The man accused of killing Dylan McGillis told a judge Monday his confession to undercover officers was merely an effort to fit in with what he thought was an organized crime group.
Cliff Decoine-Zuniga was part of an elaborate "Mr. Big" sting, where undercover police officers play underworld crime figures who entice their target to confess to a crime in order to move up in the organization.
Decoine-Zuniga admitted on video he was one of the men who attacked McGillis on Whyte Avenue in 2006, saying he beat and stomped McGillis while his friend stabbed him.
Today Decoine-Zuniga, charged with manslaughter in the case, spent nearly three hours testifying, telling the court he never saw a knife that night and never saw anyone get stabbed.
Decoine-Zuniga claimed he left Whyte Avenue that night with a friend, a man who cannot back up or dispute his version of events because he was murdered last year.
When asked why he lied to Mr. Big, the accused said he invented the story because he felt intimidated by the undercover crime group that called itself "The Company."
"I tried my best to fit in, but they painted this picture — these people could make anyone disappear cleanly," he said.
"I was scared, I was petrified,” he said. “They painted a picture to me very clear. They could get away with anything … even me."
When the prosecutor challenged Decoine-Zuniga about why he would risk lying to someone he thought was a crime boss, the accused answered: "It makes no sense, I know. I'm still scratching myself in the head."
Speaking outside the courtroom, McGillis’ mother Marlene Beres said the defendant’s testimony left her cold.
“There was absolutely no remorse,” said Beres. “He had a chance to say his part, he had a chance to have feelings and he chose not to.”
McGillis’ father, Grant McGillis, said Decoine-Zuniga appeared interested only in self-preservation.
Asked whether he was looking forward to closure in the case, McGillis said, “As far as I’m concerned, I would stay here forever if it means that somebody was going to be held accountable for what they did to Dylan.”
“It just shows how important Dylan was to all of us.”
Closing arguments will be heard in court on Tuesday.