“I never killed Gordon Seybold.”
That’s the essence of Norman LaRue’s defence in his ongoing murder trial: he wasn’t there, he didn’t do it.
LaRue is charged with first-degree murder for the 2008-killing of Ibex Valley resident Gordon Seybold. He maintains that he had nothing to do with the slaying, even though his then-girlfriend Christina Asp detailed to undercover officers how she and LaRue beat Seybold to death and burned his cabin down in 2008. She also testified to LaRue’s involvement during her own trial last year, where she was convicted for her role in the killing.
LaRue was also entangled in the 2009 undercover operation that snared Asp. She thought she was being recruited into a major crime family by a cast of undercover RCMP officers, and that they could make criminal evidence disappear. She told them about LaRue’s involvement, and they offered him a job as extra muscle.
During the job interview, LaRue was tape-recorded bragging about how he had smashed Seybold’s head in, slit his throat, and burned the small-time pot dealer’s house down.
Since he took the stand on Monday, LaRue has claimed the organization terrified him and that everything he told the undercover officers was a lie designed to get him access into the organization so he could get Asp out.
LaRue had been in jail for a previous conviction in 2009 while Asp was being recruited. He was only free for six days before he was arrested in the undercover sting.
His story to the undercover officers matches Asp’s closely because she had him memorize a letter detailing all the lies she had told about his involvement, LaRue said.
On Wednesday, Crown prosecutor David McWinnie had a chance to question LaRue directly about his story.
LaRue asserts that when Asp first told him what she had told the criminals, he was angry and told her he didn’t want either of them to have any part in the organization.
But McWinnie pointed out that during hours of wire-tapped phone calls between Asp and LaRue, not once does he so much as mention any of those concerns.
“Quite the opposite, in fact,” McWinnie said, highlighting LaRue’s comments about becoming very close with the crime family’s top hit man, and saying he was happy and proud that Asp had introduced him to the group.
There were some calls missing from the wiretap evidence, and LaRue said that those calls showed him trying to tell Asp that they should leave the organization.
Throughout the cross examination, LaRue said he had trouble remembering specifics about what Asp had told him and when. Whenever McWinnie pushed him on details about what he told undercover officers and why, LaRue either answered that he couldn’t remember details of the conversations or that he had been embellishing the story to make it more believable.
Police found two rifles and a bloody baseball bat in a garbage can on the Alaska Highway. Asp told the undercover officers they had stolen the rifles from Seybold’s and later threw them in the garbage, but she never mentioned what happened to the bat.
On the job-interview tapes, LaRue did talk about taking the bat, and putting it in the garbage. He also talked about a paint fleck from the back of the GMC Jimmy the pair used to get to Seybold’s, telling undercover officers he had accidentally backed into a tree as they were leaving the property after the killing.
In the undercover tapes, Asp never mentions the paint fleck. LaRue claimed those details came from the letter she smuggled to him while in prison, which he memorized and destroyed.
On the stand, LaRue said repeatedly that he had wanted nothing to do with the crime family, that he wanted to straighten out and live a normal life with Asp.
He maintained that he did try to come across as enthusiastic about joining the organization because he was afraid, all the while plotting to somehow extricate himself and Asp from people he claims terrified him.
“Did you ever consider calling the police?” McWinnie asked, adding that if LaRue had been serious about going straight, he could simply have done that and ended everything.
“The lifestyle I was raised in, we don’t talk to the police. We handle our own type thing,” LaRue said.
At one point, LaRue said Asp was afraid of the group as well, but at no point in the tapes was she ever threatened, and she repeatedly said how important the members of the group were to her.
“What precisely was she scared of?” McWinnie asked.
As McWinnie posed more questions, LaRue started doubling down on his story, repeating that “I wanted to get her out of there,” and “I was selling myself to them.”
In his final line of questioning, McWinnie, tightened the screws.
“You knew the police had evidence,” he said.
“I knew the police had some evidence, yes,” LaRue replied.
“…and we just discussed that you knew that it could point to you …and you talked about the paint fleck, and you agree that you thought some crazy thoughts about trying to blow up the evidence, correct?” McWinnie asked.
“You already told us that you thought this organization could make evidence go away, correct?”
“Yes,” LaRue replied.
“And so you wanted their help to do just that, to make the evidence go away?” McWinnie asked.
“I never really wanted their help with that because I believe there is no evidence pointing to me in regards to this because I was not involved with this,” LaRue said.
“Well, I suggest that you know otherwise and that you told the undercovers the truth about what happened in order to get their help to hide what you actually did,” McWinnie said.
“No matter how many times you suggest it or say it doesn’t make it the truth. I was not involved in this,” LaRue said.
With the Crown and defence both finished their cases, the three-month trial is nearly over. Both lawyers will give their final submissions to the jury today, and the judge is expected to charge and sequester the jury on Tuesday. There is no word on how long the jury might take to reach a final verdict.
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