Homicide or suicide? Kamloops judge will determine if man killed his prison cell mate - InfoNews

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Homicide or suicide? Kamloops judge will determine if man killed his prison cell mate

June 07, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS — It is now up to a Kamloops Supreme Court judge to determine whether or not a Kamloops inmate was responsible for killing his cellmate in 2014.

More than four years ago, Dylan Levi Judd, 20, was found dead with a red sweatshirt tied tightly around his neck in his cell at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.

His cellmate, Nathaniel Jessup, born 1987, was charged in 2018 with one count of second degree murder.

Jessup’s trial has been taking place for the last two weeks and today, June 7, lawyers met to present closing arguments to Justice Sheri Ann Donegan.

Crown prosecutors called 10 witnesses to testify, including correctional officers, medical staff, RCMP officers, and two pathologists.

An autopsy performed on Judd’s body showed he died of asphyxiation.

Crown prosecutors say Jessup was involved in causing Judd’s death while defence lawyers say Judd was mentally unstable and killed himself.

Defense lawyers, Jeremy Jensen, Jay Michi and Marshall Putnam, called a third forensic pathologist to testify who contradicted some of the opinions and findings of a Crown witness pathologist who testified earlier.

Jensen went back to Judd’s youth mental health history which shows he struggled with suicidal thoughts. Judd threatened suicide while staying at group home in Ontario, the lawyer said.

Judd was brought into custody a month prior to his death after a Sicamous RCMP officer came across an overturned stolen vehicle on a road in October 2014.

When the officer confronted a man not too far from the scene who matched the description as one of the suspects involved with the stolen vehicle, he placed him in his police vehicle. He was arrested for possession of stolen property and trespassing.

He was identified as Dylan Judd. The officer said he witnessed Judd smashing his face against the plexiglass barrier in his police vehicle. 

When he took him back to the Salmon Arm RCMP detachment to get Judd’s information for the jailing officer, he ticked the boxes ‘suicidal’, ‘escape’ and ‘mental’.

Jensen says Judd was likely in a fragile state of mind while he was in custody at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre. He explained to Justice Donegan that Judd was likely facing a federal sentence and was upset with where his life was going.

On Nov. 10, 2014, surveillance video shows Jessup leaving his cell to grab two breakfast trays just before 8 a.m. and returning back to his cell by opening the door slowly. Jensen says his client did this because he believed his cellmate was still asleep.

Jensen says Crown prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Jessup murdered Judd.

But Crown prosecutors say, Judd’s mother had spoken to her son two days before his death over the phone. She says her son sounded ‘happy’.

Prosecutor Neil Wiberg says although the officer who arrested Judd and ticked the box ‘suicidal’ while taking his information, he says the officer was more worried about Judd harming himself than anything else.

Crown lawyers showed a video surveillance clip of the night leading up to Judd’s death at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre. The video, which was played at a higher speed, shows the night shift correctional officer leave Judd and Jessup's unit several times for lengthy periods throughout the night.

Wiberg says there were frequent periods of time where there was no one inspecting the cells for times up of to 45 minutes.

Pathologists who testified stated if someone was to die from asphyxiation there would be little to no noise to alert a potential jail guard in the area.

When the cell doors unlocked the next morning, video surveillance shows Jessup leaving his cell fives times before he alerted a correctional officer that his roommate was dead.

Crown prosecutors say Judd was found on his bottom bunk with a red sweatshirt tied tightly around his neck. There was also a blanket covering him entirely from the eyebrows down.

Correctional officer Devin Pageau, who testified early in the trial, said there were no creases in the blanket when he found Judd. Defense lawyers took issue wit this piece of evidence as Pageau only brought it up to an RCMP officer years after the incident when he had already formed an opinion, and did not include it in his critical incident report when the incident first took place.

Justice Donegan will hand her decision on Jessup's fate before the end of the month.

For more stories on this case go here.

—This story was corrected at 10:14 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, 2019 to clarify evidence called by defence counsel. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 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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