KAMLOOPS - After an argument with his girlfriend, a man set fire to a pile of clothes in his bedroom before the flames spread throughout the home and injured an occupant who later died, a Crown prosecutor says.
David Peter Gordon, born 1980, is charged with arson and manslaughter in the death of Cheryl William, 44, the girlfriend of his roommate William Toporowski whom he shared a subdivided home with at 972 St. Paul Street. Today, Oct. 15, was the first day of his jury trial in Kamloops Supreme Court.
Crown prosecutor Neil Flanagan told jurors Gordon, his girlfriend Marie Ricard, Toporowski and William were all intoxicated the night before the incident April 24, 2013. The four went out drinking and by the time they met up at the house and all 'consumed a significant amount of alcohol,’ Flanagan said.
He said Gordon had an argument with Ricard and police were called around 1 a.m. April 25. When police left the scene they took Ricard with them and dropped her off at a safe location, Flanagan said.
Gordon remained at the home. Toporowski and William were in the living room of the house and began having sex when they heard Gordon making loud noises from the bedroom of the suite, Flanagan said.
“Annoyed by these loud noises (Toporowski) asked Mr. Gordon to stop making them,” Flanagan said. “Mr. Gordon is at or near the entrance to the living room and he tells him that there is a fire in the bedroom."
He said Toporowski tried to douse the flames before they spread and made efforts to rouse William. The two men exited the house while William was still inside with the spreading fire, Flanagan said.
William sustained a brain injury attributed to smoke inhalation. She died four days after the event.
Flanagan expects to call a number of witnesses including a waitress who served the accused at the Kami Inn, several police officers, firefighters, his roommate and the pathologist who performed the autopsy on William. The jury is expected to hear six audio recordings of conversations between RCMP officers and the accused, including one in which he admitted to setting the fire, Flanagan said.
Const. Jeremy Rands was the responding officer to the initial argument between Gordon and Ricard. He later returned after the building was on fire.
He testified he went to the residence around 1 a.m. and met with Ricard who was standing on the street. He said she was drunk and noticed Gordon was too. To calm matters, Rands took Ricard to the Emerald House Emergency Shelter on Battle Street before returning back to the RCMP detachment.
While writing up an incident report, Rands said he was called back to Gordon’s residence because it was on fire. He said he noticed the accused and his roommate standing outside.
“They appeared to be having an argument of sorts. I could hear heated conversation,” Rands said. “I recall Mr. Toporowski saying to Mr. Gordon, ‘it’s your fault’ and other accusatory statements."
Rands said Gordon was calm when he arrested him, but the mood changed once they arrived at the detachment.
“He became very agitated at that point. He began telling me he had no responsibility for the fire,” he said, adding Gordon thrashed in the backseat of the police cruiser and smashed his head on the plexiglass divider. Rands said Gordon challenged him to take off his handcuffs and fight him.
“He did inquire to where his girlfriend was; he expressed some concern for where she was. He didn’t seem to recall that I had attended and removed her from the resdience earlier,” Rands said.
He said along with another officer, he had to suspend Gordon’s right to contact a lawyer after he attempted to escape while being escorted to the phone room.
The trial before the five woman and seven man jury will continue this week.
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