June 30, 2014 - 11:50 AM
KAMLOOPS - A B.C. man convicted in a 1999 murder and the "calculated" coverup that followed should be imprisoned for nearly a decade, the Crown says.
Rob Smith, 46, was found guilty in March of manslaughter and offering an indignity to human remains.
Smith's drinking buddy, Sandy Charlie, was 48 when he went missing from Lytton in December 1999.
Smith was a suspect as early as 2007 but police did not have enough evidence to make an arrest.
That changed in September 2011, when an excavator doing work on Crown land accidentally unearthed Charlie’s remains, leading to an RCMP undercover operation and a confession.
Crown lawyer Tim Livingston said during a sentencing hearing that Smith should be locked up for between seven-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half years, plus given credit for nearly two years in custody.
Livingston called Smith’s actions in covering up Charlie’s death calculated and said he deserves a harsh sentence given the motivation behind the beating death — that Charlie “ratted” on Smith regarding a domestic assault.
“Mr. Charlie was assaulted for doing the right thing,” Livingston said.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Meiklem reserved his decision until July 15.
Court heard Smith has a criminal history with more than 20 convictions dating back to 1986, including multiple assaults.
The four-month sting following the discovery of Charlie's body culminated in a videotaped confession in August 2012. Smith was arrested a few days later and has been in custody since then.
During the trial, jurors watched the videotaped confession of Smith describing the night of Charlie’s death to an undercover Mountie posing as the leader of a powerful criminal organization.
“I ended up killing somebody and I just dug a hole and put him in it,” Smith said.
He said he beat Charlie into unconsciousness twice within a few minutes, adding he was upset with the man for co-operating with police on a domestic assault allegation for which Smith was arrested in April 1999.
Smith said he dragged Charlie down a flight of stairs and left him outside unconscious. When he went back to check on the man 10 minutes later, Charlie was dead.
Charlie was buried near property adjacent to a home belonging to Smith’s then-girlfriend.
Taking the stand in his own defence, Smith told the jury he knocked Charlie out but did not kill him. He said Charlie woke up after being punched and left under his own power.
Charlie’s son, Sandy Nolan Cleghorn, died while looking for his missing father in January 2000. Cleghorn’s body was found on the Fraser River near Lytton on March 12, 2000.
Court also heard victim-impact statements from two of Charlie’s daughters.
Tracy Cleghorn said she’s been “like a lost soul” since her father disappeared.
“I cried myself to sleep wondering, 'Where are you Dad?'” the statement read.
“I felt very lost without my dad all these years.”
Jody Cleghorn said she started drinking and using drugs after Charlie vanished.
“I miss my dad more than anything in this world,” she said. “He was the kindest, most gentle man I knew.”
Both women said in their statements that they were bothered by the fact a number of people in Lytton seemed to know Smith was involved, but he wasn’t charged for nearly 14 years.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014