The tragic death of Douglas Presseau in a bloody, violent confrontation with an extremely intoxicated man in downtown Chilliwack was all a mistake, according to the man who killed him.
Day two of the sentencing hearing for Kirkland Joseph Russell was held in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack Feb. 12 with defence submissions, which included a recommendation that Justice Terence Schultes sentence Russell to five years in jail.
Crown counsel is asking for between eight and 10 years in jail.
Russell has been in custody since July 21, 2017, amounting to 572 days in custody. At the usual 1.5-to-one- credit, he will be credited with two years and 128 days, plus however many more days until sentence is handing down.
“He didn’t intend to kill Mr. Presseau,” defence lawyer Cassandra Cronin told the court Tuesday.
“It’s clear that Mr. Presseau died as he tried to be a Good Samaritan to assist someone who was laying in the roadway…. What [Russell] thought was occurring is not supported by the evidence. He acted on the misperception that he was defending his partner who had been severely injured. I’m not suggesting in any way that he was correct in that. But that is what he thought in that moment.”
Cronin was addressing the agreed statement of facts read in court a day earlier by Crown counsel Abel Fok who said as Presseau attempted to help Russell’s girlfriend Bobbi Burris, Russell turned on the Good Samaritan, violently attacking him with a large knife, stabbing him 14 times, once in the heart killing him.
As he stabbed him he yelled “Why won’t you f—-ing die?”
Minutes earlier that night after Party in the Park downtown, Steven Drage was killed with a knife attack near Russell and his friends, but no witnesses saw the attack so no one has been charged in that case. A source reported to The Progress that police have hit a brick wall on the Drage killing, but there is hope someone will come forward.
Also charged originally with second-degree murder in the Presseau killing was Victoria Sherri Purcell. Here, too, Crown decided there was not enough evidence to proceed and the charge against her will likely be dropped this week.
Purcell was said to encourage Russell to continue attacking Presseau, according to a witness in the case.
In contrast to a full courtroom on Monday, in court on Tuesday in the gallery were just two people, Russell’s partner Burris and Presseau’s aunt who had read a passionate victim impact statement a day earlier.
That day was extremely emotional with many tears among the 12-or-so individuals as victim impact statements were read by Presseau’s mother, grandmother, aunts, his uncle, other relatives and friends.
Both days Russell wore a black blazer, black pants and a white dress shirt with the collar up. He made no gestures to family members of the victim during impact statements, looking down for much of the proceedings.
Coming in to court and leaving court, in leg shackles both days, he smiled at Burris, winked at her at one point, and at another was seen clearly to mouth: “Love you babe.”
As part of defence submissions, Cronin pointed to three factors about his tragic upbringing: colonialism, the residential school system, and the child welfare system. Most of his elder family members were victims of the residential school system, and Russell spent his life in 60 to 65 different foster homes where he was both sexually and physically abused.
He began drinking heavily at age 12, using crystal meth at 13, and spent considerable time in youth custody. All these were factors put forth in a Gladue report, which is used to describe an offender’s Indigenous history and is by itself a mitigating factor.
“In custody he met a whole bunch of other boys who were angry and upset and that is the first sense of belonging he ever had,” Cronin said. “Which is not surprising but is certainly sad.”
Justice Schultes reserved his decision, which was scheduled to be handed down on Feb. 21 but was moved to March 6 in New Westminster.
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