Reporting on courts in B.C. during the pandemic has been a challenge with changing restrictions at courthouses, and many court appearances and hearings being held by video or telephone.
Still, The Progress did its best to keep track of criminal proceedings at the Chilliwack Law Courts.
The following are among the most high profile cases in 2021, the top 12 by month that appeared in print.
On Jan. 13, the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced charges of aggravated assault and manslaughter had been laid against William Trevor Escott in connection with the Dec. 27, 2020 death of Carlton Leith.
Leith was found suffering from serious injuries at the 46200-block of Yale Road downtown Chilliwack just before 1 a.m. that day. He died a few days later.
Investigators learned that the 45-year-old Leith was involved in an altercation with Escott, 42, who was tracked down and arrested.
He is due to go to trial on April 19.
Chilliwack physiotherapist Sanjay Amrutkar, 38, was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault for alleged offences from summer 2020.
The RCMP urged other potential victims to make contact.
Amrutkar was later charged with six more counts for a total of eight.
His case is still before the courts, he is next due in court on Jan. 12, 2022 for a pre-trial conference.
IHIT was called after the death of an 11-year-old boy from Harrison Mills on March 1.
Agassiz RCMP were called to a home in Harrison Mills on Feb. 25 to assist the BC Ambulance Service with a medical emergency involving the 11-year-old. The boy was taken to hospital with extensive injuries, and IHIT was called to take over the investigation of the incident.
IHIT media relations officer Sgt. Frank Jang said the incident was isolated and not random.
A male has been charged with manslaughter and as of December he his case was still before the courts.
One woman and one man were dead following a murder-suicide in a townhouse complex on Watson Road on April 15.
Police responded to a report of shots fired at the residence, which is directly across from Watson elementary school.
Emergency crews were on scene all morning and the school was in a hold-and-secure, but police said no one was in danger.
IHIT was called in but there were no other suspects being sought.
The Progress learned the victim was Irina Marenkova, a woman who migrated to Russia with her daughter Alisa Gusakova in 2013.
Mandatory minimum sentences were under the microscope during a sentencing hearing for a Hope man who pleaded guilty to paying a 15-year-old girl to send him nude photos.
Jason Graff, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of telecommunicating to lure a child under 18.
But when Crown counsel and Graff’s lawyer tried to enter a joint submission for a conditional sentence order of 18 months, which meant no jail time, Judge Andrea Ormiston questioned how they were getting around the mandatory minimum of six months in jail.
Adam Ball was the second homicide victim of the year in Chilliwack.
Ball was dropped off at Chilliwack General Hospital with gunshot wounds in the early hours of May 27. The 37-year-old succumbed to his injuries and IHIT took conduct of the investigation.
Police say they make no connections to prior criminal activity, but Ball was convicted of manslaughter in a violent killing of a man 16 years ago in Nanaimo.
No arrests had been made in the homicide by Dec. 30, 2021.
First-degree murder charges were laid against two prolific offenders in the killing of Jordan Smyth overnight Halloween in 2019.
IHIT confirmed that Darius Commodore, 24, and David Geoghegan, 30, were arrested and charged.
Smyth’s body was found in an open area off a remote section of Sleepy Hollow Road on Soowahlie reserve about one kilometre from Cultus Lake on Nov. 1, 2019.
Commodore and Geoghegan are next due in court to face the charge on Jan. 18, 2022.
The man who stole $29,000 from the Chilliwack Giants youth football organization pleaded guilty to fraud.
Charles Joshua Cahoon paid the money back and a provincial court judge varied his bail conditions to allow him to attend Giants games played in by his three children.
Cahoon was originally charged with theft over $5,000 after it was revealed that he had written multiple cheques to himself while serving as volunteer treasurer on the Chilliwack Giants board.
Cahoon also stole from a non-profit and a housing development company in Kamloops a decade ago.
Crown is seeking jail time and the judge is scheduled to hand down a decision on Feb. 11, 2022.
A high-level Chilliwack drug trafficker was successful in overturning his conviction at the BC Court of Appeal.
Convicted cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler appealed his conviction in the province’s highest court, but he did not get the charges dropped. Instead he will face a new trial.
Eheler and co-accused Mathew Thiessen were caught with nine kilograms of cocaine they were processing in a Chilliwack condo on Nov. 18, 2014. Eheler was convicted of cocaine trafficking and sentenced to more than eight years in prison in November 2019.
A date has not yet been set for the retrial.
Main Street Church’s former executive pastor was sentenced to 14 months jail for accessing and possessing child pornography.
Johannes (John) Vermeer was also handed 18 months probation after that sentence by Judge Andrea Ormiston in Chilliwack provincial court.
He is also placed on the sex offender registry for 10 years.
“Mr. Vermeer possessed some of the most offensive, harmful and depraved forms of abuse on children,” Judge Ormiston said in reading her decision.
Vermeer said nothing after the sentencing.
A man who killed his passenger in a vehicle crash near Hope in 2017 was sentenced to 23 months jail followed by two years probation and a 10-year driving ban.
Anthony Creed Cortez previously pleaded guilty to theft of a motor vehicle and dangerous driving causing the death of Danielle (“DeeDee”) Charlton on Sept. 11, 2017.
That day he smashed a jewelry store window in Nelson and stole $30,000 worth of product. He then stole a Chevrolet Equinox that he crashed into a highway maintenance vehicle in Sunshine Valley east of Hope.
Charlton, a 35-year-old mother of four who was a passenger in the vehicle, died in the crash.
Two companies that previously pleaded guilty in relation to a Fraser Valley chicken abuse case each received a $300,000 fine and three years’ probation.
Elite Farm Services Ltd. of Chilliwack and Sofina Foods of Ontario – which runs a processing plant in Port Coquitlam – were sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
They pleaded guilty in September to two of the 12 animal-cruelty charges that were still active in the high-profile case: one in Chilliwack and the other in Abbotsford, both between May and June 2017.
Each originally faced 38 charges under the Health Animals Act following undercover videos shot by California-based animal rights activist group Mercy of Animals.
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