September 25, 2013 - 5:40 PM
KELOWNA – The man accused in the April 2010 shooting of Brittney Irving told his cousin to keep his mouth shut after he inadvertently led police to Irving's body, a Kelowna Supreme Court jury heard today.
Jason Labonte became forever linked with the case when Joelon Verma, who is on trial for Irving's murder, called him and asked for his help the same night Irving went missing. On April 6, 2010, Verma's truck got stuck in the snow on a remote area near McCulloch Road and Highway 33 and he called Labonte for help. Labonte was familiar with the area because they hiked there together the year before.
“He told me just to come up by myself,” Labonte said.
When he arrived Verma was standing by his truck and then helped hook up the tow rope between their vehicles. They didn't say much and drove off in separate directions, Labonte told the court.
But when police came to Labonte a few weeks later investigating Irving's disappearance, he told them about the incident and even drove them to the exact location. By the following day, police found Irving's body not far from there.
The month after Irving's body was found, Joelon Verma exchanged a series of text messages with his cousin.
In one conversation Labonte messaged Verma: "not very happy about what I got dragged into," to which Verma replied: "I bet not, I got dragged into it too."
Later—after police found Irving's body—Verma told his cousin he wanted to meet. Labonte said he felt nervous about meeting Verma at an unknown location while the homicide investigation was on-going.
"I didn't want to be in that situation," he told the court.
In a May 27, 2010 text, Verma said: "I was told by an official at the gym to tell you to shut the fuck up." Labonte replied: "I didn't do anything."
“I know you didn't do anything, it's what you said," Verma replied, followed by: “I told you to keep your fucking mouth shut man.”
The defence will cross-examine the witness tomorrow.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013