Face in the courtroom: Larry Wellman's childhood friend takes in trial

Near the back of the courtroom, a man watched video evidence of his lifelong friend being shot and killed at the Captain's Quarters Hotel in St. John's.

'I'm stuck for words,' Rick Saunders says of disturbing video evidence

Rick Saunders sat in on Brandon Phillips's first-degree murder trial Friday at Supreme Court in St. John's. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Three rows back in the gallery of a St. John's courtroom sits a grey-haired man, his arms crossed, eyes fixated on the scene unfolding at Brandon Phillips's first-degree murder trial.

Rick Saunders, a boyhood friend of shooting victim Larry Wellman, was in the courtroom as video evidence showed the moment the 63-year-old was shot during an armed robbery.

"It's quite difficult. I'm stuck for words," Saunders told CBC News outside the courthouse. 

"I don't know what to say about it — it's a shock."

Larry Wellman, seen in 2006, was shot after intervening during an armed robbery at the Captain's Quarters Hotel in downtown St. John's on Oct. 3, 2015. (Submitted by Wellman family)

Saunders had known Wellman since he was seven years old. The boys lived just two doors down from each other.

"He was a couple years older than me," Saunders said.

"You're not allowed to play with the bigger boys, but once in a while you get together for a game of baseball."

Intervened in robbery

Brandon Phillips, 29, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Wellman.

The Crown contends that Phillips is the man whose armed robbery was caught on surveillance camera at the Captain's Quarters Hotel on Oct. 3, 2015.

​Video of the shooting was entered into evidence last week, and shows Wellman getting into an altercation with a masked gunman.

"That's something that Larry would have done," Saunders said. "It was in Larry's nature to help out. I don't think he suspected what was going to happen — of course no one would."

Brandon Phillips, 29, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Larry Wellman. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Saunders said Wellman helped get him a job as a firefighter in Corner Brook. 

He reflects fondly on his childhood friend, who was a skilled salmon fisherman and a man who enjoyed nothing more than a belly laugh and a good story.

Saunders wanted to be there to show his support for his old friend.

"I had to make the trip to St. John's anyway and I said, 'If there is anyway in the world that I can get here, I will sit in in [for] a day or two.'"

The 12-person jury has already heard emotional testimony from Wellman's widow, who was there the night her husband was shot, and the two officers who arrived first on the scene.

The trial is expected to continue on Tuesday. 


Read CBC NL's previous coverage of the trial: