Just after 2 p.m. on August 4, 2009, Norman Larue was smoking a cigarette.
Standing in the parking lot of a Strathmore, Alta. pub, he had no idea he was about to be arrested for murder by an RCMP tactical team.
He thought he was applying for a job with a professional hit man.
Over two months ago, the jury in Norman Larue’s first-degree murder trial heard grisly details about how Larue and his then-girlfriend Christina Asp allegedly beat Gordon Seybold to death with a baseball bat and burned his house down in 2008.
Asp was convicted for her role in the killing during a trial last year.
Larue said he slit Seybold’s throat from “ear to ear” and “stood over him and kind of chuckled.”
The details came from a taped confession Larue gave in August 2009 to an undercover RCMP officer who he thought was a killer-for-hire within a powerful crime family.
Yesterday, the jury got to meet that supposed hit man for themselves as Crown prosecutors David McWhinnie and Bonnie Macdonald book-ended their case with the same tape.
The hit man was the last of the Crown’s witnesses in Larue’s trial, and the last officer in the RCMP’s cast of undercover operators that convinced Larue and Asp they were being recruited into a criminal organization.
As they took the stand throughout the trial, the jury saw that all of the characters in the RCMP’s play looking the part much as they had acted it. The primary officer who befriended Asp was petite and pretty, with an air of vulnerability. Her uncle, the crime family’s second in command, looked like he was snatched from the reels of a ‘70s gangster movie, with slicked-back hair and a greying goatee. Given some dusty khakis or a tight black shirt, the imposing hit man could have just stepped off a plane from the Somali desert.
In fact, he told Larue as much, saying that the first person he killed was a Somali man when he was just 18.
“I popped that (expletive) two in the heart and one in the mind … sandals flew right off him, man. And you know what, man? I just sat there with a (expletive) smile on my face and was like, whatever. You know, no biggie, right?” the hit man said on the tape.
He and Larue were speaking inside a truck in a Strathmore parking lot, with a tactical team just moments away, waiting for a possible confession from Larue before sweeping in. Larue came to that truck after Asp convinced him that he could work for the same criminal organization that had taken her under its wing. The RCMP spent months developing that false relationship with Asp, eventually gaining a confession from her as well but waiting for Larue to get out of jail in the summer of 2009 so they could snag him in their net as well.
In the truck during the job interview, the hit man asked Larue if he could be trusted to kill in the same cold, calculated way.
“Put me to the test,” Larue replied.
“I’ve never pulled a trigger on somebody. But I’m sure if I could bash someone’s brain in and then just stand there and look over the guy and laugh about it, what could be different?” Larue said.
Still unsure, the hit man pressed Larue harder.
“Have you ever (expletive) snatched a human beings’ life and know what it feels like?” the hit man asked.
“(The uncle)‘s cleaning it up for me,” Larue replied.
The conversation continues on the tape until Larue details how he and Asp killed Seybold with the elderly marijuana dealer’s own baseball bat, and how Larue burned his house down.
Almost immediately after Larue made the confession, an emergency response team swept in and locked Larue in handcuffs.
During the cross-examination, Larue’s lawyer Ray Dieno tried to paint the hit man as a terrifying presence whose very clothes implied a threat of immediate violence.
The officer denied that was the case, saying everything he did, said, and wore – including mixed martial arts clothing – was designed to add credibility to his hit-man cover story.
Dieno also argued that the hit man and the entire RCMP operation was designed to pressure Larue into a confession that couldn’t be trusted.
“You were told to secure a confession from Mr. Larue, were you not? Why did you put it in your notes three times?” Dieno said.
“I believe in my notes it said to prepare for a confession, whether he was involved in that crime or not involved in that crime,” the hit-man officer replied.
In the days leading up to the parking lot takedown, Larue had met with the hit-man officer and the uncle in Calgary, and talked about killing Seybold. The meeting took place in a public park in the middle of the day.
Dieno argued that must have been terrifying for Larue, because he was in the company of killers who could “pop a cap in his ass” at any moment, and that Larue would have “mimicked” the kinds of things they said in order to protect himself.
“That’s exactly how criminal organizations kill people, in a public park in a public place. They just pop somebody and walk away, because that’s the best cover there is. You know that,” Dieno said.
The hit man officer disputed Dieno’s claim, saying that his role was not to scare Larue, but to make him feel comfortable speaking about any involvement he may have had in Seybold’s killing.
The trial continues today. The Crown is expected to rest their case this week, with Larue on the stand possibly as early as Friday.
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