The Wednesday before Christmas 2004, Herbert Holstein walked from his house in downtown Carcross to the nearby Caribou Hotel to visit Robert Olson.
Olson was lonely.
Holstein didn’t know it then, but it was the last time he would see his close friend.
As he headed home after chatting with Olson for a while, it started to rain.
“There was this beautiful, slick layer of ice on the road,” Holstein told the eight women and four men of the Yukon Supreme Court jury.
The roads were so slippery the next day that the elderly man couldn’t risk walking on the treacherous roads, so he phoned Olson.
Sometime later that night, December 23, or in the early morning hours of the 24th, Olson was brutally beaten to death.
Dean Boucher and Mark Langen are being tried for second-degree murder.
Holstein had managed Olson’s bar and lived in the hotel for five years.
“(Olson) was a man without brakes” who was “drinking every day,” said Holstein.
“At that point in time, I think pretty well anyone could flag him down with a bottle.”
And business at the bar was dire.
In fact, Olson had closed the operation on December 1 and was trying to sell it.
Although all the hotel rooms were empty, Olson passed out on the pool table or slept on a couch upstairs, said Holstein.
“He didn’t want the liquor walking out the windows in the middle of the night,” said Holstein.
When police descended upon the bar, scouring it for forensic evidence, Olson’s bed was still made on the pool table.
Days before the bar owner’s remains were found in a ditch, Holstein worried something terrible had happened.
Late afternoon on Christmas Eve, two local brothers sought out Holstein, after noticing Caribou’s doors were open.
The bar was in disarray.
Chairs were knocked over, art was missing from the walls, and there was a pool of blood on the floor.
When Holstein saw broken glass shattered behind the bar, he started to unravel.
“That’s when I lost it,” said Holstein.
Const. Jeffrey Kalles arrived and did a preliminary search, while Holstein looked in the hotel rooms.
The bar was dark and cold. Standing water in one of the sinks had frozen over, according to one of the brothers.
Kalles noted a pool of dried blood by the pool table, with a footprint in it, and a smattering of blood on a garbage can.
“I felt that Mr. Olson was either hurt or needed assistance,” he told the court, noting Olson’s truck was gone.
After securing the bar, Kalles phoned the RCMP’s Whitehorse detachment and put out a watch for Olson and his truck — a black pickup with a red strip down the side.
Police found the vehicle a few days later, on December 27, covered in snow and stuck in the ditch on Langholtz, in the Wolf Creek subdivision.
The owner was possibly suicidal and on a drinking binge, said Const. Christian Pratte, noting there were antlers, a caribou head, some picture frames and a blood-soaked pillow in the truck’s box, as well as some bloodied work gloves in the cab.
No one in the neighbourhood had seen anyone, but most agreed it had been parked there since December 23 or 24.
Meanwhile, Boucher a strong-looking, heavy-set man, had turned himself in to Whitehorse police.
“Mr. Olson was dead but and it was an accident and he had nothing to do with it,” Pratte said Boucher told police.
Then, an anonymous phone call came in saying Lange was at the Greyhound bus depot, trying to leave town because he was involved in somebody’s death.
When Pratte arrived, Lange wasn’t there.
That afternoon, police went into a flurry of activity — securing the Caribou Hotel and the site of the truck, and combing the Wolf Creek subdivision for Olson’s body.
It was dark when Const. Elaine Maisonneuve dropped off some gear and sandwiches to officers searching the snow-covered ground.
She was cruising slowly down Cronkhite when the car lights caught a set of tire tracks outside the driving area.
Shining a flashlight into the ditch, Maisonneuve noticed a “bonier, fleshier, mound of something,” piercing the snow.
Officers from the forensic identification unit arrived about an hour later, confirming it was a man’s body.
“The body was intact except for the facial area, which appeared to be scavenged by animals,” said Maisonneuve.
Patches of snow near where Olson’s body lay were soaked with blood, said Sgt. Allan Lane, senior officer with the forensic identification unit.
That night, in the blowing snow, Lane “carefully removed snow from around the deceased, layer by layer.”
He found nothing other than a pen.
A three-day forensic search of the Caribou Hotel yielded blood-stained floors, doors, garbage cans and some furniture. Pieces of broken denture were found on the ground, along with Olson’s parka, a jean jacket and a pair of glasses, among other objects.
Bloody prints lifted off the ground closely resembled shoes worn by Boucher and Lange.
Lane could say “with a high degree of certainty” that some of the blood-stamped shoe marks came from Boucher and Lange.
A tequila bottle on the pool table was marked with Lange’s thumbprint and Boucher’s prints were found on a picture in the box of Olson’s truck, which was also stained with blood.
Flanked by their lawyers, Keith Parkkari and Andre Roothman, Boucher and Lange have been in court everyday.
Boucher is tall and muscular, with a shaved head. He wears dress shirts to trial.
Lange is thin and small, with short black hair. He often pulls a blue cotton-looking shirt over his red prison suit and wears glasses.
Witnesses have described Boucher as “light-fingered,” “loud and boisterous” and “always looking for something else to steal.”
Very few witnesses know Lange. Those who met him around the 23 and 24 of December have said he was quiet.
The trial continues today.