The defence has opened its case in the trial of a former financial advisor accused in the Innisfail bombing death of a client.
Brian Malley is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Victoria Shachtay. Shachtay was killed when she opened a Christmas present left on her doorstep. The gift disguised a bomb, which detonated as she opened it on Nov. 25, 2011.
Defence counsel Bob Aloneissi’s first witness on Wednesday was Malley’s mother-in-law Francis Poelzer. Malley stayed with Poelzer in Edmonton after he was granted bail in late June 2012. Malley was arrested on May 25, 2012.
Malley and his wife, Christine, had assisted with home renovation projects on Poelzer’s residence, a home she has lived in for more than 40 years.
But it wasn’t until after his arrest that they got around to pouring a concrete pad at the back of the residence.
That pad has gained relevance to the trial as the defence claims the metal pipe that Malley purchased in July 2011, as well as two end caps, encased the natural gas line to protect it from the concrete.
The Crown, however, says Malley used the metal pipe — a six-inch long, two-inch wide steel nipple (pipe with threading at both ends) — in the construction of the bomb that killed Shachtay.
Malley purchased a piece of pipe matching the description from the reconstructed bomb and that used to protect the gas line from a Rona hardware store close to Poelzer’s home in July 2011. The concrete pour did not occur until October 2013.
Poelzer testified that she got in touch with ATCO about protecting the gas line prior to a concrete pour. She said they told her to protect the line from the concrete by putting a sleeve around it, but did not clarify what should be used to protect the line.
Prior testimony from ATCO employees and contractors indicated their standard practice was to use PVC piping. As well, photos of houses built by Kodiak Homes, a home-building company Malley was a part-owner of, showed the use of plastic used to encase the gas line.
Retired Edmonton Police Service officer Don Christal, who now works as a private investigator, was hired by the defence. He took a video of the extraction of a piece of concrete around the gas line from the back of Poelzer’s residence on May 13, 2014.
In court, he identified a steel nipple with two end caps as items he extracted from the ground at Poelzer’s residence and maintained continuity of as evidence for the trial.
Court heard Poelzer say she has a son who police also interviewed. That son has a reloader. The issue of a reloader came up earlier in the trial because it is a tool needed to reload shotgun shells.
Malley said he purchased the gunpowder found by RCMP at his residence to reload shotgun shells. Police did not find a reloader or any other tool needed to reload shotgun shells.
Retired RCMP member Alan Voth was tendered as a defence expert witness in the field of forensic gunshot residue and firearms.
He testified that gunpowder leaves some residue, sometimes in the form of flakes or particles, in spent shotgun shells.
Voth conducted his own report on gunshot residue by firing a shotgun several times using powder similar to the kind Malley had purchased. He determined that residue is also left in spent shotgun shells and in the barrel of a firearm.
Aloneissi pointed Voth and jurors to pictures of gunpowder grains, firearms and spent shells that police found during their search of the Malley residence.
Testimony from earlier in the trial showed how police analyzed partially burned gunpowder grains from the blast scene and compared them to the type of gunpowder that Malley had purchased. Dr. Nigel Hearns, a Crown witness, said they were similar but he could not say they were from the same batch.
In his cross-examination of Voth, Crown prosecutor Anders Quist pointed out that Voth did not have access to the physical exhibits used in the investigation and he preformed no chemical analysis in this case.
Moreover, Quist pointed out that Voth can’t tell what was in the shotgun shells shown in the pictures he was presented.
The Crown alleges Malley killed Shachtay to cut his financial losses. Shachtay invested more than $575,000 in 2007 with Malley, but by April 2011 the money was gone and the account was closed. Over that four-year period, Malley gave Shachtay more than $44,000 from his own accounts, and the last payment made was on Oct. 15, 2011.
The trial, now in its fifth week, continues today in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.