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Witness thought nothing of body in View Towers closet, trial told

Dec 01 2011

Former View Towers resident John Smith thought nothing of it when he walked by what turned out to be the body of Paul Rouxel sticking out of a closet in his 17th-floor apartment, a B.C. Supreme Court jury heard Wednesday.

Smith was testifying at the trial of Wyatt Prince, who is charged with the second-degree murder of Rouxel and robbing Rouxel on the night of April 9, 2009.

Prince, a well-built man with short, blond hair and a goatee, looked on as Smith gave a graphic account of drug use and the drug trade in the downtown apartment building, sometimes referred to as Crack Towers. Smith said he often saw people in the hallway with needles sticking out of the arms or passed out in the hallway.

Smith testified that he was an alcoholic who lived alone with his cat and struggled to survive on the money he received from income assistance. He would vacuum apartments for a pack of cigarettes, a six-pack or a few dollars. He was in the elevator with his Electrolux when he met Rouxel for the first time.

"He asked me to vacuum his apartment," said Smith. "He seemed like a decent person."

Smith also allowed drug dealers to take over his apartment in return for money or items. "They pretty much take advantage of you. They come in, take over the suite and steal everything in sight," he told the court.

On the night Rouxel died, Smith was drinking with friends called Jay and Carla, in Carla's 17th-floor apartment. They ran out of beer about 11 p.m. and decided to try to buy some more.

As Smith passed Rouxel's apartment, he noticed the door was two-thirds open.

"Being courteous, I thought I'd close it," he testified.

Smith walked into the apartment, thought he saw a girl asleep or crashed out in a closet and walked out, closing the door behind him.

"Paul let young girls do their drugs in his apartment and they did it in his closet," Smith told defence lawyer Mike Munro.

"They'd go in there and shoot up . . . as long as it was away from him."

This time, he assumed someone had passed out in the closet, he testified. "You thought nothing of it," said Munro. Smith agreed.

But as they left the building, Smith saw a distraught look on the face of the night security guard. Four uniformed police officers were entering the building.

Smith, who admitted to being confused about the timing of events, testified that a "panicked" group of people came down to his ninth-floor suite.

A drug dealer named Matt arrived with three or four people and told him to sit down and shut up. Although Smith was irritated at being told what to do by a

20-year-old, "Matt was really freaked and it scared me. I thought I better chill out," Smith testified.

Victoria police Const. Scott Eddy testified that, when he entered Rouxel's apartment, he saw a body lying on its side, facing the wall.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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