Appearing in Courtroom 205 this morning, Wednesday April 11,2018 before Superior Court Justice Terrence Platana for his jury trial is 42 year old BENJAMIN RONALD MARKI.
He’s led into the prisoner’s box by TBPS Special Constables Jason and Ryan who are always ready. Ben Marki has his handcuffs removed for the day. Marki is about 5’7” tall and average build. He’s wearing a light gray sweater with black horizontal stripe at mid chest level around circumference of torso and lighter coloured pants. Clean shaven with short hair. Has a bald spot of approximately 4” diameter on top back area of head.
He’s accused of murdering 60 year old Wilfred Pott and 50 year old Anne Chuchmuch on December 27,2015.
MARKI is represented by local lawyers George Joseph and Christin Marrello. Crown Attorney Andrew Sadler and Katrina van Kessel are presenting the case for the Crown. Victim Services representative Shannon is in the body of the court guiding family members through this difficult process as always.
There are several members of the public in the body of the court and even some local paid media establishments decided to make a rare appearance to report.
Local paid media rarely appears in court. In fact they missed the last manslaughter guilty plea, but they are going to be here throughout this jury trial.
There are 12 jury members, 9 women and 3 men.
First witness today is TBPS Officer Braydan Beck. He’s been a police officer for almost 6 years and testifies that on December 27, 2015 he responded to a dropped 911 call at 391 Brant Street.
Upon arrival at 10:33 PM, he observed firefighters next door performing chest compressions on a male outside and set up to fight fire in attached 387 Brant St. home. Officer Beck ensured the neighbour got out of home safely and into the warmth and safety of other neighbour’s home. Beck observed Marki coming from left side of house trying to go into front of house. He had to stop Marki from going into the burning house by putting hand on his shoulder.
Marki had 1 foot in the door and said he was going for dogs. The dogs were spotted outside and Officer Beck went with Marki and pets to the neighbour’s garage at 351 Hastings Place.
THE NEIGHBOUR’S GARAGE.
Marki told Officer Beck several things in neighbour’s garage starting at 10:49pm but the Officer testifies the stories and timelines don’t make sense. Marki said he walked to the bus stop and stood waiting for bus. He heard sirens coming from area of his home and suspected it was 387 Brant St. He ran back and opened front door but smoke was heavy and dropped him to his knees. He went around back of house where neighbour spotted him and told him to get away. Marki handed a dog over the fence to neighbour. Another Police Officer has arrived and spoke privately to Beck to inform him the victim Anne Chuchmuch had been stabbed repeatedly. Beck does not share that information with a Marki.
Officer Beck testifies that Marki further told him earlier in day, he went to the Mission to get cigarettes and returned home at 3:30pm and did not eat supper. He left at 8:30pm to take the dogs for a walk.
Officer Beck smelled alcohol almost immediately on Marki who explained he was a heavy drinker and had vodka and root beer concealed in Gatorade bottle. Marki is not stumbling but his conversation is all over the place. After midnight, Marki begins making suspicious statements to Officer Beck.
“I’m going to be arrested for this, I know it”
“I’m the person most eligible to go to jail”
“I should have jumped on the bus and took off”
“I’m going to jail, I know how this works”
“I’m not an idiot, I know how this works”
“Might as well arrest me now, I know how this works”.
LEAVING THE GARAGE
OfFicer Beck testifies that the Criminal Investigations Branch wants a video statement from Marki at the Balmoral Police Station. At 12:03am on December 28,2015. Two officers escort Marki and 2 dogs to police cruiser.
The neighbour Robert Guitard, who owns the garage comes out to flag down Officer Beck to come back to try get cat that belonged to Chuchmuch and Pott that was in his garage. Guitard notices 2 knives on the right side running board of his blue Polaris snowmobile that weren’t there earlier in the day when he was working on it.
Another officer Hagstrom arrived and they treated the garage as part of the crime scene. Officer Hay and Officer Beck took Marki along with 2 dogs to the animal shelter near Balmoral Station. Marki punched the wall at animal shelter very hard and was agitated about leaving animals there. They leave shelter, Marki is very upset and Officer Beck formally detains him for investigative purposes. Marki has a heightened level of agitation according to Beck’s testimony.
At the police station, Marki is interviewed by the Criminal Investigations Detectives. After the interview, police offer him a ride. Marki wants to go to Tim Horton’s on East Ave. Officer Beck drops him off there.
CROSS EXAMINATION BY DEFENCE ON OFFICER BECK.
Beck testifies the front door of house was open and he had to physically restrain Marki from going in. He doesn’t recall seeing Marki cry but he appeared concerned about the animals. Marki was never left alone by Officer Beck.
Beck says he never sat down in the garage. Marki referred to Chuchmuch and Pott as “Mom & Dad”. Marki exhibited signs of concern about the dogs. The black dog Zeus had significant amount of blood like substance on right side and back.
Marki found out in the police cruiser looking at computer screen in car that Pott had died and it magnified his emotions. Beck says Marki’s story changed frequently.
OFFICER BRAYDAN BECK IS DONE
NEIGHBOUR ROBERT GUITARD TESTIFIES.
Robert Guitard is the neighbour at 351 Hastings Pl. testifies he heard popping sounds and saw flickering lights reflecting off his garage at 9:30pm that evening from his bedroom. He took a closer look and seen “Anne & Willie’s” house on fire. He spotted the fire at the rear door window of house and seen smoke. He told his wife to call Fire Department and went to move his pickup truck out of his driveway because of smoke blowing in that direction.
Guitard spotted figure in the dark near the back door and told him to get away. Guitard spotted two dogs running around back yard. He didn’t recognize Ben Marki until he got closer because it was dark. The little dog Gizmo was handed over the fence and the big dog Zeus came with a leash. The cat followed. He talked with Ben in garage with animals present. Spoke quickly with a firefighter and then police came into garage to talk.
Guitard testifies Marki told him he came back from walking dog and noticed house on fire. He notices blood on Marki’s hands and thought Marki cut himself. Guitard hands paper towel to Marki to wipe his hands. Marki wipes them and looks for a garbage can. Guitard tells him to throw it on floor.
THE BLUE POLARIS SNOWMOBILE.
Guitard was working in his garage earlier in the day installing Hot Grips on his Polaris. He left his garage at 5:30pm. The job was not finished. He left his electrical tools on snowmobile. Would finish job next day. There was no knives on his snowmobile. He locked the garage. He is the only one with key.
He describes his relationship with Anne and Willie as “neighbours over the fence”. He says Anne was loud because Willie was hard of hearing. Willie told neighbour he met Ben in jail. Anne had blamed the drowning death of a Jack Russell dog on Ben. There were 2 previous fires at 387 Brant within the 12 months of Dec 27/15 fire. A shed in back yard burned and a boat burned. Neighbour Guitard didn’t see the boat burn but he was aware of shed fire.
Defence lawyer George Joseph is seeking clarity on the dogs and the status of how dogs got to garage.
Guitard is adamant that Zeus was on a leash and smaller dog Gizmo was handed over fence. George Joseph continues to challenge him on this. Guitard maintains his position that Zeus was on a leash.
Joseph reads transcript from the preliminary hearing in April 2017 where Guitard says the cat was handed over fence. He says today that it was the dog.
Guitard says he never left Marki alone in garage. He had back turned to him a few times but was there the whole time.
SITTING ON THE BLUE POLARIS SNOWMOBILE
Guitard states that Marki sat briefly in a side saddle position on his snowmobile. Guitard says the snowmobile was on a dolly and he didn’t want Ben on there. That’s why he got a plastic chair for Ben. Ben spent most of the time on plastic chair.
George Joseph is focusing on this statement saying it’s the first time Guitard has ever said this. He goes back through his police statement and preliminary hearing testimony. But Guitard is resolute in his testimony that Benjamin Marki sat on the blue Polaris snowmobile. The back and forth between George Joseph and the witness causes Justice Platana to interject a few times.
His Honour asks Robert Guitard to listen to whole question before answering and tells George Joseph to be fair to witness and clarify his questions. His Honour Platana has been reading the preliminary hearing transcript and thinks the questioning can be more clear.
TESTIMONY OF ROBERT GUITARD IS COMPLETE
DAY 2 IS COMPLETE.
PATHOLOGIST EXPECTED TO TESTIFY FOR DAY 3.