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Former Vernon teacher testifies at own trial

Deborah Ashton leaving court Thursday, nearly finished with a five-year ordeal.
March 15, 2013 - 9:34 AM


UPDATE: 2 p.m. March 15

By Charlotte Helston

Deborah Ashton returned to the witness stand today, two years after allegedly lying under oath in her first trial. Ashton, now 48, is charged with two counts of perjury for a pair of statements she made while accused of sexually assaulting her young student. She was acquitted of those charges last year after a 2011 mistrial.

"I'm cautious to make as correct a statement as I can today," Ashton said while under cross examination with Crown counsel Don Mann.

The Crown attacks the veracity of two answers Ashton gave in her 2011 testimony. The first is her response to a question about a bracelet the alleged victim said was a birthday gift from her. She was asked if the bracelet was an item she purchased for the accused. Her response was, "No, I can't tell you that."

Mann used the evidence given Tuesday by the owner of Furmanek Jewelers, who confirmed he located a receipt for the  bracelet in question. The bracelet is unique because it is engraved with the words "I go with you"—a phrase Ashton said holds no significance to her.

Ashton corrected Mann when he said she went to Furmanek Jewelers. "I understand its been suggested I went to the jewelers," she said. "As I answered on the day of, I continue to have no memory with regards to the purchase of the bracelet."

She recognized the type of bracelet—the complainant's mother had shown her the family's collection of the "religious" bangles, had even let her try them on. She admitted to giving some gifts to the complainant and his brother, including a razor the younger boy specifically asked for. But she denied any memory of the bracelet, as well as a necklace and some rocks the complainant said he received at the same time.

Mann used a transcript of Ashton's 2011 testimony to show she clearly remembered "not" giving the necklace, which he said was different from not remembering anything about the bracelet.

"It's obvious you had a specific memory that you did not purchase the necklace," Mann said. He wondered why there was no such specific memory about the bracelet. He said the words purchased and gave were "synonymous" in some cases.

"You knew the allegation was you gave him the bracelet," Mann said.

"(When asked) I assigned myself to the memory of purchasing that item," Ashton said, reminding Mann she still had no memory of buying the bracelet.

Ashton said the reason she remembered certain gifts—like the razor—was because they fell on special occasions, like Christmas.

Mann then changed gears and began interrogating Ashton on the second count of perjury—that she lied when she testified she was always the one who picked up her son from daycare. When Ashton's ex-husband Mike Jellema testified, he confirmed evidence in the daycare's attendance records that he was the one who picked up their son most of the time. Their daughter, Hailey Jellema said while her father may have picked her brother up from time to time, he didn't take him home. She said her brother "didn't trust" their dad, and that instead of taking him home, he dropped him off at Mission Hill Elementary where Ashton coached basketball after school. Hailey remembers because she spent her after-school hours at the school with her mom and brother.

"I answered too quickly, I assigned myself to the memory of me (and the kids) going home together after school," Ashton said today. "For the most part, I was the primary caregiver. I should have been more cautious—I regret it."

She said her husband became very disconnected from the family, and alluded to trauma the kids experienced when Jellema took them to Vancouver with him for a few days.

"I remember having to debrief them when they got back," Ashton said. "When you ask me about the shared responsibility (of the pick-up) I assign myself to that stressful year. At that time, Mr. Jellema was not an equitable parent."

Ashton was the defense's last witness. Final submissions are expected from both parties this afternoon.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call (250)309-5230


9 a.m. March 15

By Charlotte Helston

The accused in a perjury trial is expected to take the stand today in defense of two statements she made under oath during a sexual assault trial two years ago. Deborah Ashton, 48, is on her third trial in three years, fighting to get her life back after being charged with having a sexual relationship with her grade seven student. That was nine years ago. 

Ashton's first trial ended in a hung jury in 2011. She was acquitted of all charges by a judge in her second trial in 2012. She can't believe she's now back a third time for allegedly misleading the court in her first trial. 

The case revolves around a bracelet inscribed with the words "I go with you" and the drop-off and pick-up routine the family had for their youngest child. Court heard the relevant parts of Ashton's 2011 testimony yesterday. 

When the Crown asked the accused if she could say whether or not the bracelet in question was purchased by her as a gift for the alleged victim, Ashton replied, "No sir, I can't tell you that."

Later in the recording, Ashton is asked what the arrangements were for picking up her son from daycare. "I did all the pick up," Ashton stated.

After three days of testimony, the court has learned that wasn't exactly true. Daycare attendance records reveal Ashton's ex-husband, Mike Jellema was most often the one to pick their child up from daycare in the evenings. His daughter, Hailey Jellema, testified her father only picked her little brother up "a handful of times" because her brother "didn't want to be alone with (him)". She said sometimes her dad would pick him up but would drop him off at school with Hailey. There, the kids would play together and wait for Ashton to finish coaching basketball. These are vivid memories for now 19-year-old Hailey Jellema.

When shown the bracelet during his testimony, the alleged victim said he received it from Ashton for his birthday, when he was in grade eight. His memories of that day are blurred, and Ashton's defense lawyer G. Jack Harris questioned the veracity of his evidence. A local Vernon jeweler matched the bracelet's information, given to him by officer Susan Kolibaba, to a receipt for the engraving—not the purchase.

Harris drew Supreme Court Justice Geoff Barrow's attention to the specifics of the bracelet charge yesterday in court, and it appears this will have some significance in the outcome of the trial. Ashton is charged with having knowingly made, with intent to mislead, an affirmation to the question: Can you tell the court if you purchased the bracelet as a gift for the complainant? Her answer was simply that she couldn't say.

The Crown led no evidence about the purchase of the bracelet, only the engraving.

Barrow will have to be satisfied the Crown has proven Ashton made a false statement, knew it was false and intended to mislead by making a false statement if he is to rule her guilty of the charges. 

"Not all counts relate to perjury," Barrow said yesterday, noting if Ashton mispoke, or was convinced she was telling the truth, the charges would be null.

Court resumes at 10 a.m. today. Stay with InfoTel News for more.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call (250)309-5230

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
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