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The trial of three men charged with the massacre of six men in a Surrey apartment six years ago continued Tuesday in Vancouver with testimony from the building manager who first discovered the bodies.
Matthew James Johnston and Cody Rae Haevischer are charged with six counts of first-degree murder and Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le is facing one charge of first-degree murder.
At the opening of the trial yesterday, Norman Carothers, the building manager at Balmoral Towers, described finding six people dead in one of the apartments in October 2007.
Four of the victims, Ryan Bartolomeo,19, brothers Michael Lal, 26, and Corey Lal, 21, and Edward Narong, 22, were described by police as having criminal lifestyles.
The other two victims – Christopher Mohan, 22, and Ed Schellenberg, 55 – were described as bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Carothers testified he was helping Schellenberg, a gas fitter, get into units on the 15th floor.
He told the court he and his wife became increasingly alarmed when they couldn't find Schellenberg and there was loud music coming out of Unit 1505.
Choking back tears, he told the court he finally pushed the door of the unit open and saw six people dead on the floor. Initially he thought it was a gas leak, but then he saw the blood and called 911.
Members of Schellenberg's family stood in court straining to see photos of his work van as they were entered as exhibits. Outside the courthouse many broke down and wept.
On Tuesday, Carothers continued his testimony, saying he had observed suspicious activity at Unit 1505 before the shootings.
“I busted a grow-op there,” he told the court. “I’d call that kind of suspicious.”
Carothers testified that the building’s security was compromised because surveillance cameras were constantly being stolen.
His wife, Tracy Carothers, also testified on Tuesday, saying she saw “a lot of young, Asian males, scruffy looking sometimes, constantly coming and going.”
She said that when Schellenberg planned to send his nephew to service the unit's fireplace, she told him "it's not a good environment … because of the men with questionable behaviour." Schellenberg ended up going himself.
Tracy Carothers said that when Schellenberg failed to meet her in her office, she called his cellphone but it went to voice mail. Carothers testified she tried calling a dozen times before asking her husband to check on Schellenberg.
Outside the courthouse on Tuesday, Eileen Mohan, mother of victim Christopher Mohan, spoke to reporters.
Eileen Mohan said she was upset to hear others were aware of suspicious activity going on in Unit 1505 prior to the shootings.
"Everybody knew about it and they sat on it and it exploded on my family," she said. "My son was stolen because of that."
$100,000 drug debt allegedly fuelled shooting
Prosecutors have said they intend to prove that Johnston and Haevischer went to the apartment to kill Cory Lal because he failed to meet a deadline to repay a $100,000 drug debt.
The Crown said the accused men killed the other five people in the apartment so there would be no witnesses to the murder of Lal.
At the time of the shooting, Metro Vancouver was in the grips of a violent gang war dominated by a deadly rivalry between the Red Scorpions, to which the three accused belonged, and their rivals in the UN gang.
Crown spokeswoman Samantha Hulme said the trial by judge alone is expected to take up to one year and hear from as many as 100 witnesses.