Sault Ste. Marie police chief slams prosecutors, demands review in murder plea deal
Anger has boiled over in a northern Ontario city following a plea deal that will allow three men who decapitated and dismembered a friend at a wild drug-fuelled house party to walk free within two years.
Ronald Mitchell, Dylan Jocko and Eric Mearow pleaded guilty in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., earlier this week to manslaughter and offering an indignity to a human body despite the police chief’s insistence that his force brought forward a comprehensive case that culminated in first-degree murder charges.
A crowd of about 100 protesters gathered outside the Sault courthouse on Thursday following the court hearing. The victim’s tearful mother and police Chief Robert Keetch were among those outraged by the developments.
“The results of this case in no way reflect the work done by police,” Keetch told the media as he attempted to assure the city his force had no part in the deal in the death of Wesley Hallam, who was stabbed to death on Jan. 7, 2011 before being decapitated and dismembered.
Keetch called on the Ministry of the Attorney General for an independent third-party review of the case.
“I struggle to make sense of the Crown’s decision to accept a plea deal,” said Hallam’s mother, Sandra Hallam.
“I feel horrified that it is at the expense of my son’s life and my family’s lives. I am horrified that these three men will walk back into our community some time soon. I think the city of Sault Ste. Marie should be afraid. These men committed murder and will soon walk free while my son, his friends and we, the family, have received a true life sentence.”
According to an agreed statement of facts read in court, the party began at Mearow’s “flop house” after 5 p.m. that Friday.
It was a house used by many to buy and consume drugs. On the menu: alcohol, weed, powder and crack cocaine, heroin, Oxycontin and Fentanyl.
Mearow, Mitchell and their girlfriends decided to stay in that night and invited others over. The party ballooned, according to the statement of facts. Jocko arrived shortly after 9:30 p.m.; he’d smoked crack earlier in the day and was in search of more, the document states, and arrived with a stolen television set to trade for the drug.
Hallam, who would not live to see the morning, was at a friend’s house when he got word of the party. He borrowed his friend’s knife, engraved with a swastika, and showed up at the house party around 11:30 p.m. He was friends with Mearow and Mitchell and an aquaintance of Jocko’s.
All four liked and carried knives, that night included, according to the statement of facts. All four had criminal records and were recreational drug enthusiasts. But despite their friendships, the group wasn’t without their differences and previous squabbles.
Mearow, Mitchell and Hallam partied and snorted cocaine together, according to the court documents. Hallam took out his borrowed knife to show the group, but Jocko took offence to the swastika because he was part aboriginal.
A smaller group, including Mearow, Mitchell and Hallam, moved upstairs to do more coke. Jocko remained downstairs. After doing more lines, Hallam became frustrated and told Mitchell that Jocko was a “goof,” according to the statement of facts.
“The word ‘goof’ was a serious insult. It suggested the person was a ‘rat’ or a child molester,” said the statement of facts.
Mitchell took offence and began arguing with Hallam. Before long, all four men were in a frenzied, full-fledged knife fight.
Mitchell swung at Hallam at one point, stabbing him in the side of the neck. He was soon bleeding out and collapsed.
Mearow ordered Mitchell and Jocko to help move Hallam to the bathroom. The injured man was momentarily combative, but then fell into unconsciousness. They dumped Hallam into the bathtub.
Mearow took control, court heard, and ordered the other two men to begin dismembering Hallam. When knives proved ineffective, the men turned to an electric saw. Mitchell stood guard outside as the party still raged on, the sounds of the saw audible above the din.
All three took breaks to snort cocaine as they completed the dismemberment. According the statement of facts, they disposed of the body parts in various locations, including in a creek and a garbage dump across the border in Michigan.
Because of time already served, all three men will spend two years or less behind bars.
© 2016 The Canadian Press