The final day of Daniel Smith’s murder trial took a dramatic turn as the man charged with second-degree murder in Roger Byer’s death took the stand to defend himself.
While being questioned by his defence lawyer Wednesday, Smith alleged it was his ex-girlfriend Susan Saxon who pulled the trigger on Jan. 20, 2010.
In her first day on the stand, Saxon told the jury she heard but did not see Smith shoot Byer in an abandoned farm yard.
Smith told the jury he met Byer, with Saxon in his car, to plan a fake bank robbery he and Byer had been plotting. According to Smith, Byer had “borrowed without asking” money from the bank he worked at, and was worried about being audited. Byer’s plan was to fake an ATM robbery to recover money to replace what he took.
Smith defended Byer, saying he didn’t consider Byer a thief.
As well, Byer allegedly had a “white powder” drug on him and was looking to sell it. Smith said he turned the offer down.
No drugs were found by the RCMP at the crime scene.
Byer had brought four guns, Smith said, two of which he’d bought in Prince Albert and two he’d bought from Smith’s friend Dwight Windrum.
Windrum testified in the afternoon before Smith. His trial for being an accomplice in Byer’s death is scheduled for May 2016.
Smith said he and Byer test fired several rounds from the pistols.
The Crown noted during Smith’s cross-examination that only three shell casings were recovered at the scene.
Smith said Byer needed to look bruised to make the robbery look authentic. His first punch to Byer’s face was apparently too light, because as Smith said “it’s hard to hit a good friend in the face”. Smith then backhanded Byer across the face when he wasn’t expecting it, to make the bruise more realistic.
This was apparently enough to set Byer off. Smith said Byer got “quite uptight” about the hit and started shouting and throwing punches, and “got the better of him”.
Smith testified it was then that Saxon shot Byer from the passenger door of Byer’s truck.
Later, Saxon allegedly told Smith she’d shot Byer because she was defending him. She said Byer had uttered death threats to Smith, and was getting a pistol from the truck.
After the shooting, Smith said they grabbed the guns, Saxon took Byer’s cellphone and the money, and they left.
Windrum takes the stand
Smith told the jury he returned the two pistols belonging to Windrum a few weeks after the altercation. He admitted to telling Windrum to change the barrel of the discharged pistol, to make it more difficult to trace the gun.
While testifying, Windrum said Smith had asked him to sell two pistols to Byer. After several months of not managing to meet Byer face-to-face, Windrum said he gave the guns to Smith sometime in January 2010 for the sale.
Windrum said Smith told him about the shooting, saying Byer had turned on him and had to be taken down.
“I’ve never been in a situation like that before,” Windrum said.
He admitted to changing the barrel of the pistol after constant prodding from Smith.
Windrum said he’d loaned Smith $2,500 because he was trying to help a struggling friend out.
At this point in the testimony, Smith yelled “bullshit” across the courtroom at him.
Windrum said he was paid in full after the alleged shooting and didn’t ask where the money came from.
He never went to the RCMP because he said he was scared, and considered himself just as guilty as Smith since it was his guns which were used.
Saxon and Smith after the incident
Smith said he moved out of Saxon’s house shortly after the shooting.
In her testimony, Saxon had said Smith controlled everything, including all money matters.
In his testimony, Smith said Saxon was in charge of their finances, and accused her of fraud. He said nearly $60,000 hadn’t been paid to the government.
He said in 2014, he managed to get their financial records and looked them over with a bank manager. He claimed he took them to an accountant after telling Saxon he was going to take the matter to court.
He told the jury he was charged with the death of Roger Byer two weeks later, after Saxon confessed to the RCMP and gave her statement.
Smith was the last witness of the trial.
The Crown and the defence will give their closing statements to the jury Thursday.