Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 11, 2014

‘You are a coward and a cold-hearted criminal’

Yukon Supreme Court heard emotional statements by family members about Gordon Tubman

By Christopher Reynolds on February 11, 2014 at 3:54 pm

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'COLD-BLOODEDNESSʼ – Murder victim Gordon Tubman had a 'gentlenessʼ and 'curiosity,ʼ family members told the court yesterday. The 41-year-old Whitehorse man was shot in the head by Alexander Dennis and his body burned along with his trailer in August 2010. Dennis will be sentenced next month.

Yukon Supreme Court heard emotional statements by family members about Gordon Tubman — killed with “cold-bloodedness” by a rifle shot to the head in August 2010 — weighed against heartfelt remarks by his killer that were addressed to the victim’s loved ones in a sentencing hearing Monday.

Alexander Dennis, 21, pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder in the death of the 41-year-old Whitehorse man.

Tubman’s body was found among the burnt rubble of his trailer home on Aug. 15, 2010.

His sister, Corry Rusnak, stepped up to address Justice Ron Veale Monday afternoon, whispering to herself, “I can do this.”

She recounted the pain of “shovelling through ash and lifting burnt chunks of his house .... I can still smell that fire.”

Rusnak noted the blaze severed any tangible connection her family might have had to her brother’s memory through mementoes or keepsakes.

Tubman’s niece told the court about his phone call on her 16th birthday — the last time they spoke — weeks before his death: “I can wish upon shooting stars ... and Thanksgiving wish bones, but I can’t undo the reality that he is gone.”

Tubman’s brother-in-law, Gary Rusnak, recalled the diesel engine mechanic’s good nature: “his gentleness, his ability to fix things, his curiosity about religion, his curiosity of machines ... and his ability to find the good.”

Gary touched not only on the sorrow but the wrath such an apparently senseless act set off among his loved ones.

“This day is the day that you turned our world upside down,” his statement read.

“This is an evil person convicted of doing an evil thing….In my mind, you are a coward and a cold-hearted criminal.”

Dennis, from British Columbia’s Fraser Valley region, made his first appearance in a Whitehorse courtroom Monday morning after having agreed to a plea bargain that excluded an arson charge but admitted to the murder.

The incident, which involved alcohol, crack-cocaine and target practice with a rifle, culminated in Dennis shooting Tubman in the face and the subsequent burning of his body and trailer near a gravel pit on Copper Haul Road.

“There is a degree of cold-bloodedness or perhaps calousness to the events,” admitted defence lawyer Don Campball.

The incident was “not a product of a dispute between these individuals; there was simply no reason.”

An acquaintance of Dennis’s who reported him after they were drinking together in Vancouver said he divulged that “‘he killed some guy to see what it felt like.’”

Remaining silent through most of the proceedings, Dennis stood up Monday afternoon, close to tears, and addressed the public gallery, particularly Tubman’s family.

“I don’t think that there’s nothing I can say that’s ever going to make any of this right.

“I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with myself for a long time now,” he said, putting his right hand over his heart. “I know I did a lot of bad things in my life.”

Dressed in a red T-shirt and blue jeans with closely-cropped hair, tattoos on his arms and an inked cross under his right eye, Dennis expressed what appeared to be deep-seated remorse.

“I want to own up to what I did. I just want to own up.

“And I’m sorry. And if I could go back and fix it, I would,” he said. “If I could go back and make it better, I would.

“If it was what you wanted for me to me to be in pain right now, then yeah. Yeah.”

Dennis faces life imprisonment, with parole eligibility beginning after 10 to 25 years.

The Crown suggested 12 years’ imprisonment before he could be considered for parole.

On Aug. 14, 2010, a friend drove Tubman to a Whitehorse bar, where he approached Franklin Charlie — the only eye-witness to the murder — and asked where he could get some cocaine.

“Mr. Charlie agreed to assist Mr. Tubman in this enterprise,” Crown prosecutor David McWhinnie told the court, drawing from the joint statement of facts submitted by the prosecution and defence.

Tubman drove them to several locations around town in his car, despite a driving prohibition stemming from a previous incident.

Footage from Goody’s gas bar in Porter Creek shows the duo buying cigarettes and jerky.

Eventually, they met with Dennis, then a street-level cocaine dealer who had turned 18 two months earlier.

Dennis agreed to sell them some of his product, and the three of them went back to Tubman’s trailer.

They drank beer and Charlie and Tubman smoked crack, then decided to take target practice with a rifle, perhaps not realizing that Dennis had been awake for virtually five days straight on a cocaine binge.

“At some point during the proceedings, Mr. Dennis said to Mr. Charlie: ‘I’m gonna kill this guy,’” McWhinnie told the court. Charlie didn’t think he was serious.

Soon after, however, Charlie heard a rifle chamber being loaded, then a shot fired. He looked up and saw Tubman’s body slumped over a table.

One of the two men spread gasoline and the trailer was set alight with the body inside, though neither admitted to lighting the match.

Charlie said he was still in the trailer when it was set ablaze and only managed to escape through a back window.

