Norman Larue might face a first-degree murder charge for the 2008 death of Gordon Seybold, but it was forensic investigators who faced the third degree over the last several days.
Retired RCMP Staff-Sgt. Ross Spenard got the worst of it.
Spenard, a blood splatter expert who was involved in examining several pieces of evidence in the Seybold case, left the force in disgrace three years ago after he was caught lying under oath in a 2009 B.C. murder trial.
He retired in 2010 and pleaded guilty to a perjury charge the following year.
“It’s part of my past that I’m trying to put behind me,” said Spenard.
“I did what I did,” he added. “I’m not proud of it, but I can’t take it back.”
It was Spenard who was tasked with examining the bat and two broken rifles that were found in a garbage bin at a rest stop about 11 kilometres from Seybold’s property on the day his body was discovered.
Spenard testified that he picked up the three exhibits from the Vancouver forensic laboratory and drove them to the Project Evenhanded facility. That laboratory was set up specifically for the high profile investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton, a case that Spenard also worked on.
By 2008, when the Seybold investigation started, the Pickton case had pretty much wrapped up and the building was then being used to store the exhibits, said Spenard.
After he locked the bat and guns up for the night, Spenard returned the next day to examine them for fingerprints, bloodstains and trace evidence.
While none of the “finger-stains” he found were intact enough to be identifiable, he did found several bloodstains which he marked, to be swabbed for DNA by another technician.
In earlier testimony, the jury heard that the blood found on those objects matched Seybold’s.
On the first day of the trial, a tape was played for the court of Norman Larue telling an undercover police officer about how he, and his then fiance Christina Asp, had beat Seybold with a bat before setting fire to his cabin.
Asp was convicted for her part in Seybold’s murder in a trial last year.
Larue’s lawyer, Ray Dieno, argued that his client was simply lying to impress the officer who he thought was a member of a crime family.
Dieno also did his best to cast doubt on the forensic evidence and the way that it was collected.
Under cross-examination Const. Amanda Galenzoski, who seized the bat and guns from the garbage bin, admitted that she could have done a better job when collecting the evidence.
Fresh gloves should have been worn to handle each object to prevent cross-contamination, and she should not have laid each one down on the adjacent garbage bin to take photos.
However, there was already a high likelihood that there was already some cross-contamination, because the guns and bat were already touching in the bin, she added.
Dieno also called into questione Spenard’s integrity when he got him on the stand.
He brought up the fact that a draft report he wrote for Larue’s case was changed after it was reviewed by another officer, and he hounded Spenard with questions about how he had lied under oath during a previous murder trial.
At first, Spenard had no explanation for the perjury, which he admitted had destroyed his life and career.
“I really don’t know what was going through my mind at the time,” he said.
But when pressed, Spenard admitted that he was trying to cover up his own incompetence.
Spenard, a 32-year veteran of the RCMP, was caught lying under oath about a report he had written for a murder trial in 2009.
Dieno read from a transcript of that trial where the judge deemed Spenard to be a liar and instructed the jury to completely disregard all of his tainted testimony.
After the trial Spenard was charged with perjury. He pleaded guilty in 2011 and was handed a nine-month conditional sentence. It’s a relatively light sentence for a charge that carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.
The Larue trial is scheduled to continue for several more weeks.
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