The third day of a sentencing hearing for Owen Charpentier who shot Keith Baldwin at a downtown car wash in 2019, included witness testimony that described an escalating conflict between the two men.
The day in B.C. Supreme Court also saw the reading of several victim impact statements that caused many tears to flow.
Charpentier pleaded guilty to manslaughter with a firearm but Crown and defence disagree on some elements of the killing, requiring what is called a Gardiner hearing, which started Monday.
Called to the stand by Crown counsel was Coty-Lee Robins-Micall, 33, a witness who knew both Charpentier and Baldwin, and had met them at the downtown 7-Eleven.
“My other half worked nights (at the 7-Eleven) and I got to know pretty much everybody from being down there.”
The witness said he’d go for a coffee with Charpentier sometimes, or smoke a joint of fentanyl and cannabis near the car wash or in the stairwell of the Newmark apartment building.
Regarding the conflict between the two men, he noted that Baldwin was “extremely upset” about someone breaking into his car and damaging the ignition column, and wanted recompense because he thought Charpentier was responsible.
“It may not have been in the best shape, but that was his baby,” Robins-Micall said about Baldwin’s car.
Robins-Micall said he tried to smooth things over, seeing how he considered himself friends “with both sides,” but both were being “stubborn” about the situation, and unwilling to budge.
Defence counsel Simon Buck asked Charpentier to take the stand in the afternoon session.
Charpentier admitted it was “stupid” but he broke into Baldwin’s Camaro and took a backpack. But he said he was not the one who damaged the ignition.
Charpentier said he told Robins-Micall to relay a message to Baldwin to “just leave me alone.”
“He kept coming after me. He was relentless,” Charpentier said.
Charpentier spent part of the day at a friend’s named Rick getting high. It was there he said Rick gave him the .22 calibre Cooey bolt-action rifle used to shoot Baldwin. He hid the firearm in his jacket.
Buck asked why he brought a gun and not a knife or a baton.
“To be honest I was scared,” Charpentier said.
“It had to be a gun in your mind,” Buck asked, and Charpentier answered: “Yes.”
Later he was smoking fentanyl and meth from a pipe at the car wash with two women, including Rhiannon Lilly when Baldwin “snuck” up on them.
Baldwin was about “two arms lengths away” when he faced Charpentier, and said he was going to get him, and pepper spray him, which he did.
“I got it in my face,” Charpentier said.
Charpentier said Baldwin had a knife “poking out” of his sleeve.
As Baldwin took a step toward him, Charpentier said he shot him.
“I just shot and then ran. I didn’t even look to see if I hit him,” Charpentier said.
Asked by defence if he had been intending for the bullet to hit Baldwin, Charpentier answered, “No, I was not.”
Defence asked him why he didn’t just run away instead of firing the shot.
“In the heat of the moment, I was just scared.”
What did he think firing the rifle would do?
“Scare him away.”
After the shooting, Charpentier said he ran down the street toward the 7-Eleven, not aware if the shot had hit Baldwin or not.
Earlier in the day in court, Baldwin’s mother, Julie MacDonald, asked if she could face Charpentier as she read her victim impact statement. The statements of several family members and a friend’s were read out.
MacDonald described in her statement how her son Keith always “played hard and loved even harder” and was missed “every moment of every day.”
“Although Keith had his own struggles, he had an amazing gift of being able to understand others people’s struggles and hardships.”
The family does not wish to remember Keith as a homicide victim, and instead have turned the date of his death, Oct. 22, into Keith Matthew Day.
“We want to remember him as he was, a beautiful, kind, loving and funny person, loved by many, and never forgotten.”
MacDonald addressed Charpentier directly and faced him across the courtroom in delivering her final words:
“Mr. Charpentier, we forgive you and so does Keith,” she told him.
As she read her statement with tear-stained eyes, she talk about how difficult it was to sit through the long court process and hear how their son’s life was taken.
“No family should ever have to sit in a courtroom and endure this as it re-traumatizes the family,” MacDonald said.
There is no closure for them.
“We don’t get to have Keith back so there is no closure. Life as I knew it has been changed forever and every day I have to make the choice to keep living and honouring my son’s life.
“We want to be at peace and in order to get peace, we must forgive you.”
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