Photo by Whitehorse Star
The jury trial of a Carmacks man accused of first-degree murder resumed Tuesday in Whitehorse, with the Crown calling two civilian witnesses.
Tyler Aaron Skookum, 29, is standing trial before Yukon Supreme Court Justice Edith Campbell. He stands charged with first-degree murder in relation to the death of 57-year-old Wilfred “Dickie” Charlie in June 2017.
Charlie’s body was found in the Yukon River near Fort Selkirk on July 5, 2017.
Skookum was co-accused with Mario Reuben Skookum and originally, they were to be tried together. It was decided to deal with each of them separately before this trial began.
On Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Ludovic Gouaillier asked Carmacks resident Keith Sheldon a series of questions.
Sheldon told the court Charlie is his first cousin. Charlie had been to his house, and they had consumed alcohol together. He lives a street up from Charlie’s cabin.
Sheldon had seen Charlie the Saturday before he was reported missing. He knew it was in June 2017, but could not remember the exact date.
They were drinking that day at Sheldon’s house, with Charlie visiting the residence from morning to noon. They were drinking with five other people.
The group included Sheldon’s brother and Mario. Everyone was drinking.
“I was drunk,” Sheldon testified.
Charlie and the brother left. Sheldon didn’t remember if Charlie had any alcohol when he departed.
Sheldon said he stayed home for the rest of the day, and didn’t really remember doing anything. He reported the same the following day.
At about 7 a.m. the following Monday, he received a visitor at his home. He described this person as nervous and agitated.
“He (the visitor) looked nervous, and his eyes were all wide up,” Sheldon said.
After this visit, Sheldon felt he had to go check on Charlie. He went to the cabin and noticed the front door was open a couple of inches. He also saw some blood on the deck.
He entered the house and stayed near the doorway. Noting the radio was on, he called out for Charlie but did not receive a response.
He peeked into Charlie’s unoccupied room, which was near the door. He noted more blood in the cabin, and left the residence.
“I didn’t want to touch anything,” Sheldon told the court.
He said he went to a house two doors down to ask to use a phone, but none was available there. He tried to wave down a vehicle for help, but the driver didn’t stop.
Sheldon went to his brother’s house and told him what happened.
He next went home to watch television. He explained that he didn’t call the RCMP himself because he was not supposed to be drinking.
Skookum’s lawyer, Jennifer Budgell asked several questions under cross-examination, She took him to his June 21, 2017 police statement.
Sheldon said he tried to tell officers everything he remembered.
He felt the transcript of his statements is wrong. The statement mentions he saw Charlie on a Sunday, when it had been a Saturday.
He added he’d been drinking when he gave that statement, which affected his recollection.
Sheldon said he didn’t remember Charlie leaving his residence with his brother on the Saturday, but the two did leave. He told the court that Charlie did buy several bottles of vodka that day.
Charlie left a hat and sweater at his house on the Saturday, Sheldon testified.
Budgell asked if he had a better recollection closer to when the events took place. Sheldon said he did.
The next Crown witness was Zachary Cochrane, who lives on one of the properties next to Charlie’s.
He said he knew Charlie from around Carmacks. He does not remember the last time he had seen him.
Cochrane told the court that he went to bed on June 18, 2017, the day before Charlie went missing, but was awakened early the next morning by his dog.
He felt this was around 1:30 a.m. because he checked the time. That said, he reported being groggy at the time.
The dog was tied up outside. Cochrane went outside and found his pet was barking and in an agitated state.
He said the dog doesn’t act this way unless a person or another animal is on the property.
“I went to check if it was in fact a bear outside,” Cochrane said.
He told the court he saw two human figures walking along the property line between his place and Charlie’s. Since it was twilight, he could not make out who they were at first.
He drew closer and recognized one of the figures as Tyler. He bases this on hearing Tyler’s distinct voice, and the figure matching his build.
He assumed the other person was Charlie, because of the proximity to his property.
Cochrane said he had known Tyler since childhood. They were friends as children.
He could not hear what they were talking about, but testified both sounded drunk.
The man he thought was Tyler was talking loudly but trying to be quiet, while the man he assumed was Charlie was more quiet.
Cochrane watched the two men until they walked toward Charlie’s house. He estimates he watched them for about 15 minutes. He did this because he thought they were going to be stealing something.
“I was just sitting there wondering what they were doing so close to my house,” Cochrane said.
He re-entered his house, locked the doors and windows, and went back to bed.
He did not see Charlie again after that.
Under cross-examination, Cochrane said he first watched the two men from an estimated 36 metres (120 feet) away. He figured he was 18 metres (60 feet) away when he moved closer.
He said he does not know if the two men saw him, though they did not acknowledge his presence.
Budgell asked if Cochrane saw her client’s face. He said he did not, and maintained he recognized Tyler’s voice. He added he did not hear Charlie’s laugh, which was distinct.
He said the two men were not fighting, no one appeared injured and they did not have weapons. He added Charlie did not call for help nor appear in distress.
Gouaillier then asked Cochrane how sure he was on the identities of the two men. Cochrane said he was 100 per cent sure he saw Tyler but could not say the same about the man he assumed was Charlie.
The trial continued this morning, with more of the Crown’s case, before taking a late-morning break.
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