Edmonton

Accused in Chipman, Alta., murder trial testifies he shot 2 men in self-defence

Raymond Nickerson, 40, is on trial for two counts of second-degree murder in the April 2017 deaths of two men who lived across the street from him.

Raymond Nickerson, charged with two counts of murder, testifies in his own defence

Blood-stained front sidewalk in front of the house in Chipman where two men were shot. (RCMP/Court exhibit)

Raymond Nickerson admits he shot and killed two of his neighbours during an altercation almost four years ago.

Facing two counts of second-degree murder, he spent two days on the witness stand this week testifying in his own defence. 

"No one who was there that night will ever be the same," Nickerson told an Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench jury. "I feel a lot of remorse. That's the last thing I wanted to happen. No one wants to go to bed at night and wake up to killing two people." 

Nickerson, 40, who was living in Chipman, Alta., at the time, is charged with the April 2017 deaths of Terry Sutton and Jason Williams. 

He said he was awakened on a Sunday night by his neighbours setting off fireworks. The two households had a long history of animosity. 

Nickerson said he opened his bedroom window and yelled at them to stop because he had to get up early for work.

Misti Sutton previously told the jury she thinks someone in Nickerson's house shot her in the back with something while she was in her backyard. 

That was enough to start a yelling match between Misti Sutton and Nickerson's wife, Tina. 

Misti Sutton headed across the street to confront the neighbours with her husband, Terry, in tow. 

Nickerson testified he slammed the door and thought he locked it. He said he looked out the window and saw the man who lived with the Suttons holding something he thought looked like a rifle. 

He said he went to the bedroom to get a gun. 

The next few minutes flew by in a blur, he said.

Nickerson said Terry Sutton got his arm through the door and grabbed his wife, who was naked underneath a robe. 

Nickerson said his wife tried to back away, but fell to the floor on her hands and knees.  

The accused testified he heard Terry Sutton yell to his wife, "Get her."  

While the two women were fighting on the floor, Nickerson said Terry Sutton walked toward him, and he was convinced the man would try to get his gun. 

Terry Sutton and Jason Williams were best friends. (Facebook)

"He's reaching for my barrel," Nickerson testified. 

He said he raised his weapon and shot Terry Sutton in the abdomen. 

When Sutton's friend, Jason Williams, appeared at the door Nickerson shot him in the head. 

"I didn't want nobody to get hurt," Nickerson testified. "That's the last thing I wanted." 

Accused testifies about history of animosity

Nickerson was grilled on Wednesday and Thursday by Crown prosecutor Katrina Stewart Lund about inconsistencies between his testimony and two statements he made to RCMP shortly after the shooting.

In 2017, he told an investigator he saw something in Williams' hand but couldn't be sure what it was. He did not mention the possibility, which he raised in the courtroom, that it could have been a rifle.

"I've never seen anyone beating on my wife in front of me," Nickerson told RCMP hours after the shooting. "There's past history between us. I'm scared they've got a knife. I'm scared they've got a bat. I'm scared they've got a gun, too." 

Nickerson repeatedly told RCMP during questioning that he fired his gun because Terry Sutton was attacking his wife. 

"He grabbed hold of Tina by the hair and that's when all hell broke loose," Nickerson told police hours after the shooting. 

Blood stains the floor just inside the front door of the house where the accused and his wife lived. (RCMP/Court exhibit)

But on the witness stand, he insisted that's not what happened. 

"I was definitely mistaken," he testified on Thursday. "It's just impossible. I was very confused when I gave my statements." 

He told the jury his mind is more clear now.

"My recollection today is a lot better today than it was then," he said. "I was grief stricken. I was in shock. I'd gone 30 hours without anything to eat or drink. Thirty-two hours without sleep." 

The prosecutor said no one doubts that Nickerson was immediately remorseful for his actions. 

"In your own mind you were convinced you acted in self-defence and in defence of your wife, Tina, right?" Stewart Lund asked. 

"Yes, ma'am," Nickerson replied. "I acted the way I did because I knew one day I'd be sitting before you guys and I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. I did fear for my life and my wife's." 

'We have nothing left anymore'

Tina Nickerson also took the witness stand Thursday and began to cry while being sworn in. 

"We have nothing left anymore," she told the jury.

Her version of events that night closely matched her husband's. She also testified that she feared for her life that night. 

Terry Sutton with his wife, Misti. (Misti Sutton/Facebook)

"The only thing he [Raymond] did that night was try to protect his family," she said. "I was naked on the floor. I want the truth to come out today about what actually happened in our house." 

She told the jury that she and Raymond have been together for 16 years but got married in October 2017, six months after the shooting. 

"I wasn't looking for a physical altercation that night at all," she testified. "I don't understand why we're here today." 

The Nickersons now live in Edmonton. 

The trial continues.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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