Accused choked victim in drug spat: witness
Nov 29 2011
The last time Matthew Rockwell saw Paul Rouxel alive, he was in a chokehold, struggling on the floor of his View Towers apartment with a man now on trial for second-degree murder, a B.C. Supreme Court jury heard Monday.
Rockwell was the first witness testifying at the trial of Wyatt Prince, who is also charged with robbing Rouxel on April 9, 2009, the night he died. As Rouxel's wife, Manjiat, his teenage children and his sister Laura Gray looked on, Rockwell described his life as a crack addict and a drug dealer in the downtown apartment building, which is often referred to as "Crack Towers."
The burly 23-year-old witness testified that he believed Rouxel had stolen $1,000 and crack from him when he had fallen asleep at Rouxel's apartment on April 8, 2009. The next night, an angry Rockwell, who was high on crack, enlisted the help of Prince by paying for his heroin.
Another man nicknamed Fish, who was also high on crack, was also in on the plan was to confront Rouxel, he testified.
The three men took the stairs to Rouxel's 17th-floor bachelor apartment. Rockwell opened the door. Rouxel was standing in the hallway.
"I said, 'What's going on? I hear you took my dope and my money,' " Rockwell testified.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Rouxel replied.
At that point, Wyatt jumped on his back and put Rouxel in a chokehold, Rockwell testified. They struggled for a few seconds, then fell to the ground. Both were moaning, rolling around side-to-side, for about 30 seconds, Rockwell said.
During the struggle, Rockwell and Fish saw a bulge of money in Rouxel's sock.
"Fish grabbed that and we left," said Rockwell, who will continue his testimony this morning.
Justice Susan Griffin cautioned Rockwell about using the term "murder." She also cautioned the jury about the Crown's use of the word "kill."
"The factual matter was that Mr. Rouxel died that night and the issue is how he died that night," said Griffin.
As the trial got underway, Crown prosecutor Leslie Baskerville told the jury Rouxel's life was far from idyllic when he died at the age of 45.
"He was estranged from his family and he struggled with a severe drug addiction. Just weeks before he died, he moved into View Towers," Baskerville said.
On the morning of April 9, 2009, he cashed his last paycheque for $2,184 at Money Mart and bought and consumed cocaine. That night, a plan was hatched to rob him, she said.
"Wyatt Prince was part of that plan."
The jury can expect to hear evidence from neighbours about noise coming from Rouxel's suite. Jurors also will hear from night- duty manager Marco Brewer that Victoria police dispatch called him and asked him to check suite 1704.
When he did, he found Rouxel's body sticking out of a closet.
Sgt. Dave Bown is expected to testify about a text message he received the day after Rouxel's death that affected the course of the investigation.
A pathologist is expected to testify that he believes Rouxel's cause of death was manual strangulation.
"But it isn't a simple matter," Baskerville said. "Ultimately, it will be your job to come to some conclusions about the cause of death."
Admissions of fact read into the court record show Rouxel was a chronic cocaine user who consumed the drug a few hours before his death.
It also reveals Prince's DNA was found in fingernail clippings taken from Rouxel during an autopsy.