January 14, 2019 8:00 am
Updated: January 14, 2019 9:35 pm

Trial underway for Calgary man charged with first-degree murder in swarming death of Lukas Strasser-Hird

WATCH: A trial is finally underway for a Calgary man accused in the swarming death of 18-year-old Lukas Strasser-Hird. Nathan Gervais fled the country, which delayed the trial by several years. Nancy Hixt reports.

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A Calgary man accused in the swarming death of Lukas Strasser-Hird is finally standing trial — nearly three years after his original trial date.

On Monday morning, Nathan Gervais pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

He was supposed to stand trial in April 2016, but disappeared just one week before jury selection, while under 24-hour house arrest.

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READ MORE: 2 charged with helping Calgary murder suspect leave Canada

Strasser-Hird, 18, was swarmed, kicked, beaten and stabbed to death outside of Vinyl nightclub in November 2013.

His family and friends filled one side of the courtroom gallery, including his father and both maternal and paternal grandmothers.

Strasser-Hird’s father, Dale Hird, told Global News he’s thankful Gervais is finally facing his trial.

“We had thought once he was gone and left the country… we didn’t have a lot of hope,” Hird said. “We’re sure glad the police and the detective stayed on it.”

Hird said it’s tough sitting through yet another trial, but added, “I’d rather be here than Nathan (Gervais) sitting on a beach in Vietnam somewhere.”

Lukas Strasser-Hird

Courtesy Strasser-Hird Family

Gervais was apprehended in November 2017 by police in Vietnam, after being arrested for being in the country with a fraudulent passport and sparking a deportation order.

Gervais, 22, was brought back to Canada in February 2018. He was denied bail and has been in custody ever since.

READ MORE: Accused Calgary killer Nathan Gervais arrested while on the run in Vietnam

The prosecution opened its case on Monday with a short statement to Justice William Tilleman.

Crown prosecutor Samina Dhalla explained there were two altercations at Vinyl on Nov. 23, 2013 — the first out front, then the fatal altercation out back of the club.

Court heard Lukas Strasser-Hird told an individual in the accused’s group that he didn’t “appreciate his use of a racial slur.”

CCTV video of that fight was played in court and showed Strasser-Hird being surrounded out front. He was pushed back and sent reeling.

“I just saw a bunch of guys on top of one guy,” former Vinyl doorman Josiphe Ceko testified.

He said at one point he saw one man run across the street to a parking lot to a car, but said he couldn’t describe who that was.

Ceko said the man grabbed something from his car and was pacing back and forth.

The prosecution alleges Gervais left the bar to get a knife from his car — which the Crown alleges he used on Strasser-Hird during the second altercation.

The owner of Vinyl at the time, as well as two of his employees testified on Monday.

Thomas McDonald said he witnessed “quite a few aggressors attacking Lukas.”

He said he grabbed Strasser-Hird and brought him back inside of Vinyl.

McDonald said he kept his eye on Gervais following that altercation.

“I had the assumption he had a weapon on him,” McDonald said, and identified Gervais in the prisoner’s box.

The manager of the bar, Curtis Ruta, said the altercation out front was “an odd-man fight… one group had more people than the other.”

Bar staff broke up the first fight, and Strasser-Hird was led to safety in the bar.

He said bar staff separated the two groups and Strasser-Hird was brought inside.

“They were outnumbered and unsafe,” he said.

CCTV video showed he was later let out the back door into the alley, where he was again attacked. The fatal swarming was not captured on surveillance video.

The prosecution’s theory is the accused waited in the back alley for Strasser-Hird, then swarmed him with several others.

The Crown alleges Gervais stabbed him.

In June 2016, a jury found Assmar Shlah and Franz Cabrera guilty of second-degree murder in the case. Joch Pouk was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

READ MORE: Man convicted in Lukas Strasser-Hird swarming death must wait to hear appeal decision

Shlah has since filed an appeal, and is out on bail pending the outcome of that appeal.
Police have also now charged two men for allegedly helping Gervais escape Canada and travel to Vietnam in the first place.
Sean Airey, 27 and Marshall Quillan, 21, are both facing charges of obstruction of justice, forging a passport, making a false statement to procure a passport and being an accessory after the fact to murder.
Strasser-Hird was an avid hockey player, a talented piano and guitar player and was close with his family.
He spent the final year of his life in Bolivia, with his grandfather who had terminal cancer. He returned the very day he was brutally attacked.
“I think about him the moment I wake up, the moment I go to sleep, so that’s just how it is for me,” Hird said of his son.
The trial is scheduled for two weeks.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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