Two men charged with murder have been found not guilty in the case of an alleged targeted hit on a rival gang member that instead killed an innocent couple from Salmon Arm outside Cranbrook 12 years ago.
Gasps coursed through the public gallery on April 25 as Justice Arne Silverman read a summary of his decision in Vancouver Supreme Court, noting he found reasonable doubt in the Crown’s case.
“I am not satisfied that the two accused persons are innocent. However, I am also not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty,” said Justice Silverman.
Colin Raymond Correia, 45, and Sheldon Joseph Hunter, 34, were charged with first-degree murder in a double-homicide that occurred outside Cranbrook in 2010.
The Crown theorized it was intended to be a targeted gang hit on a rival gang member that instead killed Leanne Laura MacFarlane and Jeffrey Todd Taylor from Salmon Arm on May 29, 2010, who were living in the home in a rural area east of Cranbrook at the time.
MacFarlane, 43, and Taylor, 42, had moved from Salmon Arm to Cranbrook to open a second business in addition to their cell phone retail store, Shuswap Wireless Connections, which operated in the Mall at Piccadilly. They had been living in a house beside the Highway 3/93 rest stop for three months.
That morning, the couple were shot in their home. Police quickly determined it was a case of mistaken identity.
Eight years later, Correia and Hunter were arrested a day apart in Edmonton and Drumheller respectively, before prosecutors announced murder charges on June 11, 2018.
The trial took 150 days, starting September 2020, while closing arguments were made in December 2021.
Justice Silverman highlighted three main reasons that led to reasonable doubt in the Crown’s case.
He said the evidence established the intended target of the hit — Doug Mahon — did not live at the residence where the murders occurred, and there was reasonable doubt whether the two accused knew the intended victim did not reside at the address, and had not been there for months.
Credibility of a key witness whose identity is protected by a publication ban was also a factor, as testimony was suspect when considered in isolation and against the totality of the evidence, according to the judge. Silverman determined that ‘Z’ lied to investigators in order to receive legal immunity, and continued to lie after it was granted.
Thirdly, with regard to Hunter, reasonable doubt was predicated on cell phone records suggesting he was in a different location at the same time of the murders and was corroborated by the credible evidence of a friend.
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