British Columbia

Chilliwack logger's death was accidental, coroner's jury says, upholding original ruling

A coroner's jury has upheld the initial ruling of accidental death in the case of a Chilliwack, B.C., logger whose parents believe was murdered. The jury delivered its verdict on Corey Scherbey's death on Thursday after a three-day inquest.

Inquest recommends RCMP E-Division ensures collection of all possible evidence in future death investigations

Corey Scherbey, pictured with his son Riley, was found dead in his Chilliwack, B.C., home in 2011. His parents say evidence pointing to a suspicious death were ignored. (Gladys and Ed Scherbey)

A coroner's jury has upheld the initial ruling of accidental death in the case of a Chilliwack, B.C., logger whose parents believe was murdered.

The jury delivered its verdict on Corey Scherbey's death on Thursday after a three-day inquest that heard from the man's parents, lawyers and experts in pathology and toxicology.

In its sole recommendation, the jury said RCMP's E-division should review policy or procedures to ensure the collection of all possible evidence in future death investigations.

Scherbey's mother found his decomposing body kneeling in front of a leather couch in his home in 2011. He was 38.

An autopsy found a mix of cocaine and alcohol in the man's body. The medical cause of death is listed as an "acute" mix of drugs and alcohol.

But Ed and Gladys Scherbey believe their son was killed and that key evidence was never gathered in the initial investigation by RCMP.

Corey Scherbey's death was ruled accidental in 2014. (Gladys and Ed Scherbey)

Parents disappointed

The Scherbeys say they are disappointed by both the verdict and a last-minute move by presiding coroner Margaret Janzen to stop a U.S. expert that they had hired from offering his opinion on the case.

Janzen ruled that Dr. Christopher Green — who wrote a report in 2016 saying it was more likely Scherbey was smothered than overdosed — did not have enough experience in pathology or sudden deaths to be relevant and his testimony might confuse the jurors.

Ed Scherbey said as soon as he heard Green would not be testifying, he was deflated.

"Dr. Green said it's a homicide right off the start. Strangled, smothered, suffocated and perhaps tortured. Simple as that. I mean, Corey was beaten to death," he said Friday.

Scherbey's parents fought for eight years to have their son's case re-examined at inquest. Police initially investigated the case as a homicide until the coroner ruled the death an accidental overdose in 2014.

The Scherbeys always pointed to evidence — from bloody footprints to blood spatter — that they felt was ignored, due to the initial coroner's ruling.

'All they did is discredit him'

On the first day of the inquest this week Corey Scherbey's neighbour testified that the logger often used cocaine and at least once spent the day doing drugs with a sex worker in his home.

The dead man's father said he does not believe that is true and didn't understand why the inquest focused on his son's character instead of evidence.

"All they did is talk about hookers. This guy is a working man. Worked 10 to 12 hours day. All they did is discredit him," Ed Scherbey said.

"We've got no justice here. The guy that did the autopsy report didn't take no X-rays. No nothing. It's sickening."

Corey Scherbey as a child. His parents say he was an athletic kid with an infectious grin. (Ed Scherbey)

In 2018 the RCMP issued a formal apology for a lack of thoroughness in the initial investigation, after two B.C. Supreme Court justices ordered the solicitor general's office to consider holding a formal inquest.

Those orders were in part based on Green's 2016 report.

The jury in a coroner's inquest does not assign fault but can make recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Brend

CBC journalist

Yvette Brend works in Vancouver on all CBC platforms. Her investigative work has spanned floods, fires, cryptocurrency deaths, police shootings and infection control in hospitals. “My husband came home a stranger,” an intimate look at PTSD, won CBC's first Jack Webster City Mike Award (2017). Got a tip? Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca

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