British Columbia

Transgender woman accused of murder loses final SCOC appeal against extradition to U.S.

The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed the appeal of a transgender woman who has been fighting for years to stop her extradition to face murder charges in Washington state.

In last of several appeals, Kevin Patterson sought assurances she would be placed in a woman's prison

Kevin Patterson in a selfie taken on Sept. 16, 2014, the day before the murder that Patterson is accused of. (Facebook/Kevin Patterson)

The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed the appeal of a transgender woman who has been fighting for years to stop her extradition to face murder charges in Washington state.

Kevin David Patterson — who identifies on social media as Rachel — was accused of bludgeoning her 57-year-old roommate Richard Bergesen to death on Sept. 17, 2014.

Patterson was accused of using a shovel to kill the man in his home in Sammamish, Wash., around 20 kilometres east of Seattle.

U.S. authorities allege that Patterson, then 20, and her 18-year-old American accomplice Christopher Shade fled to Canada on the day of the murder.

They allegedly stole Bergesen's wallet and drove the victim's BMW north, before driving through a barbed wire fence somewhere along the border to get into Canada illegally, according to documents filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

They were both arrested later the same day in Abbotsford, B.C. 

Shade was returned to the U.S. In police interviews, both suspects blamed each other for the murder. They both said Bergesen had made some sort of sexual advance on Patterson.

Shade pleaded guilty to to second-degree murder, and is expected to remain in prison until 2036.

Richard Bergesen, 57, was found dead in his home in 2014. (Richard Bergesen/Facebook)

Patterson, who has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, has remained in custody in B.C. in a facility for women for the past five years, fighting extradition to face trial on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and theft of a motor vehicle.

Since July 2015, Patterson has appealed for judicial reviews of the order to extradite her based on various grounds, including the potential of facing the death penalty and concerns about her Indigenous heritage.

In a letter to the federal minister of justice, Patterson argued that her surrender to the U.S. would be "unjust" and "oppressive." 

However, the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the death penalty would not be applied in her case, and her Indigenous background would be considered in sentencing in the U.S. if she was found guilty.

In response to one of Patterson's eight submissions to the Department of Justice, the minister concluded in 2015 that the maximum potential sentence that could be imposed upon conviction, of 33 years and two months, would not "shock the conscience of Canadians." 

The death penalty was abolished in Washington in 2018.

Patterson has lost all previous attempts to stop her extradition.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed her final request for reconsideration of the extradition request, filed in March 2018.

Patterson had argued that as a transgender person she needed assurance that she'd be housed in a prison for women and protected from attacks and sexual abuse. 

"Not only is Kevin gay; s/he is transgendered. This poses a real risk for her in jail," says an application filed in 2018 to the minister.

The Supreme Court dismissed her appeal of an earlier B.C. Court of Appeal ruling that said the minister is not required to seek diplomatic assurances of precisely how Washington state correctional authorities would assess and house an incoming inmate.

It's not likely Patterson will be extradited anytime soon as she has ongoing appeals in the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Her lawyer declined comment.

Ian McCleod with the Department of Justice said in an emailed statement that Patterson's concerns around how she would be housed in a Washington state prison were carefully assessed.

"The Minister was informed that the State of Washington has robust policies and safeguards in place to respond to the specific housing needs of transgendered persons in its correctional facilities. The Minister therefore concluded that no such assurance was necessary."

The department also said Patterson has filed another judicial review application, which remains outstanding.

Kevin Patterson — who identifies as Rachel on social media — has been fighting extradition to U.S. for five years, after she was accused of murdering a former roommate. (Facebook)

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a CBC Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@CBC.ca @ybrend