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Teen accused of murder discussed stabbing before incident, witness testifies

A close friend of a boy accused of murder told a Courtenay courtroom Friday that he and the accused were in a "deep conversation ...."

A close friend of a boy accused of second-degree murder told a Courtenay courtroom Friday that he and the accused were in a "deep conversation ... how you wouldn't want to stab someone" hours before James Denton was killed last year.

The B.C. Supreme Court courtroom, which has been filled to capacity with friends and family of Denton and the accused since the trial began June 4, heard how the friend and accused were drinking near the Vanier track before and while they attended the nearby Rhythm on the Rock Music Festival on July 23.

As Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines noted in his opening statement, Denton, 19, was stabbed twice last July — once in the left armpit and once in the left lower back — near the entrance to G.P. Vanier Secondary School following the conclusion of the day-long music festival at the nearby Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.

Baines added Denton collapsed almost immediately and was unresponsive. He later died of the two stab wounds at St. Joseph's General Hospital in Comox.

The witness testified while he and the accused were taking shots out of a 26-ounce bottle of whisky, they began their conversation. He explained to Crown counsel that they were "talking about life — how things happen really quick. How you wouldn't want to stab someone because you can mess up someone's life so quickly."

He also told Crown he knew the accused to own a buck knife but was unsure at the time if he was carrying it on him.

The witness confirmed he was "pretty drunk" after he and the accused returned about four times back and forth from the festival to the track area to finish the bottle of alcohol, and confirmed to Crown he believed the accused was drunk.

The suspect, dressed in a white dress shirt and black pants, avoided eye contact with the gallery but scribbled notes on a notepad and looked up at the witness as he sat in the prisoner's dock to the right of his lawyer, Victoria-based Michael Mulligan.

The 16-year-old accused cannot be identified because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

During cross-examination, Mulligan asked the witness if, while being confronted by a larger, older group of boys near the intersection of Schellinck Drive and Headquarters Road, if it was "pretty scary for the group of boys?"

"Yes," the witness replied, and confirmed he believed the larger group was going to fight them.

Monday, court heard from two RCMP witnesses — Staff Sgt. Andrew Isles and Sgt. Paul West, both of whom were on duty and attended the incident July 23.

Isles testified that about an hour before the stabbing, he stopped Denton, who was standing on the side of Headquarters Road urinating into a ditch, during regular patrols of the area.

Denton produced a valid driver's licence and Isles noted Denton "was in good spirits" during the course of their four-minute conversation.

"He told me he had about four to five beers. I was assessing his sobriety and he was telling me he was very excited about a job he just got with BC Hydro," he said, as some friends and family members in the gallery began to cry.

"Mr. Denton had been drinking, but I had not considered him to be drunk," Isles added.

Mulligan, during cross-examination, told court Denton's blood-alcohol level, which was taken at the hospital later in the evening, was 172 mg per 100 ml of blood, more than double the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

Mulligan questioned Isles on the degree of impairment of someone with that blood-alcohol reading, which Isles said depends on a variety of factors, but could include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and emotional highs and lows.

West told court he rode with Denton in the back of the ambulance for the 10-minute ride to the hospital after he initially attended the scene because he was concerned with the "very poor prognosis (of Denton)."

Denton did not show any signs of life while lying on the ground near the intersection, West testified.

Crown counsel was expected to present two more witnesses Tuesday, followed by closing statements later this week by he and Mulligan. Crown previously indicated he would seek an adult sentence if the accused is convicted.

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Erin Haluschak

About the Author: Erin Haluschak

Erin Haluschak is a journalist with the Comox Valley Record since 2008. She is also the editor of Trio Magazine...
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