June 16, 2016 - 8:30 AM
KAMLOOPS - A key witness took the stand in a Kamloops Supreme Court yesterday after returning to the city on a witness warrant.
After catching a glimpse of who they believe is one of two men who broke into their motel room, Alicia Pala and her boyfriend Abhishek Chandra took off to Vancouver before they were set to testify last month.
Warrants had to be issued for Pala and Chandra, who Crown lawyer Joel Gold says are terrified of testifying because they have a six-month-old daughter and want to protect her.
Last October, Chandra and Pala were staying at the Columbia Motor Inn in Kamloops when their door was knocked down by two men, alleged to be Dustin Braaten and Corey Santoro.
Pala told the court yesterday, June 15, her and Chandra had moved to Kamloops from Vancouver so they could raise their child in a better place.
She said they were laying in bed with the lights off when they heard a bang on the door, and saw it fall down. Pala testified there were two men. One tall and skinny, who Pala recognized as another resident of the motel, the other she describes as 'chubbier'. The larger man was holding a bat and wearing gloves according to Pala. Pala said jewelry, cell phones, money and a laptop were taken during the robbery.
The men told Pala to go to the Husky across the street and get him smokes. Pala said she grabbed her shoes and ran downstairs to the motel's management office where she waited for Abhishek, and for the manager called 911.
Cpl. Jeff Bingley responded to the scene, and in court yesterday morning he produced a short aluminum baseball bat as a piece of evidence.
While on the stand, Pala said she recognized the bat as the one the larger man held in her hotel room but the defence argued that, bringing up her original statement to the police. Defence lawyer Brad Smith pointed out Pala originally said the bat was 'silver or something' and that she couldn't recall exactly what colour it was.
But Pala said she knew it was the same one as soon as she saw it in the courtroom. She also identified Braaten in court as the 'tall' and 'skinny' suspect.
Smith said given how quickly things took place, she couldn't possibly be able to give a completely positive identification of either suspect. Pala says the incident lasted about a minute, but Smith said it more likely lasted around 10 seconds.
Chandra is expected to testify in court Wednesday morning, June 16.
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