Murder trial recounts final day of homicide victim Dwayne Demkiw's life
Emotional witness recalls saying to him, 'Hey buddy, see you next time'
The last day he was alive, homicide victim Dwayne Demkiw spent hours on his computer, planning a trip to Disney World.
Then the 42-year-old put on a shirt and tie and attended a birthday dinner at a downtown Edmonton restaurant for one of his best friends, Kalya Polihronopoulos.
Polihronopoulos testified Wednesday at Jason Steadman's first-degree murder trial.
Steadman, 44, is accused of killing Demkiw early in the morning on May 31, 2015, then setting Demkiw's vehicle on fire in a Calgary parkade hours later.
Through her questions to Polihronopoulos, Crown prosecutor Chantelle Washenfelder hinted at some of the injuries Demkiw possibly suffered hours later.
"Did he appear to have a broken nose?" Washenfelder asked.
"No," Polihronopoulos answered.
"Did he appear to have any difficulties with his ribs? Or in any pain, discomfort?"
"No, he was fine," the witness said.
A photo taken at the birthday dinner, showing Polihronopoulos and Demkiw beaming at the camera, was entered as an exhibit at the jury trial.
"Dwayne's my best friend. He was like family to me," she told the jury. Polihronopoulos explained she met Demkiw when he worked as a DJ at exotic dancing clubs where she performed.
She said the two of them communicated nearly every day. Demkiw came over to her house once a week for dinner, they went out to restaurants, shopping and took vacations together.
The May 30 birthday dinner that Polihronopoulos celebrated with Demkiw was the last time she saw her best friend alive. Following the meal, he left to work as a limousine driver for a bachelor party.
The bachelor party bus
On the last night he was alive, Demkiw drove 15 men around Edmonton late in the evening for a bachelor party in a limousine bus.
Stephen Petryk, the groom's best man, testified that there was nothing out of the ordinary about Demkiw.
"He seemed OK," he said. "Maybe a little bit reserved but aside from that, nothing in particular."
Petryk said without anyone in the group making a request, Demkiw arranged to have an exotic dancer on the bus with them.
"It was more of a surprise," Petryk testified. "There was disagreement with family of the bachelor regarding having a female entertainer on the bus because his fiancée at the time had very strict regulations."
Exotic dancer Shannon Kunz, who goes by the stage name Hilary, told the jury she got a last-minute request from Demkiw to work on the bus.
Kunz described Demkiw as easy-going and friendly. She said she thought of him as a friend and described his mood that night as nothing out of the ordinary.
"I've never seen him in a bad mood," Kunz said. "He was always calm, always kind of a happy-go-lucky guy. He just seemed like a harmless person, for lack of a better word."
Kunz testified that Demkiw drove her back to her vehicle near Whyte Avenue around 2 a.m.
"I helped him clean the bus because he was such a nice guy, I didn't mind giving him a hand," Kunz said.
She became emotional on the witness box when she recounted the last thing she said to Demkiw.
"I remember giving him a hug. I said, 'Hey buddy, see you next time.'"
Last communication with victim
Between 2:48 and 2:55 a.m. on May 31, Demkiw exchanged text messages with his roommate Bryan Ballendine. Demkiw sent photos he had taken of the exotic dancer on board the bus.
The jury has already been told the last time Demkiw was seen alive was at 4:04 a.m.
On Wednesday, a surveillance video was played for the jury, taken inside the limousine bay that shows Demkiw turning off the lights and appearing to leave. Watching the silent video, a member of Demkiw's family sitting in the courtroom began to cry.
Demkiw didn't go home that night. Ballendine began to worry something was wrong when he received a phone call at shortly after noon the next day from Demkiw's father. Ballendine said he was asked "to knock on Dwayne's door and wake him up because his car had been stolen and was on fire in Calgary."
Ballendine said the bed was still made and looked like it hadn't been slept in.
As the hours wore on with no sign of Demkiw, Ballendine said he became increasingly frantic.
"I was really upset," Ballendine testified. "My friend was missing. I didn't know what to do. Helpless."
Relationship between victim and accused
The jury has been told accused killer Jason Steadman had been dating Angel Chalifoux. She was Demkiw's ex-partner, but Chalifoux and Demkiw remained close friends.
A number of witnesses testified they met Steadman on at least two occasions at Demkiw's birthday parties in July 2013 and July 2014. At the time, they knew Steadman as Robert Maxwell, the name and identity he used while living in Edmonton. None of the witnesses said they noticed any conflict between Demkiw and the man later charged with killing him.
Steadman's lawyer Darin Sprake revealed through cross-examination that Steadman and Chalifoux broke up about two weeks before Demkiw's death.
Chalifoux is expected to testify later in the trial, which is scheduled to last at least five weeks.