A man accused of participating in the murder of a Saskatoon drug dealer 11 years ago may have been in the vicinity of the shooting, but his lawyer argues that doesn’t mean he was involved.
Markham Silver said the only evidence linking his client, Kenneth Jacob Tingle, to the murder of Isho Hana is Neil Yakimchuk, a man who Silver argued is a “self-proclaimed liar.”
During a “Mr. Big” sting in 2011, Yakimchuk told an undercover officer posing as the boss of a fake criminal organization that he shot Hana, a 34-year-old father of two, on April. 15, 2004. He said “a black guy,” alleged to be Tingle, was with him, and that both their guns jammed before Yakimchuk chased Hana down Preston Avenue.
Yakimchuk’s statements led to charges against Tingle, who is on trial for first-degree murder along with two other men, Jonathan Kenneth Dombowsky and Long Nam Luu.
But there is no evidence to support the existence of a second gun—only the one Yakimchuk used, Silver said during the continuation of closing arguments on Tuesday.
Yakimchuk also told the fake crime boss that he shot Hana in the back and in the head, but forensic evidence found Hana had only been shot in the back. This is just one example of how Yakimchuk embellished the events he described to police during the undercover sting, Silver argued.
During closing arguments, all three lawyers have tried to destroy Yakimchuk’s credibility in order to prove their clients were not involved in the alleged contract killing connected to a drug turf war in Saskatoon.
In different conversations within the Mr. Big sting, Yakimchuk said he made either $40,000, $45,000 or $55,000 in exchange for killing Hana, who court heard was a rival drug boss of Dombowsky’s. Silver said there is no proof that amount of money was given to Yakimchuk or came from Luu, who is accused of paying out the hit that was allegedly ordered by Dombowsky.
The only evidence that Tingle was paid for the murder is when Yakimchuk states that he gave some of the money to his “buddy,” believed to be Tingle. But in his interview with police, Tingle denied ever being paid. Even if the judge believes he was given money after the shooting, that doesn’t mean the accused was involved in a planned contract killing, Silver argued, adding there is nothing to show Tingle had any relationship with Dombowsky or Luu.
Tingle testified at Yakimchuk’s trial that on the day of the murder, Yakimchuk drove him to the location on Preston Avenue and left him in the car. He said he was heavily intoxicated, did not know where he was and got out of the car to urinate. That’s when he said he heard gunshots and saw two people running diagonally across the street. He said he could not identify the people.
Tingle said he did not see Yakimchuk again until four years later, and that Yakimchuk confessed to the murder when they spoke.
Three out of four witnesses said they only saw one man chasing another man that night, Silver pointed out. One woman testified she heard a gunshot and saw two people cross back into the southbound lanes of Preston Avenue, but Tingle said he saw the men in the northbound lanes. That matches other witness testimony and some physical evidence, Silver said. He argued the court should approach the woman’s version of events with caution.
If Yakimchuk’s evidence is not accepted, it should equal an outright acquittal for Tingle, Silver told Justice Richard Danyliuk.
Lawyers for Dombowsky and Luu argued Monday that there is no evidence their clients were involved in Hana’s murder. They said Yakimchuk is a seasoned criminal who lies and is therefore unreliable, pointing to inconsistencies between his statements made under oath and what he said to undercover police officers in 2011.
Yakimchuk refused to testify at the men’s trial, forcing the Crown to rely heavily on the statements he made during the Mr. Big operation.
In June 2014, a jury convicted Yakimchuk of first-degree murder after a nearly month-long trial. But he successfully appealed the verdict last year on the grounds that the trial judge made an error by not allowing the jury to consider manslaughter as an option.
Closing arguments for the Crown will begin Wednesday morning.