After nearly 2½ years in custody, the man accused of first-degree murder in the April 2013 killing of 28-year-old Craig Widdifield in a South Surrey parking lot has been found not guilty of the crime.
Justice Peter Voith rendered the verdict in the case of Brody Robert Paterson Friday morning in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
Voith said while he believes it is “likely or probable” that Paterson committed the “planned and deliberate” crime, he was unable to trust the evidence of Crown’s key witness.
“In this case, that evidence in multiple respects… was clearly dishonest,” Voith said in his reasons for judgment.
“The Crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Paterson was the person who shot and killed Mr. Widdifield, and accordingly, I find Mr. Paterson not guilty.”
The verdict surprised Widdifield’s mother, Nadia.
“Unbelievable,” she said outside court moments after it was announced.
“It’s very sad.”
Widdifield was gunned down just before 7 p.m. on April 24, 2013, as he was getting into his vehicle in the 15700-block of Croydon Drive.
Paterson, now 22, was arrested in October 2014 – 18 months after Widdifield’s death, which police had described as a “murder conspiracy.” He pleaded not guilty at the outset of his trial, which got underway last September.
Over the course of the proceedings, which wrapped up early February, the court heard that Widdifield had just left a gym that he frequented in the area when he was shot multiple times by a lone gunman who had emerged from a Jeep Cherokee that had been parked beside Widdifield’s SUV.
Various witnesses testified that the gunman was wearing dark clothing, gloves, sunglasses and possibly a mask. At least two described the shooter as having darker skin, Voith noted.
One witness who testified last fall – whose identity is protected by a publication ban – described having a “direct line of sight” to the killing.
“I saw a person with their right arm extended to another person, heard or saw the two or three shots, the person stepping into the vehicle fell backwards,” the witness testified.
“At that point, I saw everyone just scatter (and) saw the last breath of the victim.”
The witness described following the shooter as he fled the parking lot, and watching as he abandoned the Jeep on 165 Street, just north of 28 Avenue, and got into the passenger side of a second vehicle.
In his reasons for judgment, Voith noted that Crown counsel had acknowledged that the prosecution’s case hung on the testimony of another key witness – a man whose fingerprint had been found on the Jeep, who had signed an immunity agreement with police in exchange for providing evidence.
Voith said there were many reasons to treat that evidence “with great caution,” including the witness’s evasiveness during trial, his role in illegal activities after signing the immunity agreement and that he was “overtly dishonest.”
Voith was also critical of Paterson’s testimony. Paterson took the stand in his own defence over two days in January, denying that he had participated in the killing.
Voith said much of Paterson’s evidence was “not credible… not plausible.”
Paterson, he said, had agreed that he was an individual captured on surveillance camera purchasing gloves and various other items at a work-wear store days prior to the shooting, and that he had lied to police in an interview the evening of April 25, 2013 about where he had been the day before. He told the court he had purchased the work-wear items for, and been directed to lie by, a man who died of a drug overdose about three weeks after Widdifield’s murder.
Voith said he did not accept either statement.
“There were numerous difficulties with Mr. Paterson’s evidence… significant difficulties,” he said.
Outside court, Paterson’s lawyer, Michael Klein, described the Crown’s key witness as “a terrible witness.”
At the same time, Klein said he was uncertain through much of Voith’s reasons as to which way the judge would rule on the case.
“You’re always pleased when hard work pays off,” he said. “A lot of hard work went into it.
“I had no idea early on which way it was going to go.”