“He thought Dennis was trying to kill him too,” McWhinnie said.

Dennis denied the arson charge, which McWhinnie said will be stayed, meaning it could be resurrected for up to a year.

Dennis and Charlie left the scene on foot and “took off essentially cross-country,” ending up in a “swampy area,” McWhinnie continued.

At one point, Charlie pushed the murder weapon down into the mud, hiding it from view.

They ended up near the Kopper King at around 9:30 the following morning, when they caught a cab.

Dennis apologized to Charlie for getting him involved in the murder.

Two months later, Charlie was in custody for an unrelated matter. He confided to a guard at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that he was concerned a connection might be drawn to boots he left at the crime scene.

Police recovered the rifle in October 2011.

A cast-off cigarette was also recovered from Dennis. His DNA matched that on some beer cans found at the scene.

Dennis’s finger prints were also discovered on Tubman’s truck.

Police even attempted two undercover operations to elicit a confession from Dennis.

One officer tried to make nice with Dennis on the street, but Dennis caught on, telling another person within earshot of the officer he thought he was being set up.

Dennis was sent to jail on an unrelated matter in July 2013, and an officer was inserted undercover, posing as his cellmate.

That, too, revealed nothing.

The Crime Stoppers hotline proved more successful. Dennis’s acquaintance in Vancouver reported him for his boozy murder confession by phoning up the organization.

Questioned by police and presented with heartfelt recordings from Tubman’s family, Dennis admitted in July 2013 to shooting him.

The confession was crucial to the Crown’s case: “Mr. Charlie faces some significant cognitive deficits,” meaning his “reliability suffers as a result.”

Dennis comes from Adam’s Lake, a small First Nations community in the Fraser Valley.

Campball described how Dennis’s parents offered local leadership and a “spiritual foundation” for family and residents, despite not having much money.

But Dennis “came under the tutelage” of a gang-affiliated cousin in Vancouver in his teens. He dropped out of school and began drinking in Grade 8, joining the Redd Alert gang in his mid-teens while muling drugs in B.C. and recording hip hop.

Eventually, he disaffiliated from the aboriginal-based crime group after veering between alcohol binges in Vancouver and self-detox back home.

He fled to Whitehorse and worked himself into a state of near-“psychosis” through cocaine-fuelled paranoia, Campball said.

He wanted to be prepared to kill someone and assure himself he could do it, leading in part to Tubman’s death, the court heard.

The sentencing is scheduled for March 14.

CommentsAdd a comment

June Jackson

Feb 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

With any luck, Alexander Dennis will find justice in prison and recieve the same mercy and sentence he gave Gordon Tubman.

My deepest condolences to the Tubman family.

BnR

Feb 11, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Unlikely June.  That sort of prison justice usually only applies to rapists etc.
Given his age, he will likely come out better connected and more skilled to carry on his previous activities.

Ken Putnam

Feb 11, 2014 at 7:30 pm

The last guy I heard about who killed someone to see what it felt like was a guy named Ronald Smith from Red Deer, Alberta.  Smith marched two young native boys from Montana into the bush and killed them both.  Just to see what it felt like.  He has been on death row for 30 plus year.  Dennis is extremely lucky he lives in Canada.

Guncache

Feb 12, 2014 at 9:32 am

I knew Gord personally, having worked with him for several years.  I know Gord would on occasion get into drinking or drugs.  While this was not right he always came back to reality.  He was a hard worker, enjoyed family and travelling.  He was always willing to help you out.  No one should have to die before their time.  Dennis should spend the rest of his rotten life behind bars or be tied up inside a burning trailer.  It would be a travesty of justice both to Gord and his family if this deviant gets out before 25 years.  While the judge does take into account the prosecutors views the judge can make the sentence more serious to fit the callousness of the crime.  With any luck Dennis will get his due in the “pen”.  R.I.P. Gord.

Rhonda Johsnon

Feb 12, 2014 at 10:32 am

While I don’t condone Alex Dennis’s behaviour I would have to ask why a 42 year old man, who lived in a trailer outside of town, would be smoking crack with an 18 year old to begin with. This raises many questions for me.
My condolences do go out to the Tubman family, but I think Alex’s family are suffering as well. Alex has had an uncle murdered, another that became a missing child in the Yukon and when his Grandmother went to the Tubman family to apologize, she was ignored. She has committed no crime and yet was big enough to make a positive move towards healing, despite her own losses, only to be dissed.
I think the issues are not as cut and dried as some people would like to think. There were far more issues surrounding this event than murder. One must look at all the variables before judging with their heart instead of their mind.

Lindsay Schneider

Feb 12, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Dear Rhonda,

Having been at the court proceedings and seeing the family hear details of this senseless crime for the first time I would suggest to you that your comments are inappropriate and very thoughtless. The facts are that this adult chose to commit a crime for absolutely no reason and blaming the victim after the fact does not serve to help the family heal from this tragic event.
I was there when his grandmother tried to apologize and while I can appreciate her need to do this and can recognize the compassion that she was displaying, it was not the right time. Again this family was hearing very gruesome details for the first time and apologies were not going to erase the mental image that keeps them all awake at night.
Sometimes forgiveness needs to be initiated by the family when the healing has occurred and not forced upon them in a court setting. I beg people to remember that a human being was senselessly taken from this world and that there is a family grieving over it. Please do not try to find blame or a reason to blame the victim especially in a public environment like this one. Respect their need to heal and grieve.

