Nfld. & Labrador

Potter jury sees autopsy photos, knife at murder trial

Some averted their gaze, while other jurors concentrated on the booklet in front of them, as the Crown revealed details about how Dale Porter was killed.

Police officer searched the Vikings Motorcycle clubhouse a week after Dale Porter's death

Al Potter was approached by the Ontario Provincial Police in May 2015 with an order to collect his DNA on behalf of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Some averted their gaze, while other jurors concentrated on the booklet in front of them.

A couple of others looked sympathetically to the courtroom gallery, where Dale Porter's family sat in tears as an RCMP officer carefully and methodically described each page of a booklet filled with autopsy photos.

"Moving down the body there's [numbers] 18, 19 and 20 near the upper left shoulder," Cpl. Kelly Lee explained to the jury as she held up the book.

Each wound numbered, photographed and measured.

RCMP Cpl. Kelly Lee testified about evidence she photographed and collected as part of the Dale Porter homicide investigation in 2014. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

A photo taken of the black T-shirt Porter was wearing the night he died was laid out on a table during the autopsy, stark white marks showing where Porter had been cut.

Thursday marked the second day of testimony in Al Potter's first-degree murder trial, which so far, has described a vicious stabbing that was alleged revenge for the victim, Dale Porter, 39, disrespecting a biker gang.

Potter, 55, is alleged to have stabbed Porter, a father of two, multiple times, leaving him for dead at the bottom of his North River, Conception Bay North, driveway in the early morning of June 29, 2014.

Inside the clubhouse

In addition to photographing Porter's autopsy, Cpl. Lee of the RCMP's Clarenville detachment was called to the Vikings  clubhouse in Cupids a week after Porter's death.

A search warrant had been granted and Lee was tasked with looking for blood and other forensic evidence.

"In my experience as a forensic investigator, it's very easy to transfer blood," Lee said.

"It was possible individuals had travelled from where Porter was assaulted to the clubhouse."

The RCMP gained access to the Vikings clubhouse in Cupids, Conception Bay North, on July 5, 2014 — about a week after Porter's death. (Court photograph)

The small building, which appears to have been used as a garage in a previous life, has a Vikings Motorcycle Club banner out front.

In the inside, Lee said, the windows had been covered, darkening the inside where motorcycles, a bar, pool table and futon were kept. 

Blood was discovered on the clubhouse door and lock, the bottom of the door, on a Spray Nine bottle, and a blue barrel used for garbage, she testified. 

The biker colours — leather vests with the Vikings logo — were also seized, Lee said

Cpl. Kelly Lee of the RCMP was tasked with photographing and testing this knife for fingerprints — none were found. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Two days earlier, Lee said she was called to photograph a folding knife, which she said was discovered in a freshwater stream. 

Opening the cardboard box and plastic zip ties, Lee held up a three-inch-blade knife, with an eagle painted onto the handle. At its widest, the knife's blade was just over an inch wide.

Forensic testing didn't find any fingerprints.

Defence focus on drugs

Randy Piercey, co-counsel for Potter, declined an opening statement and asked short, focused questions of those on the stand Thursday morning. 

Sgt. Michael Wyllie, who testified Wednesday and Thursday, was asked about a video he took of the crime scene in North River.

In response to questioning, Wyllie said he was told by other officers that the interior of Porter's home wasn't of interest as the crime was believed to have happened outside.

He took video inside nonetheless, and captured images of a kitchen table with seven empty beer bottles, a half-empty Pepsi bottle, cigarette pack and flask of rum.

Sgt. Michael Wyllie videotaped and photographed the crime scene in North River, including where Porter was found, at the bottom of his driveway. (Court photo)

Piercey pointed to the bottom left corner of the table and asked if the items shown were marijuana and two syringes.

Wyllie said he couldn't tell and did not collect it as evidence. Two bags of white powder and a scale was seized, however.

He said he wasn't instructed on what to document specifically.

"If you had been sent to a drug trafficker's house, that [documenting illegal drugs] would have been in your mandate?" Piercey asked.

"Absolutely," Wyllie said.

In addition to surveying and capturing the crime scene, Wyllie examined a Birch Hills taxi for blood evidence. Nine swabs of red staining in the cab were taken for testing. The results have, so far, not been told to the jury.

OPP's role

Two members of the Ontario Provincial Police testified Wednesday afternoon about their involvement in the case, which began in May 2015, when they received a request from the RCMP to collect a DNA sample.

Potter was living in Ontario at the time.

Porter was 39 years old when he was killed. He had a 14-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter at the time of his death. (Family photo )

OPP Det-Const. Marni Lawson was told to locate Potter to get a DNA sample for the RCMP in Newfoundland.

Lawson said she learned that Potter had to meet a probation officer in Belleville, Ont. That's where, she said, she waited for him to come out.

Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves asked Lawson to compare Potter's stature to her own. She said she is about five feet four inches, and Potter is a full foot taller and required two sets of handcuffs due to his size.

Her interactions with him, she said, were positive. 

"Mr. Potter was extremely co-operative through the entire process," she said. 

Despite his manners, police took Potter and Lawson in a van with a police tactical unit for "security" reasons.

OPP forensic identification officer Jason Camp, who collected the sample, said the same, noting Potter's politeness.

In his opening statement, Steeves said Porter's DNA was found on Potter's clothing. However, no other details of DNA evidence have been presented.

The Crown is expecting to call between 35 and 45 witnesses during the course of the trial. Seven of those witnesses took the stand on Wednesday.

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About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.