By Brendan Miller
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Justice Dallas Miller is expected to give a verdict in the second-degree murder trial for Deborah Belyea, who stands accused in the homicide and indignity of human remains of her husband Alfred, on the afternoon of Jan. 29 in the province’s top court.
The court heard the Crown prosecution and defence counsel’s closing arguments Jan. 17 on the seventh day of the trial that was originally scheduled for nine days.
Crown prosecutor Jase Cowan, whose burden is to prove to the court without reasonable doubt the accused is guilty of the charges laid against her, told the court Belyea had the exclusive opportunity to commit the homicide of her husband.
“If upon considering all of the evidence there are no other reasonable inferences but guilt to be drawn, then the court should find the accused guilty of the offence.”
In her closing argument, defence counsel Katherine Beylak told the court the evidence presented by the Crown left gaps, and a lack of evidence may mean Belyea is not guilty.
“Due to the limited nature of the investigation and the very limited nature of the evidence before the court that you opt not to be satisfied that Miss Belyea is in fact guilty.”
During the first six days of trial, prosecution called 17 witnesses to testify including family members and friends of Belyea, RCMP officers who worked the case, as well as forensic, toxicology and DNA experts.
The Crown claims Belyea stabbed Alfred to death in the living room of their Suffield home speculatively in October 2021 on Thursday the 7th or Friday the 8th. Cowan claims Belyea used plastic tote lids and a blue blanket and plastic table cloth to slide his body down the stairs of their bi-level home.
Beylak claims these dates are only speculation and the prosecution hasn’t provided significant evidence to prove when Alfred was murdered.
“We don’t even know when the deceased passed. I would respectfully suggest that the Crown has failed to do that.”
Forensic investigators provided the court with several photos throughout the trial showing the investigators use of a chemical reagent called ‘Blue Star’ that police use to test when they suspect blood is present at a crime scene.
The chemical reacted positively to several areas in the Suffield home as well as in the Volkswagen Golf. During cross examinations Beylak confirmed that Blue Star can also react with several cleaning products, animal blood and certain foods.
“It’s important to note the limitations of the evidence. First and foremost, no matter how many times my friend (Cowan) says Blue Star means blood, that is not true. That is not the evidence and that’s incorrect.”
Cowan told the court Alfred’s body was then put into a grey municipal garbage bin that appears to be missing from the home and Deborah drove the body in her Volkswagen Golf to an abandoned rural property south of Piapot, Sask., and left it outside an out building.
“In that week he was stabbed to death, had his arms amputated, the scene was cleaned up and his body was transported to Piapot, Sask.”
Through testimonies the prosecution learned RCMP were able to connect several pieces of evidence with DNA, and Alfred’s blood to Belyea’s home that included a broken handle that matched a bloody tote lid and fabric and rope similar to a blanket and rope used to wrap the deceased.
Alfred’s blood and DNA were also found through the Volkswagen Golf as well as in a garbage bag of bloody clothing Belyea is said to have given her friend Shandel Dupal to dispose of on Monday, Oct. 11.
During testimony by Belyea’s eldest daughter Trina, the court discovered a handwritten note with a map was turned into RCMP on Friday, Oct. 15 that had been discovered by Trina that morning. Trina told the court she heard her mother writing the note after having a dream about Alfred.
“Perhaps most damning of all, Deborah draws a map to the body, asking that her daughter’s not hate her and states the letter should not be given to police,” Cowan told the court.
On Oct. 15 RCMP followed the map Belyea made to find Alfred’s body in Piapot.
During her closing argument, Beylak also suggested prosecution did not provide enough evidence of the possibility of someone else being involved in the homicide.
Beylak referred to several DNA and blood samples processed at the National Forensic Laboratory in Edmonton that provided insufficient data.
Beylak also disputes the Crown’s theory that Belyea could lift her husband’s remains into a garbage bin and then into the back of her Volkswagen Golf. The body weighed 79 kgs during autopsy.
Beylak claims Deborah would be physically unable to transport the body and clean the crime scene by herself over the Thanksgiving long weekend. The court learned Belyea has been suffering medical issues since she had a stroke in 2001 and has been using oxygen tubes on and off since 2009.
“Where there are that many gaps and that many holes I would suggest that a drug-induced letter isn’t sufficient for conviction.” Beylak told the court.
Beylak argued RCMP officers had tunnel vision while investigating the homicide and Justice Miller said the court is aware of the issue with tunnel vision in cases of similar nature.
However, Cowan rebutted that police followed the evidence they obtained and conducted their second-degree homicide investigation accordingly.
“They got a map, it led to a body. They started investigating the body and scene there. They followed the DNA … there is nothing to indicate they got tunnel vision, only that they followed the evidence that was there.”
Justice Miller is expected to hand down a verdict in the case at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 29 in the Court of King’s Bench.