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Crown pushes back against allegation key witness in murder trial is liar

In closing arguments, Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings challenged the defence’s characterization of the witness as a liar whose testimony required special scrutiny
Alex Knatchbell, 26, was shot in the neck, torso and arm and died of multiple gunshot wounds. VIA FAMILY

Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings on Thursday challenged the defence’s characterization of a key witness in Damien Medwedrich’s first-degree murder trial as a liar whose testimony required special scrutiny.

“This is not a witness who was combative. This is not a witness who was refusing to agree with reasonable things that defence counsel put to him. And he was not a witness who was trying to make himself sound better,” Jennings said in her closing arguments before Justice Veronica Jackson, who is presiding over the judge-only trial.

The body of 26-year-old Alex Knatchbell was found by first responders around 11:35 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2020, slumped in the driver’s seat of his Nissan Pathfinder, which had crashed into a tree and was blocking Humpback Road. He had been shot in the arm, neck and torso and died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Analysis of the cellphones of the witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, and Medwedrich put both men at the scene of the shooting that night.

The witness has testified that Medwedrich came by his mother’s house and picked him up, then took his phone and arranged to buy drugs from Knatchbell. They drove to Humpback Road and parked on the side of the road. Medwedrich got out of the car, and the witness heard the sound of a trunk closing and then shots, he said.

Defence lawyer Sarah Runyon has asked Jackson to consider the witness a “Vetrovec” witness, meaning he’s an unsavoury and disreputable witness whose testimony requires special scrutiny. She argued he is an unreliable witness who has given conflicting statements and has lied to police and the court, and has motivation to lie to ­protect himself.

Jennings said that while she agreed there are serious concerns about the witness’s reliability, it’s not to the extent of requiring a Vetrovec warning and his testimony is corroborated by other evidence, including Medwedrich’s own words in a video the witness recorded as Medwedrich drove him home from Humpback Road.

“I did it and then he crashed into a tree,” Medwedrich says in the video to an unknown person on a phone call.

Jennings said Runyon’s suggestion that “I did it” could refer to flagging down Knatchbell, leaving out the part where the witness unexpectedly shot Knatchbell, makes no sense.

“The only possible meaning of those words is: ‘I shot him and then he crashed into a tree,’ ” she argued.

Jennings read a text message Medwedrich sent that says he has to go on the run because “that kid” might snitch on him.

“I hope not. He says he won’t,” the message says.

The fact that Medwedrich had the murder weapon when he was arrested in Prince George 10 days later points to the fact that he wanted to maintain control of the weapon because he was the shooter and the weapon leads back to him, Jennings said.

There’s no evidence of a motive, or to say that Medwedrich knew it was Knatchbell who was going to arrive on Humpback Road, but that’s not required to show that Knatchbell’s murder showed clear intent to kill, she said.

“This is a case where the Crown says it doesn’t matter who showed up that night. Mr. Medwedrich planned to kill them. And he did.”

Medwedrich has his next court appearance April 3, when Jackson will likely give an update on when she will deliver her verdict.

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