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Jury to decide if North Okanagan man was too drunk, stoned to form intent for murder

Police attended this rural Trinity Valley Road residence June 19, 2014 to investigate the shooting.
September 22, 2016 - 1:30 PM

VERNON - The fate of a North Okanagan man who fatally shot his girlfriend two years ago lies in the hands of the jury.

That Howard Everett Krewson, 57, shot Linda Marie Stewart, also known as Linda Ross, is not in dispute. It’s the difference in whether or not he formed the intent to kill her that will determine if he is guilty of second degree murder, or the lesser charge of manslaughter.

If you believe Krewson’s defence lawyer Donna Turko, Krewson was severely intoxicated the evening of June 19, 2014 when he put a bullet into Stewart’s back. She told the six-man, six-woman jury the combined effects of alcohol, marijuana and prescription pills left him unable to perceive the consequences of his actions.

“His mental capacity for even shooting the gun was clouded or diminished in great capacity,” Turko said.

The jury heard from 15 witnesses including police officers, toxicologists, psychiatrists, and the accused himself — but Turko said the most important evidence came from Stewart herself through a phone conversation she had with a friend as the incident was unfolding.

The friend, who testified in court, said Stewart told her Krewson was kicking things around, acting crazy and throwing marijuana at the dogs. Stewart also told her he was “drunk on drugs” but that she thought she could get the situation under control. This, in Turko’s view, suggested he was not thinking straight.

Krewson himself said he has no memory of shooting Stewart or himself — he was found bleeding on the couch with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the side of his face. He testified his last memory after drinking as many as nine beers, smoking marijuana ever hour, and consuming wine and prescription pills was of putting a slice of lime in his beer.

Turko argued Krewson could not form the necessary intent for second degree murder, and urged the jury to come back with a verdict of manslaughter.

“Taking a life is a terrible thing, but it’s also terrible to convict somebody for a wrong offence,” she said.

Crown counsel Shirley Meldrum argued it is clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Krewson knew what he was doing and had the intent to kill Stewart. She recounted the phone conversation Stewart made, which spanned much of the incident and paints a picture of what was going on. Stewart reportedly told Krewson ‘If you don’t calm down, Judy is going to call the police’ after which she mumbles to her friend, ‘oh great, he’s threatening to kill himself.’

Stewart said she was going to leave and Krewson followed her to the garage, Meldrum said. Stewart got into the car with her dogs and tried to leave but Krewson locked the door. She got out to unlock it, and then, still on the phone, told her friend Krewson is behind her.

“Within minutes he returned from the house having located the handgun,” Meldrum said.

Stewart then said ‘oh god, he’s got a gun.’

Two shots were fired into the vehicle, one of them fatally injuring Stewart, who was found slumped over in the car with her dogs. Krewson testified the gun was his and that he used it for target practice, which meant he knew its power and what it could do, Meldrum said. She added he had to pull the hammer back and press the trigger — something he did not once, but twice, before firing another shot into his face.

Cpl. Henry Proce, the first officer on scene, testified that when he asked Krewson if he shot Linda, the accused said, ‘yes, yes I did. We were drinking, I took some pills. Sleeping pills, I think. I didn’t mean to. Can I get some water please?’

“Twenty to 30 minutes after the shooting, he’s already able to assess the situation. Already, he’s able to say ‘she’s in the car. We were drinking and I took some pills, and I didn’t mean to,’” Meldrum said.

She encouraged the jury to assess Krewson’s credibility on the stand, pointing out his memory seemed to come and go.

Blood samples taken a few hours after the incident indicate Krewson’s impairment would have been mild to moderate at the time of the shooting — not severe enough to negate his intent, Meldrum said. Turko, however, told the jury not to put much weight on the toxicology report due to apparent errors or inconsistencies. For example, she pointed out the tests didn’t show fentanyl — a drug he was supposedly given by paramedics — in his system. She said either the drug wasn’t given, or there was an error in the blood test. Crown rebutted that argument, stating the toxicologist indicated the fentanyl could have been eliminated from his blood within that time frame.

The jury is expected to receive instructions from Supreme Court Justice Frank Cole tomorrow morning, Sept. 23, after which they will begin deliberations.

Previous stories on the trial can be found here. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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