VANCOUVER — A friend of Surrey Six murder victim Ryan Bartolomeo testified Thursday that she believed he was a drug dealer.
Katie Bott told B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Catherine Wedge that she knew both Bartolomeo, 19, and murder victim Corey Lal in high school. Lal was more of an acquaintance, she said.
In the months prior to the Surrey Six murders in October 2007, she regularly spoke to Bartolomeo by phone and by text, she said.
She knew that he had a cellphone and a BlackBerry, she added.
“Did you know in October 2007, what if anything Ryan did for work,” asked Crown counsel Louise Kenworthy.
“I knew he was involved in the drug trade,” said Bott.
Defence lawyer Simon Buck, who represents accused Cody Haevischer, objected to her answer, saying the Crown had not laid a proper foundation for the question.
Kenworthy then asked Bott what it was that made her believe that Bartolomeo was a drug dealer.
“I overheard him on the phone multiple times talking about it,” she replied.
Buck again objected to the answer saying it was hearsay evidence.
The judge said she wanted to hear the answers and determine whether the evidence was admissible.
“What other observations if any did you make that led you to conclude he was involved in the drug trade?” said Kenworthy.
“I’d seen him drop things off at different places ... I’d seen him with drugs, putting them in a duffel bag or a bag and drop it off. I can’t remember exactly where.”
Under cross-examination, Buck challenged Bott’s assertion that Bartolomeo was involved in drugs.
He pointed out that in her police statement after the murders, she hadn’t mentioned anything about the murder victim dropping off drugs at various locations.
Bott denied being involved in the drug trade herself.
It’s the Crown’s theory that the murders happened during the course of a war between rival gangs fighting for control of the drug trade.
Ceasar Tiojanco, the owner of the highrise suite where the murders happened, testified that earlier in 2007 he had evicted a tenant after a marijuana grow-op was discovered.
He said the new tenants — two men who were cousins — several times paid for the rent by digging into their pockets for cash.
But an inspection of the suite six days before the murder revealed no sign of any grow-ops or anything untoward, he said.
Tiojanco said that after the murders, he thought that one of the two men renting the suite — a man he knew as Chris Baldini — resembled Chris Mohan, another of the six murder victims.
Bartolomeo, Mohan, 22, Ed Schellenberg, 55, Edward Narong, 22, Corey Lal, 21, and Michael Lal, 26, were shot to death execution-style, according to the Crown.
Haevischer, Matthew Johnston and Michael Le have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The trial is expected to run a year and hear from more than 120 witnesses.
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