Graphic peek into Regina's drug world characterizes 3-man murder trial

The trial for three men charged in the murder of Reno Lee is coming to a close. It's expected the jury will hear closing remarks on Monday, after weeks of testimony about the drugs, money, violence and people involved in the homicide.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing for some readers

Left to right: Bronson Gordon, Daniel Theodore and Andrew Bellegarde have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and committing an indignity to a body in connection with the death of Reno Lee. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Nearly three years ago, a drug dealer who allegedly owed thousands of dollars in debt was killed and dismembered in Regina.

Police believe Reno Lee was killed on April 16, 2015, although they didn't find his body until later that month. 

Daniel Theodore, 34, Bronson Gordon, 33, and Andrew Bellegarde, 24, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges and not guilty to charges of committing an indignity to a human body.

The trial for the three accused is now coming to a close — after several weeks in Regina's Court of Queen's Bench.

Several witnesses have testified. They contradicted and pointed fingers at each other, as they told the court about their relationships with the three accused, with gangs and of what happened during the drug-fuelled days surrounding Lee's death.

Torso found in hockey bag

The police investigation indicated 34-year-old Lee died in Regina. However, his body was found buried on the Star Blanket First Nation. 

Early in the trial, coroner Maureen Stinnen testified she found a torso with no head, arms or calves in a hockey bag at the burial site near Balcarres, Sask.

She found Lee's left arm in a plastic bag and his head in another.

Police found evidence related to the murder, including a cleaver and a bucksaw, near the scene, about 100 kilometres from Regina.

Saskatchewan's chief forensic pathologist Dr. Shaun Ladham said Lee died from two gunshot wounds to the head.

Beaten in 1 Regina home, confined in another

The woman who introduced Lee and Gordon — on the night Lee was allegedly attacked, confined and then killed — cannot be named because of a publication ban.

In court, the Crown pointed out that the woman helped Lee bring about half a million dollars worth of crystal meth to Regina from Alberta that day.

The woman, Lee and Gordon met at a restaurant mid-evening. Gordon testified he was interested in what he described as Lee's high-quality crystal meth. 

Gordon testified that they went back to his apartment on the 2100 block of Angus Street to talk about a business partnership, but he denied any involvement in Lee's death that would happen hours later. 

Baldheaded Theodore, who is also known as "Buddha" showed up at the apartment. He and Gordon first met in custody.

Multiple witnesses testified Lee and Gordon went into a bedroom where Lee was attacked by Bellegarde and another witness who cannot be named. 

The woman testified that she then drove a bound Lee to a house on Garnet Street in North Central, where Lee was confined in the basement.

She said she stayed at the house on Garnet Street and fell asleep on the couch upstairs, only to be awoken by the sound of a gunshot. She said she fell back asleep but was awoken once more by a grinding sound — one she said sounded like a saw cutting through bone.
Photo evidence shown in court shows bleach bottles and clothing littering the basement room where Reno Lee was allegedly held before he died. (Regina Court of Queen's Bench)

She testified that Bellegarde told her he had been holding Lee's head as Theodore sawed it off when some plastic slipped, exposing the gunshot wound and the deceased's open eyes. 

In her testimony, she said it was her idea to dispose of Lee's body on a reserve and that she asked if she could say a quick prayer and smudge on Star Blanket First Nation, where the body was buried.

Drugs, debts and a stolen dog

Throughout the trial, court heard several witnesses say variations of who was in charge and who was telling people what to do.

One man, who also cannot be named, said Gordon told him it was time to work off the drug debt he owed him by helping with Lee. He said he owed him less than $800.

When the witness arrived at Gordon's apartment, he said he was given a shotgun and told to wait in a bedroom, where Bellegarde was. Gordon claimed not to know how Bellegarde got into his apartment.

Furthermore, Gordon denied giving the witness a shotgun and said he told the witness to go into the bedroom because he didn't want Lee to see the man he claimed was dope sick.

Gordon also testified that he brought Lee into the bedroom so they could smoke crystal meth, because his roommate — who he said was an addict — didn't want him smoking meth in the main area because her two pre-teen children lived there.

Court also heard that Gordon was mad at this witness because he had stolen his cousin's dog and tried to sell it on Facebook.

"That dog really meant something to my family," Gordon testified in court, noting it came from a litter of Chihuahuas from his grandmother.

 
Reno Lee was allegedly transported to a home on the 1100 block of Garnet Street in Regina. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Gordon denies being a drug boss

Court heard several people involved had drug debts, including Gordon. He told court his $15,000 debt to La Familia, a group he maintained was a club not a gang, was why he was selling drugs and operating drug runners while on house arrest.

Gordon was the only one of the three accused to testify at the trial. During his three-day testimony, he maintained he had nothing to do with Lee's killing and said other witnesses lied under oath.
Bronson Chad Gordon, 30, is accused of 1st-degree murder in relation to the death of Reno Lee. (Regina Police Service)

Gordon told the jury that Theodore was managing his debt and said he wasn't a gang or drug boss; rather, his boss persona was only an act.

He said he wasn't a good drug dealer, that he wasn't in charge and didn't plan the attack or murder. 

The Crown presented video evidence of Gordon interviewed by police in 2015 after his arrest — and the videos contradicted much of his testimony at the trial.

"I don't even know how this was put as evidence," Gordon told the court. He felt the use of videos was "unfair" because he was high on crystal meth at the time of the interviews.

Court heard Gordon testify that he had hidden crystal meth in his rectum prior to his arrest so he could get high in jail, but he said the bag ripped open. At one point, he testified that when police came and got him for an interview, he was naked and drinking out of the toilet bowl.  

Court heard testimony from the female witness and Gordon that Bellegarde, Theodore and the woman came to his apartment the next day. 

The woman testified that Gordon told Bellegarde he did a good job and that they discussed a payment of money and a TV. 

In court, Gordon denied telling Bellegarde to shoot Lee. Furthermore, Gordon said what he told Bellegarde was in reference to how Bellegarde "babysat" and said he gave Bellegarde $50 for fast food and a piece of crack. 

He told court that wasn't payment for a killing. 

"If I was part of something like this people wouldn't be getting paid 50 bucks and a piece of crack." 

Jury numbers: from 500 to 11

Before the trial began, 500 potential jurors gathered at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina for jury selection. In total, 14 were selected. 

However, two jurors were let go on the first day proceedings were set to begin. Two more jurors were added back to the pool, but then two more left. 

Another juror was dismissed later on, so now the jury that consists of 11 people is expected to hear closing remarks on Monday.