Teen accused of murder takes stand in Courtenay courtroom

As the final witness in his second-degree murder trial, the accused said Wednesday he was terrified when confronted by a group of boys.

As the final witness in his second-degree murder trial, the accused said Wednesday he was terrified when confronted by a group of boys including James Denton, and the accused “did not think he (Denton) was going to die.”

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

As Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines noted in his opening statement, Denton, 19, was stabbed twice — 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.

The 16-year old accused, who appeared calm and slightly slouched in the witness box Wednesday morning wearing a white dress shirt and black pants, cannot be identified because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The accused told his lawyer, Victoria-based Michael Mulligan, he had previously been “beaten up really badly” the summer before at a beach party.

“I got punched on the back of the head, woke up on the ground and people were stomping on me and kicking me in the ribs. I was in and out of consciousness,” he added.

The accused testified that, following the conclusion of the festival, he walked up to his group of friends on Headquarters Road when another group approached them following a short verbal confrontation moments before.

“They were definitely a lot bigger and some were men — definitely not boys,” he said.

He noted Denton was about four feet in front of him when the accused pulled out his knife and opened it with two hands, believing Denton was able to see it by his side.

“I was very frightened at that point. I thought I was going to get beaten up. I was basically scared,” he explained.

“I said get the f*** back and (Denton) grabbed onto me. I automatically jerked my arm back,” he said, and added, “I did not want to hurt anybody that night.”

He later told court he ran from the scene, and took a route down Vanier Road, through a trail near G.P. Vanier school and eventually returned to Headquarters Road, with the intent to head to the police station to turn himself in.

Police arrested the suspect near the bushes by the intersection of Headquarters Road and the Old Island Highway minutes later.

When arresting officer Const. Nick Widdershoven — who testified in court Tuesday — told the accused hours later in police cells that Denton had died in hospital, the accused said he didn’t believe it to be true.

“I thought it was some sort of sick dream or joke. I was in shock; it probably didn’t hit me until a week later,” he explained.

When asked by Mulligan how he feels, the accused replied “I feel terrible. For the past 11 months, I feel like a lowlife. I know wishing does nothing, but I’m wishing I did something different that night.”

During cross-examination, Baines questioned the accused’s knowledge of stab wounds, particularly how it could lead to death.

“It’s complete news to you to have a four-inch blade into a person’s torso and that they could die?” he asked.

“No,” replied the accused. “It never crossed my mind,” and later said he had never heard of anyone dying or passing away from a knife stabbing.

Crown then asked if the accused had thought about using the knife as protection, particularly following the incident on the beach from the previous summer.

“I figured I would use it for protection … I never viewed it as a weapon. I viewed it as a tool,” he replied.

He told court during the incident with Denton, he was hoping to scare him off with the knife.

“I didn’t think I would actually have to use it,” he added. “I thought he would see it and that would be the end of it.”

Outside the courtroom, Dave Denton, James’ father, told media he wasn’t satisfied with the accused’s testimony.

“He’s forgetting a lot. He knows a lot, but he’s not telling a lot. He can remember a lot of fine points, but he can’t remember the fine points of what he’s done wrong,” he said.

Mulligan explained to media outside there are three possible verdicts Supreme Court Justice R.B.T. Goepel can find.

“If the judge finds that the Crown has not disproven self-defence and that is the Crown’s burden to disprove that,” he noted. “If the judge found that self-defence was applicable, that is a complete defence and he would be acquitted altogether. Another possible verdict would be the if the judge found that the Crown had not proven all of the elements of murder, including that subjective foresight of death, but that self-defence wasn’t applicable, another possible verdict could be guilty of manslaughter.”

Thursday, defence began its closing statements, which continued into the afternoon, to be followed by Crown counsel.


Just Posted

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

Artist's drawing of the proposed 52-unit affordable seniors housing project in Comox. File photo
Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society receives federal grant money

The Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society (CVAHS) has received $25,000 in grant… Continue reading

Mark Henderson’s exhibit, “Bikes and Barbies,” is now showing at Artful : The Gallery on Cumberland Road in Courtenay. Photo supplied.
New exhibit at Courtenay art gallery

Artful : The Gallery is showing art by Mark Henderson until Saturday,… Continue reading

Charles Hawkswell, Commander, of the Cape Lazo Power and Sail Squadron, presents a $1,000 cheque to the Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society. File photo
Comox removing moorage fees, hydro for Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society

Last year, the unit and society responded to more than 50 rescue missions in the past year

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident north of Courtenay nets almost 10-year sentence

Richard Daniel Vigneault was arrested without incident and faced 16 counts

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10 million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Cleanup organizer Rob McBride, left, pictured with fellow business owner/volunteer Cameron Yee. Photo supplied
Food truck owner organizes Courtenay River Slough cleanup

A weekly lunch for people in need evolved into a cleanup of… Continue reading

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10 million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

(PQB News file photo)
RCMP on the hunt for serial Rathtrevor Beach flasher

Two separate incidents noted at provincial park on April 30 and May 14

Most Read