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Jury hears eyewitness testimony in Lillooet murder trial

April 04, 2017 - 9:48 AM



KAMLOOPS - The jury trial for a Lillooet man charged with second-degree murder in the death of 61-year-old Gary Mandseth has begun in Kamloops Supreme Court.

The 12 jurors heard eyewitness testimony from Mandseth's upstairs neighbour and saw pictures of the crime scene taken by a responding police officer.

Jennifer Saelens, 33, lived in the same house as Mandseth in February 2015. She testified in court today, April 3, that she came to know the accused, Jeffery Harris, who was a friend of Mandseth's and a local cab driver.

She said Harris would attend Mandseth's basement suite frequently to purchase drugs, specifically heroin. Saelens testified she was at home Feb. 10, 2015, when she heard a commotion coming from Mandseth's basement suite.

"I heard smashing around downstairs and Gary was moaning," Saelens testified. 

She said she went downstairs and saw Mandseth holding his bleeding head, with Harris slouched over him.

"He was curled up in a ball holding his head," Saelens said. "(Harris was) stabbing him with a pick or some kind of sharp thing, and hitting him over the head with a... pipe."

Saelens testified Harris was stabbing Mandseth in the stomach while she yelled for him to stop. Saelens called for her roommate Jesse Andrew, who came downstairs and told her to go outside and call 911.

Saelens said she went outside and saw a blue SUV with two middle-aged women inside. She testified that she didn't know who the women were, but said she had seen the vehicle around town.

She said about 10 minutes later, Harris exited the home and put the pipe and the "pick" in his hoodie. Saelens said Harris went to the backseat of the vehicle and left with the women.

She testified that she went back into the home, where she saw Mandseth and the injuries he had suffered.

"I could see his brain... I could see his lung. It was hanging out a bit," Saelens said.

She told the court that Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police had arrived to the home first, followed shortly by ambulance. Const. Leonard Isaac was one officer tasked with responding to a foot pursuit of Harris, before attending the crime scene.

Isaac testified that he responded to an area of Highway 99 after a fellow officer detailed that he was pursuing a suspect in an alleged assault. He said he arrived to the location of Highway 99 where two police cruisers were pulled over.

He told the court he saw officers walking toward the highway from a creek, with Harris in their custody. Isaac then made his way over to Mandseth's residence, where he saw Saelens waving him down from outside the home.

He testified he went to where she was and saw a very bloody blanket with a person underneath.

"There was blood all over his chest, clothing, face, his hair," Isaac said. "I observed approximately seven stab wounds to his chest and belly area."

Isaac said he also saw defensive wounds on Mandseth's arms and an injury to the back of his head. He took five pictures of the crime scene and Mandseth, which were shown to the jury.

The first picture showed the entrance way to Mandseth's suite. The second showed Mandseth under a blanket, while the third, fourth and fifth pictures showed Mandseth on the ground with his clothes being cut off, blood surrounding him, and paramedics rolling him over.

In cross-examination, Isaac told defence lawyer Donna Turko he had not been aware at the time of Mandseth's criminal record which included break and enter, and robbery. He said a search of Mandseth's home resulted in two rifles and marijuana plants being found.

Crown prosecutor Chris Balison says the trial is expected to last 13 days. He says Crown plans on calling 11 witnesses to the stand.

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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