A key Crown witness at the trial of a woman charged with killing her son testified she heard a gunshot, then ran into the kitchen to see Samantha Dittmer with a rifle propped up on her shoulder.
Brandy Kazakoff said her boyfriend, Jesse McPhee, was lying face down on the ground, bleeding.
Dittmer is on trial for the second-degree murder of her son on Aug. 29, 2021.
“She looked at me and she said: ‘I guess you better call 911 now.’ And I went over to Jesse and I’ve never seen so much blood, so much blood. It stays in my head every day,” said Kazakoff, her voice breaking.
“I called 911 and I said: ‘Please help me. Please help. He’s dying. He’s dying. Please Jesse don’t die. Please Jesse don’t die.’ ”
But Kazakoff knew her boyfriend was going to die and watched him take his last breath, she testified.
The 911 operator told her to get outside. Although Kazakoff didn’t want to leave McPhee, she ran outside and was grabbed by a police officer, who threw her in his car.
“And [Dittmer] was still walking around the house with a shotgun,” she said.
Kazakoff, who testified by video from another courthouse, told Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines that she met McPhee in Ladner in 2019. He moved into her place, then they moved to another house.
In 2020, they moved into the main floor of Dittmer’s house on 18th Avenue in Port Alberni. Dittmer lived on the top floor.
Both Dittmer and McPhee were paranoid that McPhee’s ex-wife’s boyfriend would come to Port Alberni and harm them, Kazakoff testified.
After Dittmer’s home in Ladner was set on fire, she installed security cameras at her Port Alberni home. McPhee had a lot of guns and ammunition that he kept for protection. Dittmer also had guns under her bed and had shown them to Kazakoff, she said.
McPhee and Dittmer drank a lot and got into loud arguments that the neighbours could hear, Kazakoff testified. Still, mother and son were like the best of friends, she said.
“They got along. There were more good times than bad times. They were like two peas in a pod.”
She and McPhee were planning to move to their own place because of the arguments, however, she said. “Samantha would always be yelling at him and kicking him out. It was just overwhelming. It was just too much,” said Kazakoff.
She recalled one incident where Dittmer kicked in a door and jumped on McPhee.
“She was on top of him, pinning him down,” said Kazakoff.
A cord had been attached to the door to keep Dittmer out, she said. Once a week, the three of them would go target-shooting in the bush with shotguns and rifles, said Kazakoff.
“Samantha had been hunting since she was a kid, she told me, so she could handle a shotgun really well. She was really good at it,” said Kazakoff.
“When she held these firearms, how would she hold them to shoot them?” asked Baines.
“Propped up on her shoulder… She was a good shot. She knew what she was doing very well,” Kazakoff replied.
Dittmer emphasized safety and was very knowledgeable, said Kazakoff, adding she learned a lot from her.
The day McPhee was killed, the three of them had driven to Great Central Lake to get crayfish traps. Dittmer and McPhee split a 15-pack of Lucky Lager between them.
When they arrived home, Dittmer started freaking out and wanted her car keys, Kazakoff said.
“I told her: ‘I don’t think you should be driving right now. You don’t have a licence and you’re drunk.’ ”
Dittmer said she didn’t care and took off for more than an hour, said Kazakoff. Kazakoff and McPhee were about to cook dinner and were talking about watching a Netflix documentary about mushrooms that night. Kazakoff went out on the back deck and started knitting a pair of slippers for McPhee.
She heard the gunshot and ran inside.
Kazakoff testified that she didn’t hear any conversation or argument before the gunshot.
“No, or I would have gone in there. … She just snuck in the room and shot him in his back,” she testified. “There was no argument.”
Dittmer seemed “really evil” when she told her to call 911, said Kazakoff, imitating Dittmer’s voice.
“It was the way she said it.”
Kazakoff said her mental health has suffered since McPhee’s death.
“I mean the person I loved got killed by another person that I loved and it ruined my whole life. It’s been really hard. Unbelievably hard. Something you’d think you’d never have to witness — a mother shooting her son. It’s surreal. It’s unbelievable.”
During cross-examination, Kazakoff told defence lawyer Brian Coleman that Dittmer was like a mother to her.
“I’m going to suggest to you that you believe Samantha shot her son Jesse,” he said.
“Yes, a zillion per cent,” Kazakoff replied.
She agreed she wanted to see Dittmer convicted. Kazakoff also agreed she hadn’t told police about Dittmer’s “evil-sounding voice” that day.
Kazakoff said she wasn’t afraid of McPhee but Dittmer was developing a fear of her son when they were arguing.
Cross-examination continues today.