The stepfather of Victoria Shachtay wishes he could have convinced her not to open the Christmas present containing the explosive that killed her.
Rick Bercier made the statement during testimony at the trial of Brian Malley on Tuesday. Malley is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Victoria Shachtay of Innisfail. The Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench jury trial is in its third week.
On the morning of Shachtay’s murder, Nov. 25, 2011, she went to the house of stepfather Bercier. She often went there to shower as the house was wheelchair accessible. Shachtay was paralyzed in a 2004 car crash.
Earlier that morning, Shachtay, 23, and her caregiver discovered a gift on their doorstep. When she told Bercier of the discovery, he warned her not to open it and to call the police. She said there was no card and no identifying features on the package.
Bercier testified on Tuesday that he thought she understood not to open the package.
When asked why he told Shachtay to not open it, Bercier said he was a naturally suspicious person.
“I watch too many TV shows,” he said.
A little later that day, Bercier’s brother dropped off Destiny Shachtay, Victoria’s daughter, at Bercier’s house. Bercier tried to call Victoria one more time to remind her to not open the mysterious package and to call the police. But he couldn’t reach her.
About five minutes later, there was a knock on Bercier’s door. The RCMP and victims services personnel were there to tell him that Shachtay had been killed in an explosion. The gift bag disguised a pipe bomb, court has been told.
Three days after the bombing of one of his clients, Malley, a financial advisor, was interviewed by police, court heard.
The Crown alleges the motive behind the bombing was financial and that Malley, 57, had been paying Shachtay out of his own pocket after money she gave him to invest ran out.
When interviewed by RCMP on Nov. 28, 2011, Malley suggested that police should look into Shachtay’s brother Derek or examine a potential drug connection, court also heard on Tuesday.
Malley said he had witnessed Derek and Victoria arguing over money after she had received the large settlement from a car crash. Malley also told police that he had smelled marijuana when he met with Victoria.
Malley told police that on the evening of Nov. 24, he travelled from Red Deer to Innisfail, and went to a colleague’s house to get building material packed for a trip to Edmonton the next day. Malley then went home to work on his sauna for a few hours, went to the Co-op, got a chicken dinner, watched a little TV and went to bed. His wife was away in Edmonton at the ballet. The next morning, the couple went to Edmonton on business.
In hour-long audio recording presented to the jury on Tuesday, Malley detailed his financial relationship with Shachtay. The two met after the car crash that paralyzed Shachtay.
Shachtay’s family was looking to renovate their house and were put in touch with Malley, who is also a homebuilder. Offering to build them a new wheelchair-accessible house at cost, the family sold their residence, moved in to Malley’s grandmother’s house — she had recently died — and waited for their new house to be built. They used the money from the sale of their old house to pay Malley for the work he did.
When Shachtay’s financial settlement came through, she invested with Malley. The two sat down and put together a budget.
Malley told police that Shachtay’s budget was for $8,000 a month and for the first year, 2007, that worked. In that year, she spent about $90,000. But in 2008, the investment market was unfavourable and Malley said half of Shachtay’s investment was gone. However, he said Shachtay was unable to reduce her spending.
By March 2011, the original investment was gone, he said. A second settlement and some family money got Shachtay along, but by the time she was killed she only had a few thousand dollars to her name.
However, Bercier said Shachtay didn’t spend much of the money, buying only the essentials for herself and providing for her daughter.
The trial continues today in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench with more testimony from Bercier.