Jury deciding fate of B.C. man charged with murder of victim who vanished in '99

The fate of a Lytton, B.C., man accused of a murder dating back more than a decade is now in the hands of a jury.

Rob Smith, 46, was arrested in August 2012 after an RCMP undercover operation in connection with the death of Sandy Charlie, who disappeared in 1999.

A B.C. Supreme Court jury in Kamloops has watched a videotaped confession Smith made to an undercover officer posing as a powerful gang leader. In the video, Smith described beating Charlie to death before burying his body in a shallow grave.

Court has heard Smith was a suspect as early as 2007, but wasn't arrested due to a lack of evidence.

But in September 2011, Charlie's body was accidentally unearthed by an excavator doing work on Crown land near Lytton, prompting RCMP to launch the sting.

In his closing submissions Tuesday, defence lawyer Don Campbell questioned the RCMP's undercover investigation technique, involving officers posing as gangsters to gain suspects' trust and having them come clean about any previous criminal wrongdoing.

"It's a four-month-long play of cops playing robber," Campbell said.

"They get to drive around in snazzy Cadillacs, they get to flash big wads of cash, they get to grow facial hair without a boss or a wife telling them they look absurd. Essentially, they get to act the way our mothers have told us not to act our whole lives. Then they have to look at you with a straight face and say, 'We were not trying to get a confession.'"

Campbell urged jurors to consider the lack of physical evidence — apart from the videotaped confession — tying Smith to the slaying.

"If you're looking for any personal eyewitness information that says Mr. Smith killed Mr. Charlie, you'll come back with nothing," he said.

"(Police) searched the house and the property and they came back with nothing."

Campbell said Smith was lying to the undercover officers in an attempt to impress them in their roles as gangsters.

Crown lawyer Tim Livingston asked jurors to go with "what makes sense."

He said Smith would not have lied, given the extent to which the undercover Mounties went to impress upon him the importance of honesty in their fictitious criminal organization.

"Mr. Smith told the truth," Livingston said. "He told the truth because he knew the organization didn't tolerate lies. The only thing that makes sense is that the accused is guilty."

In court, Smith admitted to punching Charlie three times in the face and knocking him out, but not to killing him.

Smith said the altercation took place after Charlie called Smith a racist name.

In the videotaped confession, Smith said he was charged with domestic assault in April 1999 and that Charlie had witnessed the incident and co-operated with police.

Smith is facing one count each of manslaughter and interfering with a dead body.

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