POLITICS

Surrey six slayings: judge to deliver her decision in murder trial Thursday

10/01/2014 02:54 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - It was a shocking gangland crime that could rightfully be called a bloodbath: six men murdered, execution style, two of them innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place.

On Thursday, two of the men accused in what's come to be known as the "Surrey Six" slayings will learn their fate from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge.

Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston are each charged with conspiracy and six counts of first-degree murder in the Oct. 19, 2007, deaths of Corey Lal, his brother Michael, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo.

According to the Crown, Lal was the target of a gang assassination ordered by the leaders of a rival drug gang called the Red Scorpions.

The men with him that day in apartment 1505 of the Balmoral Tower were also known to police.

But 55-year-old Ed Schellenberg, a father of two, was in the building to service fireplaces and Chris Mohan, 22, was a student and neighbour who lived with his mother in suite 1504.

Over a year of testimony, Wedge heard from 73 witnesses in a high-security courtroom in Vancouver.

The witness list included one of the gang leaders who admitted setting in motion what would become one of the worst mass killings in B.C. history, as well as several former gangsters involved in the plot and some of the former lovers of those accused.

The Surrey murders were part of a bloody gang war over the lucrative drug trade that played out on the streets of Metro Vancouver over several years.

A couple of months into the trial, gang leader Michael Le entered a surprise guilty plea to conspiracy. The Crown dropped the first-degree murder charge and Le was sentenced to 12 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Haevischer and Johnson.

The Crown alleges Haevischer, Johnston and a man who can only be identified as Person X carried out the killings ordered by Le and his gang leader partner, Jamie Bacon.

Person X pleaded guilty in April 2009 to three counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

During final submissions in July, Crown counsel Mark Levitz said there was a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including surveillance videos, forensic evidence and witness testimony.

"The Crown has presented overwhelming evidence to prove that Haevischer and Johnston were among the co-perpetrators of these murders,'" Levitz told the judge.

Defence lawyers contend the Crown simply failed to prove its theory. They questioned the credibility of a string of "untrustworthy" witnesses.

"The Crown has focused on the amount of evidence, not the quality of the evidence," Haevischer's lawyer, Simon Buck, said in his final words to the judge.

Michael Le's 12-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder was reduced to three years after time served. He could be eligible for parole by the end of the year.

Jamie Bacon faces trial separately for conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder in relation to the six deaths. His trial is scheduled to begin next May.

Bacon also faces three additional charges alleging he ordered a hit on Person X.

Another man, Sophon Sek, is awaiting trial for manslaughter.