When David McKay woke up in a tent in a homeless camp near Townsend Park on July 13, 2016, he confronted his girlfriend Cyndie Markel-Rempel about an alleged sexual encounter.
Markel-Rempel told McKay she was raped by a man named Matthew McIntyre. She then used black and white makeup to paint her face like a skeleton and the two went looking for McIntyre.
The two showed up at 11:30 a.m. at a known drug house near Bernard elementary on Glenwood Street, a house that has since been cleaned up.
McKay – known as “Yoda” on the streets – went through the house looking for McIntyre, but instead he found John Robert Oliver Anderson on a couch in the living room.
McKay then proceeded to beat Anderson with a Rapid 11 brand hammer tacker, striking him more than a dozen times in the head.
When paramedics arrived, Anderson was still alive but he had serious injuries to his skull and his brain was swelling. There was blood and brain matter beside him on the floor.
Just over two hours after the couple arrived at the Glenwood residence, life support was removed and Anderson was declared dead.
“This was a brutal, senseless killing of an unarmed defenceless man,” Crown counsel Daniel Loucks explained in laying out aggravating circumstances at the sentencing hearing for McKay in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Sept. 5
After the incident, McKay and Markel-Rempel left the house together before McKay dumped the hammer in some bushes at a house on Sunset Drive, Loucks told the court reading from an agreed statement of facts, and were arrested separately in Chilliwack two days after the killing in 2016, Markel-Rempel wearing a T-shirt with the words: “Girl on the run.”
McKay was charged with second-degree murder and has been in custody since that time. Markel-Rempel was also originally charged in the case, but Crown dropped the charges being unable to prove the case against her.
She was in the court during sentencing for McKay on Sept. 5 wearing a black wig.
The process up until this week was leading towards a second-degree murder trial. In July, a voir dire was held where McKay’s lawyer Lisa Helps argued that statements McKay made to police after his arrest were not voluntary.
But then on Sept. 4, McKay agreed to plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter. Helps told the court that McKay still cares for Markel-Rempel and that his plea was at least in part to ensure she did not have to testify.
Upon hearing these words, Markel-Rempel broke down in tears and left the courtroom.
Loucks said Crown and defence were putting forth a joint submission of 14 years in jail. Manslaughter has a large range of possible circumstances from the “near accident” kind up to the “near murder” kind, this case being much close to the latter.
McKay has been in custody since his arrest in July 2016, so is credited with 38.5 months behind bars, leaving a remaining sentence of 10 years and 2 days in custody.
Helps said that McKay considered Anderson was a friend and he has considerable remorse for killing him, something that happened while he was high on crystal meth and in withdrawal from other drugs having recently been released from prison.
“Mr. Anderson was a good person and [McKay] has asked me to convey that to the court,” Helps said.
As a further mitigating factor, Helps argued that the killing was not triggered by the drug trade but was by way of protecting his girlfriend. She said that while conceding that “the fact that this was a case of mistaken identity makes it more horrifying.”
Anderson’s 17-year-old son and his guardian were in the court for most of the proceedings. Anderson’s “brother” from time together in foster care was in court on Sept. 4 when the plea was changed, but apparently it was too difficult for him to appear in court for the sentencing.
Louks read the foster brother’s victim impact statement into the record in which he said he remembered “Mikey” as a close friend, learning about their Indigenous heritage together, adding that Anderson was always there to guide him through troubles.
“Now I have no one,” Louks read. “He took the wrong person. My brother, my friend. Rest in peace my brother.”
In adding to the list of mitigating circumstances, Helps said McKay suffered from serious mental health issues since the death of his mother when he was young.
Asked if he wanted to address the court, McKay stood and paused for some time before uttering something inaudible from the gallery. Apparently an apology for the incident.
After a one-hour break, Justice Martha Devlin read her decision, acceding to the joint submission of 14 years jail. Devlin pointed to the irrelevance of the fact that McKay killed the wrong man.
“One cannot take the law into their own hands,” Devlin said. “This type of behaviour will not be tolerated by society and there will be severe consequences for engaging in this type of behaviour.”