Douglas attempted murder trial in Chilliwack focuses on ID of shooter

Aaron Douglas is on trial this week for the attempted murder of Jeff Karpes in 2012. - Crime Stoppers
Aaron Douglas is on trial this week for the attempted murder of Jeff Karpes in 2012.
— image credit: Crime Stoppers

As Jeff Karpes lay on the road in front of Prospera Centre in the early hours of Dec. 23, 2012, one of his lungs started to collapse and he was bleeding out of two bullet holes in his chest.

Karpes spoke through tears in BC Supreme Court on Tuesday, and explained how, as he lay there, he called 9-1-1.

"I told them I was shot," he said. "I told them that Aaron had shot me and that I just wanted my kids to know that I loved them."

The 47-year-old's words were part of his testimony on day two of the attempted murder trial for Aaron James David Douglas.

After calling for help, Karpes then called his wife, Theresa Conlon, a woman who used to date Douglas and is the mother of his child.

"I just told Theresa to tell Calder [Karpes' adult son] that I loved him. I said 'He got me.' I didn't even have to say anything else."

Karpes knew Conlon would have understood the words 'he got me' because both said in court this week they had received threats from Douglas prior to the shooting. And despite a restraining order against him, Douglas approached the couple and sucker-punched Karpes at a mixed martial arts event two months earlier.

"He said he was going to riddle the place, shoot it up," Conlon said of Douglas during her testimony on Monday.

Douglas is well-known to Chilliwack RCMP, and has a long criminal record with convictions on weapons and drug charges. In 2006, Douglas and Deano Paus were both charged with possession of stolen property. Paus was murdered in 2010, a case that remains unsolved.

Karpes himself is no saint, something defence counsel Ken Beatch pointed out during the shooting victim's time on the stand Tuesday.

Karpes is a former drug dealer. In 2008, he received a three-month sentence in Chilliwack Court for forcible confinement and weapons charges.

At the time of the shooting, Karpes worked as a bootlegger, providing an illegal after-hours alcohol delivery service. Two days before he was shot, he was called to deliver a bottle to a Cleveland Avenue address.

He had delivered bottles to the address before, but this time something was different. He was told by a man he was at the wrong house. He started to turn his SUV around to leave when the vehicle was hit by at least two bullets, both of which missed him. He suffered a small cut on his cheek and he said he got glass in his eye.

The next night, Dec. 21, 2012, Karpes got a call for a bottle delivery to a house on First Nations reserve land he referred to as The Landing.

The reserve is in fact the Skwah First Nation at the east end of Wellington Road near McCammon traditional elementary school.

He told Justice James Williams the call came from the same woman who called him to the Cleveland address. He delivered the bottle to the woman who ordered it, and left quickly.

Much later that night, in the early hours of Dec. 22, he was called to deliver another bottle to the same address. Because it was late and the people had been drinking, he told the caller to meet him outside the reserve at the corner of Wellington and Ashwell roads.

Karpes testifed that as he sat waiting for the woman to walk along Lower Landing Road towards where he was parked, what he saw instead was Douglas wearing a hoodie pulled up over his head with a handgun aimed at him.

"I didn't see her. I saw Aaron. I saw Aaron and Aaron shot me," he told the court.

He testified that he slumped to the left of his vehicle and pretended he was dead. After a few moments, he started the jeep, which had stalled, and drove off turning left onto Ashwell.

When he got to the intersection of Ashwell and Hodgins/Wolfe, he stopped, got out and felt the need to lie on the ground. That's when he says he called 9-1-1 and his wife.

Much of the afternoon Tuesday was spent with a heated cross-examination of Karpes by Beatch.

Douglas's lawyer started by calling him an ex-drug dealer. He focused on the amount of money Karpes likely had with him on his liquor runs and the risk of robbery he must have faced.

Beatch asked about a pharmaceutical Karpes takes for a nerve condition, which apparently causes some form of memory loss.

The lawyer also pointed to the vehicle he was driving the night of the shooting. For his business, Karpes said he uses rental vehicles. After the Dec. 20 incident where his rented SUV was shot up, he was without a vehicle. So his friend Jerry Elliott let him use a Jeep he wasn't using.

Elliott, who himself has an extensive criminal record (and is currently in jail for a vicious hammer attack in the Chilliwack River Valley in 2013), was also previously the victim of a drive-by shooting.

Beatch was clearly laying the groundwork for reasonable doubt suggesting that Karpes might have been the subject of robbery, he might not remember things as well as he could, and he may even have been the victim of mistaken identity.

But Beatch spent most of his time Tuesday addressing inconsistencies with Karpes' various statements, including: to police after the Dec. 20 shooting and after the Dec. 22 shooting; again in hospital; to the court at the preliminary hearing; and earlier in the day Tuesday.

Beatch got Karpes to all but admit that he did not even see a person at all after the Dec. 20 shooting, even though he described someone to police.

"I suggest you are doing the same thing today," Beatch said of the Dec. 22 shooting. "You didn't see anyone. All you saw was muzzle flash."

Karpes responded: "If you are accusing me of lying on the second shooting, why wouldn't I have just put him away on the first shooting? That's what you are making me out to be, a liar in both cases. I could have saved myself the lead in the chest, couldn't I?"

Beatch insisted that Karpes was convinced the shooter was Douglas because he wanted the man in jail, but that he didn't really see him.

"You can't close your eyes and see the shooter, can you?" Beatch asked Karpes.

"I don't have to close my eyes," he responded. "He is sitting right there."

In court Wednesday, Crown Counsel David Beirne asked for an adjournment until Thursday as senior Crown had ordered police to follow up on a "new line of inquiry," with respect to the case. Beirne didn't say what the police were looking for so late in the investigation, and he added that he didn't even know if it would be something that could be presented in court.

Beatch opposed the adjournment and called it "bushwacking," adding that even if something new were presented "the only fair thing to do would be to declare a mistrial."

"You haven't been bushwacked yet," Justice Williams told Beatch in granting the adjournment until Thursday at 10 a.m.

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