Conflict of interest delays sentencing in Kamloops, Vernon crime spree case | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Conflict of interest delays sentencing in Kamloops, Vernon crime spree case

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

KAMLOOPS - A man who seriously injured two people after crashing a stolen vehicle into their car pleaded guilty in Kamloops court yesterday.

The crash happened after a crime spree in Vernon and Kamloops, which involved a couple stealing lottery tickets from several gas stations.

Roderick Mervin Bailey, born in 1973, appeared in Kamloops Provincial Court yesterday, Dec. 8 to enter his plea in front of Judge Len Marchand Jr. He pleaded guilty to theft, theft of a motor vehicle, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

But Marchand wasn’t able to give a decision on sentencing, instead judges had to be swapped due to a conflict.

Marchand told the court that while his father, Len Marchand Sr., was in hospital this past June, he was put in a bed next to Marilyn Allison, one of the victims of the car crash. Allison’s husband Robert was also involved in the crash and Marchand said he spoke with Robert about Marilyn’s condition and the accident. Marchand didn’t realize there was a conflict until he saw Robert in the courtroom.

Bailey said he would prefer to have a different judge on the case.

Judge Christopher Cleaveley has now taken over and a new date for sentencing will be fixed in the New Year.

Before the conflict came up, court heard from Crown prosecutor Satinder Sidhu who explained the circumstances of the offences. She is asking for a five-year jail sentence.

On May 23, the owner of an Esso gas station in Armstrong reported a theft. Sidhu told the court a man and woman went inside the station to ask for directions and grab a cup of coffee.

While the woman, later identified as Jodi Pechawis, got a cup of coffee, Bailey pulled out a map and asked the gas station clerk for directions. As a distraction, Pechawis spilled the cup of coffee. When the clerk went to help her, Bailey stole about $300 worth of lottery tickets. The couple took off in what was later identified as a vehicle stolen from Saskatchewan.

Sidhu says about four hours later a similar report came in from the Shell gas station on Okanagan Landing Road in Vernon. In this case, the woman had asked for ice cream from the back of the store. While the clerk went to get it, Bailey stole a tray of lottery tickets, also valued at around $300.

The next day, a couple entered the Mac's convenience store on Tranquille Road in Kamloops. The woman approached the counter and began asking the clerk about slushies, court heard. While that was happening, Bailey stole another tray of lottery tickets valued at around $150 to $200. A bypasser saw the man leave the store with the tray and thought it was suspicious, so he wrote down the license plate and noted the vehicle was a Suzuki Vitara.

Two days later, a similar incident in Merritt. The couple used the coffee distraction again at the Shell gas station and made off with $460 worth of scratch tickets.

On May 27, a police officer spotted a vehicle with a similar description parked on the corner of Aspen Street and Tranquille Road in Kamloops. The officer approached the Suzuki, found the identification number, and confirmed the vehicle was stolen.

The officer asked for a tow truck so they could begin investigating, but Sidhu says within seconds Bailey and Pechawis got into the stolen vehicle. The officer told them they were under arrest but they drove away.

Another officer spotted the Suzuki on the Overlanders Bridge heading downtown. Another marked police vehicle put their lights and sirens on and began following the stolen vehicle.

Sidhu says the Suzuki was weaving in and out of traffic and travelling at a high speed, blowing through a red light at Seymour and 1 Avenue. The officers decided to end the chase to protect the public.

A short time later, an officer pulled up to a two-car accident on Battle Street and 8 Avenue. There were no emergency responders on scene yet, but one of the vehicles involved was a Suzuki Vitara. By the time officers arrived, there were no occupants in that vehicle.

Sidhu says a witness stopped to help after seeing the accident. He pulled his Ford Focus over and called 911. He got out of the vehicle to see if everyone was alright, but Bailey and Pechawis got out of the Suzuki and hijacked the witness's Ford Focus.

The other vehicle belonged to the Allisons. Marilyn was unconscious in the passenger seat, while Robert was unresponsive in the driver's seat.

Sidhu says the couple were seriously injured.

"Mrs. Allison suffered a broken neck... broken sternum... broken wrist," she said.

That was as far into submissions as Sidhu could get before Marchand asked Robert about their experience at the hospital together. Once Robert confirmed they had met, Bailey said he was no longer comfortable having Marchand on the case.

When the case was originally brought to court, it was revealed someone in the Kamloops Crown Counsel office had been a witness to part of the crime spree, so Sidhu was brought in from New Westminster.

Bailey asked for the case to be moved to New Westminster First Nation court, but Sidhu is opposed to that.

"There's a local, community connection to this case," Sidhu said.

With Judge Cleaveley now presiding, the sentencing hearing has been adjourned. Lawyers will be back in court on Jan. 9, 2017 to fix a date for a new sentencing hearing. Defence lawyer Raj Basra may file a change of venue application.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 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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