Man found not guilty after police chase ending in Merritt

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KAMLOOPS - A man charged after a lengthy police chase involving a truck, boat and trailer came to an end in Merritt has been found not guilty of all eight counts against him.

Kamloops Supreme Court Judge Hope Hyslop found Crown could not prove the identity of Mark Laite, 36, as the driver of the stolen property.

In her decision today, May 24, Hyslop said defence lawyer Sheldon Tate argued that Crown counsel did not prove it was Laite driving the stolen truck. His haircut was brought up several times during the trial, Hyslop said, and witnesses gave different descriptions of the suspect. The person Laite was travelling with had a much different hairstyle.

Hyslop said Laite, originally from Newfoundland, had hitched a ride with a man only identified as “Rob” from Red Deer, Alta to Logan Lake. In exchange for the ride, Laite provided money and drugs to Rob.

Laite says he was high for most of the trip, and only remembers bits and pieces. He does remember waking up in the white pickup truck and seeing a boat attached to the back.

Through part of the trip, the vehicle travelled behind Diamond Vale Trailer Park in Merritt. That’s where a resident heard a loud bang, and saw the truck driving through the fire lane out back. He called 911.

An officer thought he saw the suspected truck and boat travelling on Highway 97C toward Merritt. They were travelling beside each other when the driver looked over, looked away from the officer, cut in front of a car and onto the gravel shoulder of the road, Hyslop said.

While sleeping in the back, Laite remembers "Rob" yelling at him to grab his stuff and go, so he took his two bags with him. One had a black hoodie and the other had some groceries.

A homemaker who lives nearby said she heard sirens, and saw a man climbing into her backyard. After calling 911, she looked back outside to find the man had disappeared, but Judge Hyslop found Crown could also not prove it was Laite who trespassed.

He was found not guilty of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer, two counts of possession of stolen property over $5,000, break and enter with intent to commit offence, and willfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer.

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