I come from New Brunswick,” C. said, “and had some trouble with the law there. I came here to start a new life, so I don’t want to get involved in anything to do with court.”
This seemed so sad to me. I completely understand the desire to get away somewhere for a fresh start. The problem is, we take ourselves with us. Only a change of heart gives us a new life.
The cop repeated several times to this young man that he now was involved. The officer urge C., while still telling him it was his choice, to come to the police station and make a statement. The accused kept repeating his not wanting to get involved.
The officer, infinitely patient and reasonable, praised C. as a “decent kind of guy”, to which the accused eagerly agreed. But even that didn’t elicit any admission of guilt. The cop asked C. if he would be willing to come in for a “truth verifier”, explaining that’s what they call a polygraph, rather than a lie detector. More demurring on the part of the accused.
Leaving his card with C., the cop left, suggesting that C. might think of something else and could contact police.
By Sunday (Oct. 7), C. had called his parents in NB who had hooked him up with a lawyer, so he called the officer back and was willing to come to the station to make a statement.
The video interview opened with a view from above.
C. is alone at a table in a bare room wearing a black T-shirt. He is wiping his eyes and snuffling a bit.
The cop, in civilian clothes, enters and takes a seat nearby. “I’m really glad you came in. You’ve manned up and that’s really good. I have to tell you the investigation keeps on going.” (I have been so impressed with the patience and caution the police have shown throughout this case. It can’t have been easy to listen to lies and evasion, yet they showed restraint and did nothing to jeopardize the case.)
Officer asks C. to tell his story of the events of October 5/6. This time there’s a difference.
The accused says he was at the Lotus Club, drinking, met a girl on an online dating service, didn’t know her name or really much of what she looked like. They got in his car to go up to a buddy’s for an after party (since bars were closing at 2 a.m.). On Taylor Bridge, a “dark figure” very suddenly appeared.
He emphasizes that he has his Class 1 licence and always keeps his eyes on the road, never speeding. When the dark figure appeared, he hit it, but thought it was an animal. He relates that the girl, in fact, said, “what the h— was that? It must have been an animal.”
He says he knew it was no small animal like a dog or cat or porcupine and thought it must have been a deer or “a black bear, standing up.”
He kept going, got to his buddy’s, sent the girl home (in a cab, she had testified) and parked his car, then walked to his own home.
After questioning this account on various points, the cop eventually informs him that, “Someone is no longer alive.”
(At this point, my stomach was swirling. That Someone was my boy! And I’m keenly aware that he is no longer alive. Hearing those stark words pierces my heart yet again.)
At those words, C. begins sobbing, wiping tears. The officer pats him on the shoulder, kindly asking him if he’s okay. C asks for a garbage can to put his kleenex in.
Again, C insists he thought it was an animal.
The officer gently says, “I’m placing you under arrest.” After reading him his rights, and C. agreeing he wants to talk to a lawyer, the cop asks, “Is there anything you want to tell the family of the deceased?”
Now I lean forward to hear what he might say to this. This could have been time for a confession, an admission of guilt, an apology.
“They probably hate me and want me dead!” he sobs.
I shook my head “no” at this. We don’t hate him, or want yet another person dead. But, as my husband later pointed out, the accused was still focused on himself. At the time of that interview, we were reeling in shock and devastation at the loss of our son/brother. Hating the driver and wanting him dead was the last thing on our minds.
“You can’t fix it,” he continues. “I don’t even know what to say.”
Well, at least on that point we had something in common! Not being able to fix it — the sheer irrevocable nature of death — has been something we are still trying to grasp. How very far-reaching are the actions of a moment!
At a later point, C. asked how old the person was. When the cop told him he was 18, there were serious tears. (Knowing that the accused had seen Paul immediately after impact, I thought these tears may have been a genuine expression of horror and grief that such a young person had died.)
The last witness in court that day was with the Calgary Medical Examiner, via Skype. She testified that Paul was killed by severe skull and brain injury and a broken neck. There were many other injuries, including a face and chest abrasion probably resulting from another vehicle having driven over him (parallel to the body, so no tires went over him.)
How very painful to hear that someone else had cavalierly driven over our boy, either glibly unaware, or aware there was a body there but deliberately avoiding involvement, perhaps because of their own drunken state?
That afternoon, the defense was supposed to offer evidence. There was none to offer.
What can a mom say to all of these things? My heart felt as exposed and bleeding as my boy had been lying on that bridge. And yet, in all of these things, I have God’s promise…
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me…” Psalm 23:4