Calgary

Victoria Shachtay's caregiver testifies about moments before fatal explosion

Victoria Shachtay was warned twice about opening a mysterious package containing the pipe bomb that killed her, the disabled single mother's caregiver told a Red Deer courtroom today.

Brian Malley on trial for 1st-degree murder in death

Single mother Victoria Shachtay was killed by a bomb contained in a wrapped present delivered to her home in November 2011. Her seven-year-old daughter was at school when the explosion happened. (Facebook)

Victoria Shachtay was warned twice about opening a mysterious package containing the pipe bomb that killed her, the disabled single mother's caregiver told a Red Deer courtroom today.

Shachtay died in November 2011 after a gun powder-filled improvised explosive device detonated in her lap. The 23-year-old lived in Innisfail with her then seven-year-old daughter and caregiver, Marlene Punongbayan.

Punongbayan testified today at Brian Malley's first-degree murder trial.

Financial adviser Brian Malley has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Victoria Shachtay. (peggyyanew/Flickr)

Malley, a financial adviser, was a friend of the Shachtay family and was managing more than half a million dollars for the young woman who had received a settlement following a car accident that left her paralyzed years before.

That money ran out after just four years and the prosecution alleges Malley had been stealing it.

Punongbayan, a physiotherapist trained in the Philippines who had been in Canada on a working visa, cried when she told the jury that she and Shachtay had celebrated her permanent residency together with pizza the night before the explosion.

The next day Punongbayan says she was letting Shachtay's dogs out when she discovered a Christmas gift bag with a box inside in the doorstep of the front entrance.

Punongbayan noticed Shachtay's name was written on a piece of paper and taped to the box inside but it had been misspelled "Vicktoria" instead of "Victoria." 

The bag was put aside while the two travelled to Shachtay's stepfather's home where there was a more accessible shower for the disabled woman.

'Don't open the gift'

There Shachtay mentioned the unexpected gift to her stepfather, Rick Bercier.

Punongbayan told the court she heard Bercier warn Shachtay not to open the gift and to call police instead.

Victoria Shachtay, a 23-year-old single mother who used an electric wheelchair, died instantly when she opened the green and gold gift bag in the dining room of her townhouse in Innisfail, Alta. (CBC)

Back at Shachtay's home after the shower, she retrieved the Christmas bag and put it in her lap, according to Punongbayan who immediately remembered Bercier's warning.

"I just remember I told her, 'Don't open the gift,... we don't know who it came from,'" Punongbayan recalls saying to Shachtay.

She says Shachtay wasn't concerned, telling her "it's fine." 

But soon after Punongbayan heard an explosion and saw Shachtay bleeding from her neck. She then ran outside screaming for help.

Five weeks have been set aside for the trial. 

Crown witnesses include Shachtay's sister and stepfather, investigators and two neighbours who ran to Shachtay's home immediately after the explosion. 

Malley also faces an $80-million lawsuit after being accused of losing roughly $50 million from dozens of clients.

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