Edmonton

'I killed him': Accused confessed to friend, murder trial hears

Bev Shaw got the shock of her life when Debbie Doonanco confessed to the killing. “Debbie turned to me and looked at me calm as can be and said, ‘I killed him. I killed him Bev.’ She just had such a cold look. Not emotional. Just as calm as could be."

Neighbour testifies Debbie Doonanco said ‘I killed him’

Debbie Doonanco walks outside the St. Paul courthouse Wednesday. (Janice Johnston)

After the house fire was extinguished on that May 2014 morning, the two friends were alone inside a vehicle. 

Bev Shaw told a St. Paul courtroom on Wednesday she was shocked by what she heard.

"Debbie turned to me and looked at me, calm as can be, and said, 'I killed him. I killed him, Bev.' She just had such a cold look. Not emotional. Just as calm as could be."

Her friend, Debbie Doonanco, is now on trial for second-degree murder, accused of shooting her husband, then setting the house on fire.

Doonanco is claiming self defence, that she shot Kevin Feland twice in the chest on that Sunday morning in order to save her own life.  

"I'll never forget how she looked when she said that," Bev Shaw said on the witness stand. "Her eyes were just blank. That cold coldness."

'I kept it to myself'

"I didn't want to believe it," Shaw said. "I said, 'Debbie, don't say things like that.' This was my best friend. She couldn't have said that to me. I didn't know how to deal with that information, so I didn't say it to anybody.  I was thinking there's no way. I kept it to myself."  

Shaw kept the secret confession to herself for almost three weeks. But she said she wasn't eating or sleeping.  

"I was afraid to hurt my friend," she testified. "So I thought, if I don't say anything, it can't hurt her. The guilt ate away at me and I had to tell somebody."  

Shaw said she called the RCMP and asked to come in to make a second statement. 

"I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do," she said. "But it wasn't an easy decision. This was someone I've known all my life. I didn't think someone I knew would be capable of something so horrendous."

Doonanco and Shaw have known each other since Grade 1. Though they'd grown apart over the years, in high school they were best friends, Shaw said.

No ill will, friend says

During aggressive cross-examination, Shaw denied she went back to the RCMP because she had taken sides. She said she bears no ill will towards Doonanco.

"How do you feel about her now?" the prosecutor asked.

"Sad," she replied.  

Two-and-a-half years later, Shaw said she still has trouble sleeping and eating.  

"I've got stomach issues now," she told the jury. "I was just recently in the hospital from May until the middle of June. They're saying it's stress-related."

Shaw left the witness stand fighting back tears.  

On the morning of the house fire, in May 2014, neighbours heard screams in the tiny village of Glendon, Alta.

Begging for help

Doonanco was kneeling on the lawn in front of her house, begging for help.

"We went over as a good neighbour would, to help somebody who was in need of help," Shaw told the jury.

Shaw's husband Chris testified, "I saw her standing in front of her garage. There was black smoke coming out of the chimney. Then all of a sudden a window popped in the corner and flames shot out."  

The Shaws testified that Doonanco seemed frantic about the man still inside her home.

"She said Kevin (Feland) was still trapped inside the house," Bev Shaw said. "She asked if we could help get him out because she wasn't able to."

She said Doonanco told them what had happened the night before.

"She just said she had been locked in a room," she testified. "That her and Kevin had been fighting. That she was afraid. That there was quite a bit of drug use on Kevin's part. She was afraid, so she locked herself in the room and she had taken some sleeping pills."

Doonanco claimed the smoke woke her up and she fled the house, alone.

After the fire was put out, RCMP found Feland's charred remains on the living room couch.

The jury has already listened to a 911 call Doonanco made on the morning of the fire.

Killing has split community

Fewer than 500 people live in the village of Glendon. 

Feland's murder has split the tiny community, with some residents siding with Feland's family and others supporting the accused killer.  

During the trial this week, the two groups have been seated on opposite sides of the courtroom. Neither appears to acknowledges the other.  

And like any small town, there's lots of gossip.

The jury has been told there was talk Feland was using crack cocaine. He also had a well-known reputation for violence.

Chris Shaw said he never saw any evidence of that personally, but agreed the reputation included the use of physical force.

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