March 26, 2015 - 7:34 PM
PENTICTON - The man accused of shooting three people and killing two of them in Princeton two years ago, says he couldn’t have done—he doesn’t even own a handgun.
The trial of John Ike Koopmans, 51, switched from the Crown’s case to the defence case today and defence lawyer Don Skogstad put his client before jurors in the Penticton Supreme Court. Koopmans is accused of the second degree murders of Keith Wharton and his girlfriend Rose Fox, and the attempted murder of Bradley Martin at a rural residence located on Old Hedley Road just outside of Princeton in March, 2013.
“Do you own a handgun?” Skogstad asked.
“No,” Koopmans replied.
“Did you commit the crimes you are accused of?” Skogstad asked.
“No,” Koopmans said.
Koopmans testified he and Keith Wharton were good friends who had similar welding abilities. He said the welding shop on the Wharton property kept busy with a contract to repair aluminum wheels from transport trucks. He said Keith Wharton "found drugs and lost enthusiasm for the job.”
He said Bradley Martin had a problem with his relationship with Keith, often interrupting them and demanding to know what they were doing. He said a short time before the shootings, Martin ruined a repair job on a truck transmission the two of them spent a lot of time working on. Koopmans admitted he was very frustrated at the time and called him “lots of foul things.” Earlier in the trial, jurors heard Martin say Koopmans was the shooter.
Koopmans said he once owned a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum handgun, but cut it up several years ago fearing he could lose his gun collection because the weapon was unlicenced. He said he purchased the gun at a Langley estate sale. Jurors earlier heard Koopmans once owned the gun and that police found the murder weapon — a .357 magnum — in the Similkameen river.
Before Koopmans testified, Skogstad called a character witness, who called the accused a “teddy bear” and a good friend of Wharton. Her identity is protected by a publication ban for unrelated reasons. She is known as “Miss A.”
She said she knew Koopmans in 2012, and often visited him while he worked as a welder on the Wharton property. She claimed Keith Wharton and Rose Fox were dealing drug deals on the Wharton property, owned by Keith’s mother Carol.
“There was lots of drug-related activity, phone calls, people coming in the door, running into the bathroom together,” she said, adding cash was exchanged for drugs. “I saw drug paraphernalia, crack pipes - when Keith was in the shop people were coming and going all the time.”
Koopmans was not involved in that activity, and was distressed about what was going on, she said.
“He said, ‘I promised Keith’s dad I would take care of his son,’ but it was hard for John to be a dad to a kid on a downhill slide,” the woman testified. “Everybody in town knew Keith was a drug dealer and his girlfriend was a “skank." Fox would do anything for drugs."
"Miss A" said she was very familiar with scary men and Koopmans didn’t frighten her.
“He’s a big teddy bear,” she said. Her relationship with Koopmans ended when she moved to Osoyoos. She said she heard of Koopman’s arrest and came forward on her own to “do the right thing" by appearing in court.
On cross-examination, she showed impatience with Crown Prosecutor Frank Dubenski’s questions about a previous relationship with another man that ended with criminal charges.
“I’m not on trial here,” she said.
When asked why she didn’t report the drug activity on the Wharton property, she said: “I was there to support John. He felt sorry for Carol Wharton. It was hard for him to watch. He just felt pity for the whole situation.”
The trial continues tomorrow and is expected to wrap up Monday.
To catch up on previous stories on the trial, click here.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at email@example.com or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015