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Reluctant witness testifies

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Criminal charges in the death of a St. Stephen man should be reconsidered is the recommendation following a three-day inquest into how Jason Wiley died.

The inquest wrapped up Thursday with the testimony of two witnesses who had refused to attend the hearings. Warrants were issued for the arrest of David Babcock and Dennis Guthrie and police picked up the pair Thursday and forced them to testify.

Babcock and Guthrie were probably the last people to see Jason Wiley alive. He froze to death overnight in a playground just before Christmas, 1998.

Babcock offers testimony

Testifying before the inquest, Babcock said Jason Wiley passed out in a snowbank on the night of December 21 after guzzling a quart of whisky. He said he then carried the almost comatose Wiley several hundred meters to a playground and left him on a platform under a canopy. Babcock said he then left Wiley to go and find some cigarettes.

At that point, testified Babcock, he then ran into Dennis Guthrie in downtown St. Stephen. Babcock said Guthrie was angry at Wiley for drinking the whiskey which Guthrie had paid for.

Babcock told the inquiry they headed back to find Wiley, and Guthrie threatened to beat Wiley up and take his coat because of the whiskey.

Jason Wiley's body was found the next morning face down in the snow without his coat or shoes. Babcock says he didn't see Guthrie take Wiley's coat, he testified that Guthrie later admitted to taking the shoes.

Guthrie himself also testified before the inquest, but claimed he remembered nothing about the night Wiley died.

Testimony could lead to chargess

Following Babcock's testimony, Wiley's mother Donna said she hoped it would be enough for police to take action.

"I'm hoping that may be that out of this they'll find enough evidence to bring criminal charges against these two boys for something."

St. Stephen police Sgt. Gary Sturgeon says Babcock's testimony opens the way for a theft charge, at least. He said it may also be the break needed to begin criminal proceedings in the case, although he was unsure how serious the charges might get.