VANCOUVER - The "architect" of a violent home invasion that resulted in the death of a Vancouver-area man has been found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter because prosecutors couldn't prove who fired the fatal shotgun blast, a judge has ruled.
Kacey Rogers and his girlfriend were preparing to head to bed the evening of Feb. 26, 2012, when four shotgun blasts ripped through the front door of their north Surrey home.
Rogers grabbed a baseball bat, entered the kitchen, peered out a window and was hit by another shot fired at close range. He died on scene.
Joshua Martinez and Fabian Lyde subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but the Crown pursued a second-degree murder charge against Russell Bidesi.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler said in a ruling posted online Thursday that the Crown's circumstantial evidence showed Bidesi was the "architect of the scheme," but one of the others could have shot Rogers.
He said Bidesi may not have known what happened, and the home invasion may have continued as a "matter of course."
"The Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bidesi foresaw murder as a probable consequence of carrying out the home invasion," said Butler. "Accordingly, I must find him not guilty of second-degree murder."
Still, Butler said a "reasonable person" in Bidesi's position would have foreseen risk in carrying out the home invasion.
He said the three men embarked on a plan to rob Rogers who was involved in the drug trade and might be armed. Butler said Bidesi took steps to acquire loaded weapons, which the three men took to the home.
Butler said a "reasonable person" would have foreseen that the risk of harm could come to Rogers.
"The Crown has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Bidesi is guilty of the included offence of manslaughter with a firearm," he said.
Butler's ruling noted only a small amount of money was taken.
The Crown's circumstantial evidence included wire taps, wireless contracts and receipts, surveillance videos, fob records, seized firearms, tire tracks, shoe prints and eyewitness testimony.
Defence Lawyer Darcy Lawrence said his client was stoic when the verdict was delivered in court.
He said lawyers will meet in September to set a date for sentencing.
"The co-accused received sentences of seven years on their manslaughter convictions," he said. "They both pled guilty and they both received seven-year sentences."
Crown counsel Jay Fogel said the sentencing decision has been delayed because Bidesi is also facing charges of attempted murder, second-degree murder and aggravated assault in separate allegations.
"The court should know what he's guilty of prior to passing sentence on the manslaughter," said Fogel.