Failed arsonist as guilty as partner in rooming house fire that killed two, jury told
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/06/2019 (1466 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
His partner may have been the more successful arsonist, but Edward Beardy is every bit as responsible for a raging rooming house fire that claimed the lives of two people, jurors were told Tuesday.
Brenda Campbell, 51, and John Bendon, 61, died July 7, 2016 after fires were set to the front and rear exits of a three-storey, 10-suite rooming house at 186 Austin St.
Beardy, 37, is on trial charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of arson with disregard for life.
Prosecutors argue co-accused Jonathon Barstad, 36, set fire to the front entrance of the rooming house shortly after 1:30 a.m., at the same time Beardy was setting fire to the rear. It was Barstad’s fire that turned into an inferno, while Beardy’s fire “petered out,” Crown attorney Erika Dolcetti said in her closing argument to the jury.
In starting the fire, Beardy had the same intention as Barstad — to ensure that no one inside the rooming house escaped, Dolcetti said.
Its the prosecution’s theory that Beardy and Barstad set the fires on behalf of the Manitoba Warriors street gang, in retaliation for rival drug dealing at the rooming house, just a short walk from the Warriors’ base of operations at the Sutherland Hotel.
Jurors heard in the days leading up to the fire, the rooming house was the scene of ongoing acts of intimidation by the Manitoba Warriors. Setting fire to the rooming house was a “show of force,” by the gang, Dolcetti said.
Both Beardy and Barstad had ties to the Sutherland Hotel — Beardy had a room there — and security video in the area showed two men prosecutors purport to be Beardy and Barstad leaving the hotel and heading in the direction of the rooming house prior to the fire.
Security video showed the man prosecutors allege to be Beardy leaving the hotel wearing gloves and a hoodie — clothing items that were later found discarded in a back lane between the hotel and the rooming house. DNA analysis matched the hoodie to Beardy, and gasoline — the accelerant used to start the fire — was found on the gloves, Dolcetti said.
Darcy Houle, Beardy’s cousin, was the “caretaker” at the Sutherland Hotel at the time of the fire and a member of the Manitoba Warriors. In testimony, he described Beardy as an “associate” of the gang.
Defence lawyer Kathy Bueti argued this was not a case of exclusive opportunity, and that police failed to interview a number of other possible suspects in the area at the time of the fire. A fire investigator testified a man told her the men responsible for the blaze lived on Euclid Avenue, but there was no evidence police followed up on the tip, Bueti said.
Security video did not provide jurors reliable proof of identity and there was no evidence the fire was gang-motivated, she said.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.
Updated on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 8:31 AM CDT: Clarifies testimony of fire investigator