Kamloops This Week
After a 10-month delay, the trial of an Ashcroft man accused of beating his uncle to death with a shovel two years ago resumed briefly on June 17 in a Kamloops courtroom.
Shane Gyoba, 30, is charged with second-degree murder in connection to the June 2, 2014 death of his uncle, Ed Gyoba. Last August, after near-constant outbursts in his week-long trial, Gyoba’s hearing was halted so he could undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He was found fit to stand trial.
Lawyers on June 17 made closing arguments in Gyoba’s case. Crown prosecutor Neil Flanagan said he thinks Gyoba should be found not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder if convicted. In order to be found not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder, one must first be convicted.
“There is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had the necessary mental element for you to find him guilty,” Flanagan said. “Mr. Gyoba is guilty of murder. There is no reason to find that Mr. Gyoba did not know that striking him in the head three times, three very strong blows, would cause the death of his uncle. There was clear intention to cause the death of Ed Gyoba.”
However, Flanagan added, there is ample evidence Gyoba was in the midst of a psychiatric episode at the time of the attack.
Flanagan said the Crown theory is that Gyoba was motivated by anger after learning that he was being kicked out of the home of his aunt and uncle.
Court has heard police were called to the Ashcroft home Gyoba shared with his aunt and uncle at about 9:30 a.m. on the day of the murder. A neighbour who testified last summer said the drama began to unfold nearly an hour earlier. Gil Anderson said he went outside for a cigarette and heard a shouting match.
“I lit the smoke and that’s when I heard the sounds of arguing coming from I don’t know where,” he said. “It was louder than regular talking. They sounded angry. I couldn’t hear what words were spoken.”
Anderson walked around the side of his house to the driveway and saw, through bushes, two men in the front yard of the Gyoba home.
“I couldn’t quite see faces, but I saw two silhouettes through the bushes,” he said. “I saw the silhouette on the left attack the one on the right. The one on the right tried to defend itself and the one on the left pursued until the one on the right fell down.”
Anderson said he then saw the person on the left pick something up from the ground and start swinging.
“I could see the long handle and I wasn’t quite sure until I heard the shovel, the first strike. I heard kind of a muffled, garbled voice of an elderly person that kind of groaned and said, ‘You son of a bitch.’
“After that, it was two more—I didn’t hear any words, but I could hear the shovel hit two more times. It was a reverberating metal sound and a loud thump.”
Anderson said he was shaken by what he witnessed and, at first, convinced himself it hadn’t been real. “I stood there for a second,” he said. “I couldn’t believe. I was shaky. I couldn’t understand what I’d seen or heard at that point—and it was minutes before I had to walk my daughter to school.”
Flanagan said Gyoba stuffed his uncle’s mouth with dirt after killing him.
Defence lawyer Don Campbell’s argument was brief. “I have very clear instructions from my client,” he said. “That is not to pursue a psychiatric defence.”
In the past, Campbell said, Gyoba has refused to take medication and opposed a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. “He is fit,” Campbell said. “He himself is not putting his psychiatric state at issue and I am therefore barred from doing that.”
As he did during his trial, Gyoba frequently interrupted lawyers on June 17 with outbursts from the prisoner’s box. Lawyers often had to raise their voice to speak over Gyoba’s ranting.
If Gyoba is found not criminally responsible, he will be sent to a secure psychiatric facility in the Lower Mainland for medical treatment.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley is expected to deliver a decision on Thursday, June 23. If Dley finds Gyoba guilty, Flanagan said he will apply for a not criminally responsible designation.