Calgary

Accused killer 'scared for his life' by undercover cops posing as criminals, jurors told

A suspected killer was "scared for his life" after a group of undercover police officers posed as gangsters, befriending their target and committing acts of violence in front of him, jurors heard Tuesday.

Kyle Ledesma is being retried in the shooting death of bartender Dexter Bain in 2010

Kyle Ledesma was found guilty Sunday of second-degree murder for the shooting death of Dexter Bain, pictured here with his girlfriend, in 2010. (Facebook)

A suspected killer was "scared for his life" after a group of undercover police officers posed as gangsters, befriending their target and committing acts of violence in front of him, jurors heard Tuesday.

That evidence came from Harlan Obey, a former friend of Kyle Ledesma, who was with him the night Dexter Bain was killed in 2010.

Ledesma is on trial a second time for the shooting death of the bartender, who died in a botched robbery when he was working at the Our Place Pub in northeast Calgary. 

Despite testifying that Ledesma only played video games and sold crack on the night Bain was killed, Obey didn't come forward until recently even though his close friend spent six years behind bars.

Originally found guilty of second-degree murder in 2015, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned Ledesma's conviction and ordered a new trial.

Jurors have heard that Ledesma confessed to undercover police.

On Tuesday, Obey, who was questioned by defence lawyer Pawel Milczarek, testified that he, another friend named Chris and Ledesma were hanging out the night Bain was killed.

Obey says he only recently came forward to provide an alibi for Ledesma because he was scared to go to jail.

"It's been hard on me," said Obey. "It's hard cause I know my friend didn't do the thing. I could have came forward a long time ago but I was too scared. I took the cowardly way out."

Milczarek asked Obey if he was lying to save his friend.

"No," said Obey.

'Scared for his life'

On Nov. 27, 2010,  the trio had been drinking all day and were selling crack when they stopped at a Mac's convenience store for chips and pop, Obey said. Then they headed to Ledesma's to play video games for the rest of the night.

None of the men had a gun, according to Obey, although Ledesma's DNA was found on a gun believed to be the murder weapon.

In the months that followed the shooting, Ledesma and Obey were trying to make it as gangster rappers, according to the witness. 

It was during that time Ledesma gained a new group of friends, said Obey. They were friends who Ledesma said could help them make it "big time." But still, he wouldn't let his childhood friend meet them. 

"He was initially scared for his life at first," said Obey. "He told me he had watched these guys shoot somebody, kidnap them … they mean business."

Mr. Big sting

Eventually, police publicly released images of the three men at the Mac's and did a Crime Stoppers re-enactment. Obey said officers told members of his family that he would be charged with murder.

The witness said he "tried not to care" because it was a false accusation.

But police recorded a wiretapped conversation between Obey and Ledesma. On the recording, Ledesma tells Obey to cut his hair so that he wouldn't be as recognizable given police had just released surveillance images of the men as persons of interest in Bain's killing. 

Obey said he and Ledesma were being wrongfully accused.

'I tell a lot of people lies'

About six months after the killing, Ledesma became the target of a Mr. Big operation, a type of undercover sting involving police officers who pose as criminals and befriend a suspect. Often, elaborate scenarios are played out to convince the target his new friends are criminals. 

Then, when the suspect becomes worried he will face legal consequences for his alleged crimes, he is encouraged to confess to the boss of the fictitious criminal organization so that "Mr. Big" can help him get out of trouble with police.

Ledesma twice confessed to the killing to the undercover officers. 

On Monday, Ledesma testified in his own defence, telling his lawyer Rebecca Snukal the confessions were a lie. He said he falsely confessed, in part because he was scared, in part because he was trying to keep his "gangster credibility."

Prosecutors Hyatt Mograbee and Scott Wilson called evidence earlier in the trial that Ledesma also talked to his girlfriend about being involved in the killing.

"If they get our DNA we are f--ked," he said. "Me and Harlan are going down for murder."

Ledesma's explanation to Mograbee: "I tell a lot of people lies."

The trial continues Wednesday with Mograbee's cross-examination of Obey.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.

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