Two pieces of potentially crucial evidence in a murder case were removed from a crime scene by a friend of the homicide victim. On Thursday in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench, the friend explained to a jury his method and his motivation.
Jason Steadman is charged with the first-degree murder of Dwayne Demkiw on May 31, 2015. He’s also accused of setting Demkiw’s car on fire in a Calgary parkade later that same day.
The jury has been told the 42-year old limo driver was last seen alive at 4:04 a.m. on surveillance video taken inside a limousine bay. Days later, police found his destroyed cellphone along Anthony Henday Drive. Demkiw’s scattered remains were discovered almost a year later.
The day Demkiw disappeared, his friends and family had no idea what had happened to him. There were phone calls, text messages and Facebook posts as his loved ones scrambled to figure out what was going on.
Darren Boisvert had known Demkiw for 13 years. The two men weren’t close friends, but kept in touch regularly through social media. When a cousin let Boisvert know Demkiw had disappeared, he followed his instincts.
“I googled the address of the company Dwayne was working for at the time,” Boisvert testified. “It happened to be not far from my address so I thought I would drive there in person… I was just curious to see the layout of this facility and the parking lot. Try to lend a hand.”
As soon as he arrived at Revolution Limousine, Boisvert got out of his Hummer and began to photograph the scene with his cellphone camera.
“I started taking pictures from many different angles before I touched anything,” Boisvert explained. “I was thinking worst-case scenario.”
When Boisvert went around to the back where the limo bay and parking lot were located, he said he spotted two “unusual” items in a planter.
“One was a black ball cap. The other one I wasn’t sure at first,” Boisvert said. “It appeared to be a knife sheath, but it was larger than any knife sheath I’ve seen before.”
In Boisvert’s opinion, the items had been placed there “recently.” It had rained the night before and he testified the two pieces “weren’t too dirty”.
Prosecutor Chantelle Washenfelder asked Boisvert what his state of mind was at the time of the discovery. He explained he thought back to his childhood when he devoured every Encyclopedia Brown book in the series.
“The series is about a young boy detective who liked to solve things,” Boisvert said. “I was thinking the worst possible case scenario. He’s gone missing — what can be the possible reason for it. So I was just looking for clues.”
At that point, Boisvert had no idea police were already involved because Demkiw’s car had been found on fire in Calgary. The Crown asked if he thought about calling police after making his find.
“Not at that time,” he said. “It was just in the very early phases of being informed he was missing.”
Handling the evidence
Boisvert described his handling of the evidence in painstaking detail. He returned to his vehicle, grabbed a pair of work gloves, then returned to the planter. He picked up the sheath and ball cap and put them into a plastic shopping bag.
He told the jury repeatedly he never touched the items with his bare hands.
Boisvert returned to the parking lot later that evening to do an even more thorough search and to take more pictures.
“I’m a very curious, visual person,” he explained. “This could be a potentially serious situation. I would rather err on the side of caution and record these things.”
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Darin Sprake said, “You had nothing to do with those items being placed there. Is that fair?”
“Absolutely not,” Boisvert immediately replied.
After his second search, Boisvert tried to drop his evidence off at the police station, but it was already closed so he left a message with an officer.
The next day police picked up the items.
It remains to be seen what relevance, if any, the items have in the case.
The trial continues.
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.