Joey Oliver, the only man ever charged in the shooting deaths of a couple found in a shallow grave outside St. John's, told a courtroom Monday he is guilty of manslaughter, while naming another person as the shooter.
Oliver, who had been facing first-degree murder charges in the 1993 shooting deaths of Kimberley Lockyer and Dale Worthman, pleaded guilty instead to manslaughter during a hearing in Newfoundland Supreme Court.
In an agreed statement of facts presented to the court, Oliver said that a "Mr. Murrin" shot Lockyer and Worthman to death in a wooded area off Thorburn Road, just outside the city.
The statement of facts did not provide a first name, although the name of Shannon Murrin — a Newfoundlander who is best known for being found not guilty in 2000 of the death of B.C. schoolgirl Mindy Tran — was verbally presented to the court. Murrin himself told CBC News after Oliver's arrest in 2007 that he was being set up for the crime.
Contacted by CBC News on Monday, Murrin declined a taped interview, but said he is aware of the allegations. However, he said that he has not been contacted by police recently, and that he will be speaking with his lawyer.
In the statement of facts, Oliver said that he lured Worthman and Lockyer from their home in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's and took them to the wooded area. He said he expected that Worthman and Lockyer would be beaten, but instead they were shot to death.
Autopsy results showed that Lockyer and Worthman were both shot in the head with multiple bullets.
Lockyer and Worthman vanished from their Portugal Cove-St. Philip's apartment, and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officially labelled their investigation as a missing persons case until their remains were found in 2006.
Oliver was charged with second-degree murder in 2007, although the charges were upgraded to first-degree murder after a preliminary inquiry that ended in December.
Oliver changed his plea during an appearance Monday in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's.
Worthman's and Lockyer's bodies were found in a wooded area off Thorburn Road, and not far away from their home, just northwest of St. John's.
The statement of facts said an exhaustive investigation into the Worthman-Lockyer case had reached only dead ends.
"As of January 2004, this had become, essentially, a cold case file," said the statement, jointly submitted by Crown prosecutors Elaine Reid and James Walsh, and defence lawyers Rhona Buchan and Brian Dunphy.
"This remained so until Joseph Oliver came forward on July 11, 2006. The Crown acknowledges that had Joseph Oliver not come forward, this would most likely have remained an unsolved crime," the statement said.
No reason is given in the agreed statement of facts to indicate why Worthman and Lockyer were shot.
'Make it look real'
In the statement, Oliver said his job was to lure Worthman to a remote area, under the guise of showing Worthman some stolen property. Oliver said he assumed that Worthman would instead be beaten.
"Although Oliver knew that a gun was going to be present, he said he thought it was to make it look real," the statement said.
Because Lockyer was present when he went to pick up Worthman, he brought both of them to a clearing off Cy Tucker's Road, a rural road in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's.
"Mr. Murrin came out of the woods and shot Dale Worthman in the chest area," the statement said.
'Never harmed anybody'
Oliver said he waited for Murrin, and then helped him dispose of the weapons. The statement of facts says Oliver and Murrin slept in the couple's apartment that night, and that they returned to the scene the next day.
"Oliver helped to clean up the area by throwing blood covered rocks and trees into the woods, and marking an area which he believed was the grave," the statement said.
While Murrin was not commenting publicly on Monday, he has in the past denied any part in the shootings of Worthman and Lockyer.
"I never harmed anybody in my life with a weapon," Murrin told CBC News in January 2007.
The Crown says in the statement of facts that it cannot confirm Murrin was involved in the shooting.
"While we accept Mr. Oliver's version that he was not the shooter and that another person was involved, it is entirely Mr. Oliver's uncorroborated word that the shooter was Mr. Murrin," the statement says.
After Oliver was charged in 2007, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said there were other suspects in the case. No other charges, though, have ever been filed since.