7:30 p.m. update: Brittney Irving was shot four times, including twice in the back and her body found in the woods off McCulloch road near the turnoff to Big White Ski Resort.
Those were just some of the opening statements heard as Joe Verma’s first-degree murder trial began Monday morning at the Kelowna Courthouse.
Crown Counsel Mallory Treddenick told the court that Irving was 25-years-old when she was reported missing on April 6, 2010. She had been arrested the previous month for growing marijuana and was “stressed out” over impending legal fees. That was why she attempted to set up a drug deal that would see her exchange 50 pounds of marijuana for $100,000.
She left to make the deal and was never seen by family or friends again.
The man she was supposed to meet was someone known as “Joe” or “Joey”, but when Verma was interviewed by police, he supposedly told officers that while he did have an agreement to buy two pounds of marijuana from Irving, she never showed up.
The crown contends Irving did show up and the drugs did change hands, then Verma followed Irving, shooting her multiple times and leaving her for dead in the woods.
Her vehicle was found abandoned on Philpott Road, in the Joe Rich area of East Kelowna off Highway 33.
Other tire tracks were found nearby, suggesting another vehicle had met Irving.
Verma’s cousin is expected to testify for the crown at some point and say he was called out to where Irving’s body was found, after a truck Verma had borrowed became stuck in the mud. When the truck was returned, it was missing a jacket and men’s shoes.
The cousin would later lead police to that same spot, where officers would find Irving’s body nearby. She was found wearing that same jacket and those same shoes.
Constable Tim Russell, an RCMP officer with the Southeast Major Crimes Unit was the first witness called by Crown Counsel Iain Currie.
He testified that while conducting interviews as part of the investigation, Verma’s cousin, Jason Labonte, led him out to a side road off McCulloch Road where he says Verma called him after his truck got stuck in the mud.
A few days later, along with two other officers and a canine unit, Russell found the body of Brittney Irving during the early morning hours of April 26.
There was no forest debris on the body and it appeared that no animals had touched it. Russell also said there was only a limited odor of decomposition, which surprised him.
Under cross-examination, defence counsel mentioned Russell’s police notes, which called the place Irving’s body was found as a “body dump.” When re-examined by the crown, he explained that a pair of glasses found slightly askew on her head led him to initially believe her body had been dumped; he later came to the conclusion that was not the case, but did not modify his notes in favour of continuity in his own mind.
Russell would also admit during cross-examination that he did not find anything that directly linked Verma to the murder, or that particular location.
Upwards of 40 witnesses are expected to testify at the trial, which could last more than seven weeks. The Crown had hoped to call four witnesses on Monday, but Russell’s testimony lasted the entire day.