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Witness 'terrified' by fight at View Towers, murder trial told

Nov 30 2011

Matthew Rockwell was terrified and in shock after a fight broke out in Paul Rouxel's View Towers apartment on the night of April 9, 2009, the Crown witness testified in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday.

The 23-year-old former crack addict was testifying at the trial of Wyatt Prince, who is charged with the second-degree murder of Rouxel and robbing Rouxel, a 45-year-old husband and father of two.

Rockwell kept his back to Wyatt as he testified about the night Rouxel died. On Monday, the jury heard that Rockwell believed Rouxel had stolen drugs and money from him so he enlisted the help of Prince and another man called Fish to confront him. The three men, who were all high on drugs, went to Rouxel's apartment.

No one had discussed what would happen, Rockwell testified. Rouxel was standing in the hallway when Prince jumped on his back and put him in a chokehold.

"He didn't have time to react. He tried to get him off his back. He tried to get Wyatt's hands off him," Rockwell testified.

"Did you ever see Wyatt Prince's hand position change?" asked prosecutor Kimberly Henders Miller.

"No," Rockwell replied.

He ran as fast as he could — with Fish behind him — to an apartment on the fifth floor. There, they watched the View Towers security camera on a TV channel available to residents.

"I was terrified when I got to the fifth floor," said Rockwell. "Jewel [a friend] came to the suite. I told her everything went wrong and I don't know what's going to happen now."

After about 30 minutes, they went to another suite on the ninth floor and continued to watch the security video. They watched the coroner arrive about 6 a.m., testified Rockwell.

"Then we watched a body being taken out."

Later that morning, Rockwell and Fish went to the Chelsea apartments and spent the $1,100 they had stolen from Rouxel's sock on crack.

Seeing the $100 bills, Rockwell realized the money had come from Rouxel's paycheque.

Rockwell testified that Prince phoned him the next day and said: "Be quiet. Don't say anything."

About five days later, Prince phoned him again and said: "You owe me some money for that."

"I said, 'I'm leaving town,' " Rockwell testified.

During cross-examination, Rockwell told defence lawyer Mike Munro he was arrested, charged with robbery, then released. "A lawyer told me what do to and here I am," he said.

Munro asked Rockwell if he'd ever gone to the police.

No, Rockwell replied.

Munro grilled Rockwell about his evidence from the preliminary inquiry when he said he didn't know where Prince's hands were during the fight.

"He was choking him," blurted Rockwell.

"Is it true?" persisted Munro. "Yesterday, you told this jury my client's hands were around his throat."

"I don't recall," said Rockwell.

Munro pointed out that Rockwell's memory was probably affected by the fact he had consumed about $700 of crack cocaine in 24 hours. "I'm not trying to say I'm fully innocent in this situation," said Rockwell.

The defence lawyer noted this was the first time he was hearing about Rockwell's conversations with Prince after Rouxel's death.

Kim Hines, who lived in the suite below Rouxel, testified he heard a big crash against a wall through the concrete floor and concrete walls around 11 p.m.

"It was very significant. I kind of felt it, the vibration of it," said Hines. Then, Hines heard someone screaming at the top of their lungs: "Please help me." Hines called 911 because he was too afraid to check it out.

"The person was screaming for their life and it was muffled and sounding like someone's face was on the floor," testified Hines, as members of Rouxel's family started to cry. "It got pretty quiet after that."

The jury has been told the issue they must decide is how Rouxel died. A forensic pathologist is expected to testify that he believes Rouxel's cause of death was manual strangulation.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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