Norman LaRue says he didn’t kill Gordon Seybold.
Similarly, he didn’t invade Seybold’s cabin in Ibex Valley in 2008. He didn’t confront the aging pot dealer about disrespecting Jessie Asp. He didn’t beat Seybold to death with a baseball bat, and he didn’t burn down any cabins, even though that’s what his then-girlfriend said he did.
In fact, LaRue says, was fast asleep in Whitehorse the night Seybold’s cabin burned down with its owner inside.
LaRue told all of this and more to the jury in his first degree murder trial when he took the witness stand in his own defence on Monday. He denied any involvement in the Seybold killing, contradicting what his then-girlfriend, Christina Asp, said at her own trial last year.
Christina was convicted for her role in the killing after an undercover RCMP sting operation convinced her she was being recruited into a powerful crime family. She told the police – whom she thought were smugglers and extortionists – that she and LaRue had killed Seybold in his cabin with a baseball bat and that LaRue then burned the building down.
On Monday, LaRue’s lawyer, Ray Dieno, began his direct examination by probing LaRue about his past, painting a picture of a troubled youth who grew up hard in Kamloops, B.C., earning a string of convictions for theft, breaking and entering and a “serious personal injury” conviction.
LaRue then went on to explain how he’d first met Christina in 2007, and then again in 2008 in Vancouver’s East Hastings neighbourhood. He had helped her track down a couple of family members in the city. After that, they decided to go on the lam from their respective halfway houses in Vancouver and come to Whitehorse. They bought bus tickets under the names Eli and Marie Johnny.
They lived in the city for around two months, LaRue said, staying mostly at a cabin in Marsh Lake owned by Christina’s mother Jessie.
Jessie and Christina drank frequently together, and would often become violent, LaRue testified. Jessie also had a habit of venting her frustrations about a man she called “Gordie.” On a number of occasions, Jessie would talk openly about wanting Gordie dead and having his house burned down, just like she had seen on CSI, but not with him, LaRue said.
“Jessie never asked me or talked to me about laying a beat down on Gordie,” LaRue said on Monday.
On the night of Seybold’s death, LaRue had been drinking with Jessie, Christina and one of Jessie’s friends. As the night wore on, LaRue became tired and went to bed, he said. When he woke up in the morning, Asp was naked in their basement room, stuffing clothing into a garbage bag.
When he asked what she was doing, “she said, ‘don’t worry about it. Go back to sleep,” LaRue said.
The couple didn’t flee Whitehorse because of the killing, LaRue said. Instead, they chose to leave because they were worried their Canada-wide breach-of-parole warrants were attracting too much attention to Jessie’s home.
He had no idea that Christina had anything to do with the murder until May of 2009, when she visited him in prison in Edmonton. Christina told LaRue she had implicated him in the murder to members of a powerful crime family that she hoped would hire him as extra muscle.
At that meeting in the prison, LaRue said he was angry with Christina for what she had done, but that she started to cry and he relented. He said she secretly passed him a letter detailing the story she had told the crime family, and asked him to memorize it.
He did, and then he stuck to the story once Christina introduced him to the criminals later that summer.
During his meetings with the undercover officers, LaRue was recorded telling them in enthusiastic detail how he and Christina caved Seybold’s head in with a bat, burned his cabin down, and then tried to cover it up by burning the clothes they’d worn. Those tapes were played for the jury earlier in this trial.
A bloody baseball bat was found in a garbage can at a rest stop on the Alaska Highway along with two broken rifles. During her trial, Christina said that she and LaRue had hidden the items there after leaving Seybold’s burning home.
On the witness stand, LaRue said he only told the criminals what Christina had told them because he worried that if they didn’t like what they heard, the criminals would kill him, Christina and his sister.
“Every time I met these people I was scared that one of them could walk up behind me, beside me, take out a gun and pull the trigger,” he said.
He also didn’t want Christina working with them anymore, so he told lies to get inside the organization in an attempt to rescue his girlfriend, LaRue said.
“I was trying to sell myself to them in order to get myself within the organization so I could get Christina out,” LaRue said.
LaRue maintained that everything he did was out of love for Christina, even though he knew she was a drunk and a drug addict who occasionally got violent and had previously been convicted of manslaughter.
They were going to get married, LaRue said. He wanted to go back to school to get his underwater welding tickets, and wanted to start a family.
Dieno finished presenting his case on Tuesday. The Crown’s cross-examination is expected to last until today, with final summations to the jury on Friday.
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