The Whitehorse jury for the murder trial of Tyler Aaron Skookum accused in the 2017 death of Wilfred Charlie heard from a woman Jan. 13 who drove the victim around in his final hours. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Murder trial hears from witness who drove victim home

Laverne Bearspaw testified that she gave Wilfred Charlie, others, rides the day before his death

The Whitehorse jury for the murder trial of a Carmacks man accused in the 2017 death of Wilfred Charlie heard from a woman Jan. 13 who drove the victim around in his final hours.

Laverne Bearspaw, a Carmacks resident, was the second witness to be called by the Crown in its case against Tyler Aaron Skookum, who stands charged with first-degree murder.

Charlie was last seen alive near his Carmacks home on June 19, 2017. His body was discovered in the Yukon River near Fort Selkirk about two weeks later.

Bearspaw was the only person to testify Monday, with the next witness not scheduled to appear until Jan. 16. Yukon Supreme Court Justice Edith Campbell told the jury she made the decision to put the trial on hold due to the weather, with temperatures forecasted to drop as low as -46C, and with the safety of jurors and witnesses travelling from Carmacks in mind.

Responding to questions from Crown attorney Ludovic Gouaillier, Bearspaw said Charlie, whom she knew as “Dickie,” was her husband’s cousin and lived a few houses down from her.

Bearspaw testified that she drove Charlie and a handful of other people around the Carmacks area on Father’s Day 2017, which she initially said she thought was June 19, but later agreed during cross-examination was actually the 18th.

Charlie, her husband and their niece had come to her house around noon to ask for a ride to offsales, she said. She drove them to the store and bar across the river, back across to Charlie’s house, and went home.

The trio came over again around 5 or 6 p.m. and asked for another ride, she said, and she drove them to the bar before heading to 8 Mile to meet up with a bigger group of people.

Among the group, she said, was Mario Skookum — Tyler’s former co-accused who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his role in Charlie’s death in December 2019.

Bearspaw said she waited in her truck while everyone else went swimming and drinking. Charlie, who she said was drunk, also stayed in the truck, getting out only to use the washroom.

Bearspaw testified that she drove six people back to Carmacks around 10 p.m., including her husband, Charlie, their niece and Mario. The niece, she testified, wanted to stop by the bar on the way home, and once they were there, got out of the truck with Mario and asked Charlie for his bank card to buy more alcohol.

Charlie said no, Bearspaw recalled, and after a bit of back-and-forth, the pair got back into her truck and she drove everyone home.

Bearspaw said she last saw Charlie “staggering” back to his house with his niece. Mario also got out of the truck and said he was going to a neighbour’s house to get cigarettes.

In cross-examination, Bearspaw said she couldn’t say how drunk Mario was, but that, besides her, everyone was drinking that day and looked like they were having a good time.

Contact Jackie Hong at

jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Yukon courts

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