KAMLOOPS - After a police officer told a man he was being charged with criminal negligence causing death on April 25, 2013, he was confused and said he had no idea whose death he caused — at the time no one had died at all.
The charges changed for David Peter Gordon, born 1980, who now faces two counts of arson and one count of manslaughter in the death of Cheryl William, 44. Today, Oct. 16 was the second day of his jury trial in Kamloops Supreme Court.
William died four days following the event, but at the time of the accused's arrest, police treated the file as though she’d already died.
Rose Dunsmore, an RCMP constable at the time, read Gordon’s charges to him in the cellblock of the RCMP detachment and was under cross-examination by Gordon’s lawyer on the stand today.
Dunsmore said her watch commander approved the charges against the accused who was arrested after his home on St. Paul Street caught fire. He and his roommate managed to escape the blaze, but William remained in the home throughout the episode. She was later removed from the home by emergency responders and it was determined she sustained a brain injury due to smoke inhalation.
Dunsmore said when she read the charges to Gordon, he was upset, confused and smelled of alcohol.
“Did it appear to you that he was confused?” Ken Tessovitch, Gordon’s lawyer, asked.
Dunsmore replied yes.
“He was confused about who he was charged with harming?” Tessovitch asked.
Dunsmore said Gordon didn’t understand the charge or what he was arrested for.
“His responses were — and I won’t quote — but basically stated ‘I am? For what? I didn’t kill my wife; you've got the wrong guy,’” she said.
"As an experienced police officer, you understand the importance of arresting someone under the correct offence. Do you understand that when you arrest somebody alleging a death, that can have an impact on someone? It might affect how that person sees their position. Would you agree?” Tessovitch asked.
“I agree,” Dunsmore said.
Tessovitch asked Dunsmore several questions on why his client’s right to call a lawyer was suspended for some time. Dunsmore replied it was Gordon’s behaviour and a brief escape attempt which made the officers nervous to remove his handcuffs in order for him to make a phone call.
The accused was left in his cell with no further arrangements for him to contact a lawyer, Tessovitch said.
Cpl. Sheri Mancini entered Gordon’s cell later that morning to take photographs and swabs of his hands for traces of DNA to use in the arson investigation. In her testimony which followed Dunsmore’s, she said Gordon’s behaviour was ‘uncooperative’.
“Overall Mr. Gordon was uncooperative however he was compliant with my requests,” she said. “(He was) agitated and making remarks that were somewhat odd. He had told me at one point that I was uninvited to his wedding, making comments that I was looking up his dress. (He) said I was going to get the worst of it… referring to beating me up, I suppose."
Included in Mancini’s photographs were pictures of Gordon’s injuries. She noted scars and freshly healed vertical cuts on his arm.
“He told me that he had slit his wrists using a steak knife,” she said.
The trial is expected to continue this afternoon.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at email@example.com, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.