The Court of Appeal for British Columbia released an abbreviated version of its reasons for judgment Thursday concerning two men convicted of murdering six people in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Whalley on Oct. 19, 2007.
The court indicated that the reasons for judgment have been redacted prior to being released to the public to remove confidential information and the full version will remain sealed.
Christopher Mohan and Abbotsford gasfitter Ed Shellenberg, 55, were innocent victims who accidentally stumbled upon a drug hit in progress. Edward Sousakhone Narong, 22, Ryan Bartolomeo, 19, and brothers Michael Justin Lal, 26, and Corey Jason Michael Lal, 21, were also slain.
According to the court, the crime scene established the victims were killed by two shooters and two guns were found at the scene. The victims were divided into two groups – three by a computer near the front door and three by a fireplace. “The victims were all found in submissive positions and were shot in the back of the chest or head with 16 of the 19 bullets fired by the guns,” the document reads. “The victims’ pockets had been emptied and their cell phones were all taken. The bodies were discovered by one of the managers of the Balmoral, who went looking for Mr. Schellenberg.”
The Crown’s theory was that the killings were payback for an unpaid debt between rival gangs. Matthew James Johnston and Cody Rae Haevischer appealed their six first-degree murder convictions in Regina v. Haevischer and Regina v. Johnston during a three-day webcast last October, 13 years after the murders.
The appeal court in January released a “Statement of Pronouncement of Judgment” indicating that while it dismissed the grounds of appeal that would have resulted in a new trial and affirmed the guilty verdicts, Johnston and Haevischer may nevertheless apply for an evidentiary hearing to argue for a stay of proceedings on grounds of abuse of process.
There is a publication ban on evidence presented in court that could identify certain witnesses. The abbreviated reasons for judgment released Thursday notes the six victims were lying defenceless on the floor when they were shot. The appellants each applied for a judicial stay of proceedings, based on abuse of process, related to police conduct and conditions of their pre-trial confinement.
Justices David Tysoe, Anne MacKenzie and Peter Willcock presided over the appeals.