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View Towers murder trial jury considers its verdict

Dec 10 2011

A B.C. Supreme Court jury deliberated Friday as to whether or not Wyatt Prince is guilty of the second-degree murder and robbery of Paul Rouxel on April 9, 2009, in his View Towers apartment.

The jury began their deliberations Thursday. On Friday, they asked to return to court and play back the testimony of forensic pathologist Dr. Danny Straathof. Later, they returned again to listen to the evidence of two Crown witnesses, Matthew Rockwell and Christina Gardiner.

Rouxel, a 45-year-old husband and father of two, worked as a roofer. He was also a cocaine addict. Until about three months before his death, he lived in Langford with his wife of 19 years, Manjiat, and his teenaged children.

On the night Rouxel died, police received reports of a disturbance in his 17th floor apartment.

The night manager went up to check and found Rouxel on the floor. The upper half of Rouxel's body was in a closet, which was knocked off its tracks.

At trial, Rockwell testified that he often sold crack cocaine in Rouxel's apartment. He believed that Rouxel had stolen drugs and money from him. He enlisted the help of Prince, a homeless man who was also an addict, and another individual called Fish, to confront Rouxel. The three men, all high on drugs, went to Rouxel's apartment.

Rockwell testified that Prince jumped on Rouxel's back and put him in a chokehold. Fish grabbed a roll of money from Rouxel's sock and Rockwell and Fish ran from the apartment as fast as they could while the struggle continued. Later, they realized that the money they had stolen from Rouxel was in $100 bills — the money from Rouxel's last paycheque, which he had cashed that morning.

The jury heard the police investigation was helped along by a confidential informant. Hal Hannon told Sgt. Dave Bown that Rouxel had been killed during a drug rip. Hannon said that Prince choked Rouxel and put him in a closet, testified Bown.

Straathof testified that he found significant injuries to Rouxel's neck, including bruising, a fracture of the thyroid cartilage and bleeding.

During the autopsy, Straathof found that Rouxel had a narrowing of two major blood vessels to the heart.

The natural disease process, atherosclerosis, is a potentially life-threatening condition that can result in heart attack or sudden death.

Toxicology found that the cocaine in Rouxel's body was at a level at which a person can die from an overdose, Straathof testified.

The three major findings may have acted in concert or on an individual level to cause death, Straathof said.

He was unable to say how much each contributed.

Straathof concluded that the information he received about the scene and the circumstances of the death, and the finding at autopsy, including the neck injuries and the presence of petechial hemorrhage, indicated that Rouxel's cause of death was manual strangulation.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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