Daryn

Feb 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I knew Gord. A good guy who struggled a bit but he did not deserve to be shot in the head with a rifle for absolutely no reason! I hope that Alex Dennis meets with karma one day. My condolences to Corry and her family.

puking

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:17 am

Rhonda,
So Grandma attempted to “apologize”, her timing is way off similar to her grandson who decided August 15th would be a good night to see how it felt to kill someone.  Grandma attempted to apologize when the Tubman family had just heard for the first time that Gord was shot in the face and killed for NO reason, no fight, no money- just to see how it felt. Minutes before shooting Gord, her grandson told Franklin Charlie that he was going to go inside and shoot Gord, then he went inside and shot Gord for NO reason and these 2 jackasses poured fuel on Gord lit his house up.  Gord was killed 3 1/2 years ago, if poor Alex was so distraught over his uncle and dad then you would think he would understand grief and come forward but no he sat in silence, tormenting the Tubman family with unanswerable questions until the RCMP put the screws to him.  Let grandma resonate with what her grandson did, let Alexander do his time and if he is able to acquire no internal charges be released in how many years and live a productive life then Grandma can come over for tea and talk of how her boy has changed.
As for why Gord was doing what he was and with an 18 year old.  You suggest there is more to poor Alexander and grandma’s story, what about Gord’s story and why he was doing what he was doing.  Many people get high every day but thank god they leave it at that.  Alexander took it to the next level of needing to satisfy his urge to kill. This 18 year old is an animal, he took another persons life, ran. Hid in silence, he went to jail, engaged in a few programs and society should cut him a break. WOW!!!

michele

Feb 16, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Unlikely BnR. One may want to google Alexander Dennis “criminal history” before you rant on ! He was in prison for a violent rape shortly after he murdered Gordon Tubman. Facts first please, before uneducated comments.

Josey Wales

Feb 18, 2014 at 12:56 am

” A coward”...yup, “A cold hearted criminal” indeed true.
Forgot however, scumbag…waste of oxygen…for but two that come to my mind presently.
But I have faith in our justice system and expect they will ensure he being so young…will get out still in prime shape and being the animal he himself has displayed, will rejoice in the next slaying.

Too damn bad we don’t treat scumbags as Gords executioner, as we do the “Trevor’s” in the canine world…and do a bloodletting on Mr. Scumbag, the cowardly and cold hearted criminal.

R.I.P. Gord….Josey

Rhonda Johnson

Feb 19, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I’d like to thank all of you for your comments - positive and negative. Either way it got your attention, as well as the readers who choose not to comment. There is a lot of finger pointing - which is not the issue here. Those that are really in the know - which is probably none of us - are not privy to computers, nor do they probably even know that their newspaper is online. This venue is for a group that is more savvy technologically than the average street person. If those on the street could respond I’m sure the they too could hit the like/dislike button many times. The issue is bigger. There is clearly something going on that we all need to be aware of. Finger pointing is not going to solve what appears to be a much larger problem.
I would again like to thank you all - it gives me much less faith in the human race but am thankful that your local newspaper - while not reaching everyone - has done an excellent job of covering both sides with only details. Unfortunately this venue only covers one side and I decline to respond to such foolishness again.

Really Rhonda

Feb 19, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Rhonda order the transcript, the killers own lawyer called it senseless, callous and for no reason.  Further stating the victim was a true victim in all senses.  The killer simply had a desire to kill and that night decided to do so.  How much more do you need. There are no sides, it is a one sided defenseless argument.
The killer eventually told his story when under interrogation and realized there is no defense for what he did and pled down from 1st degree to 2nd degree murder.  There are no sides to this story.  A person should be able to walk the streets, even argue or even get high or drunk without fear of their life.  This killer has changed the world of many peoples lives forever!!!
What other way could the finger be pointed other than to the way of the killer Alexander Dennis.  Look at the list of crimes this person has committed and tell me if the list describes someone you want watching your children, as your neighbor, as your employee.
The thing we need to aware of is the criminal justice system failed to keep Gord safe and alive, it failed to rehabilitate this killer, it failed to build public confidence in the system and unfortunately the killer will walk the streets in 10-25 years!!
Pause for a minute and think of the actions of one and ponder what the family and friends of the victim are thinking and feeling, this was no accident, in fact it was predictable

Mike Gustus

Feb 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm

A life was taken ....  This was not an act of self defence or a crime of passion.  It was a senseless killing of an innocent man that did not deserved such horrid treatment. The coward responsible for this is not new to the justice system an in no way has any positive influence on our society.  I hope and pray our courts give this individual the maximum sentence possible as he did for my brother.

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