Nfld. & Labrador

Al Potter, guilty of 1st-degree murder, will be 81 before he's eligible for parole

The 12-person jury reached a decision on the fourth day of deliberations.

Jury took 2.5 days of deliberations to return guilty verdict in Dale Porter slaying

Al Potter, 55, is placed back in handcuffs and speaks with his lawyer Randy Piercey after hearing the guilty verdict in his first-degree murder trial. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Al Potter has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Dale Porter.

A collective gasp and outburst of tears were heard from the first row of the courtroom gallery Friday, as a 12-person jury returned with its verdict.

"Mr. Potter, I sentence you to life imprisonment without chance of parole for 25 years," Supreme Court Justice Garrett Handrigan told Potter, following the verdict.

Potter was arrested in September 2016 for the vicious stabbing death two years earlier of Porter, a father of two and fisherman from North River, Conception Bay North.

Family sees justice

The slaying, which happened at the bottom of Porter's driveway, remained unsolved for more than two years until the RCMP conducted an undercover operation aimed at Potter.

Porter's son Tyler, who is now 19, made it into the courtroom in time to see the jury render its decision on Potter's crime.

The family declined an interview but said they are happy with the verdict, adding it has been nearly five years since Porter was murdered.

"We're very happy for the family," said Sheldon Steeves, who prosecuted the case with Erin Matthews. 

"It was a long ordeal, almost four-and-a-half years ago that their brother, father, was killed."

Members of Dale Porter's family, including his son and two sisters, hug supporters, victim services and members of the RCMP, following the announcement of the verdict. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Potter, meanwhile, showed very little emotion, smiling slightly at the jury as he turned his body towards them while the verdict was announced.

He was not given the opportunity to comment, and was quietly led away in handcuffs. 

"Thank you," he told defence lawyer Randy Piercey before leaving the court. 

Members of the RCMP, some of whom testified at the trial, were emotional, hugging the family. 

First gang conviction

 In a subsequent statement Friday, RCMP Supt. Holly Turton, who oversees the major crime unit, said the force is "obviously pleased" with the verdict.

Dale 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. (Submitted by the Dale Porter family)

"Our comprehensive investigation used varying means to gather the evidence ... and has now resulted in the first-degree murder conviction of the accused," she said.

In a press conference, RCMP officers said they believed Potter to be the province's first biker gang member convicted of first-degree murder.

The RCMP warned of criminal activity associated with "outlaw motorcycle gangs," calling such organizations "a threat to our province ... known for their intimidation of people in our communities" and association with crime. 

"While gang violence is often directed at other gangs, as we saw in this case a member of the public was killed."

Police would not say how much the investigation cost, and confirmed that the Vikings still exist, but its membership tends to ebb and flow.

The case

Friday had started as the fourth day of deliberations, after jurors earlier this week asked to listen again to parts of testimony from the month-long trial.

The jurors were sequestered early Tuesday afternoon, and listened to Potter's two-day testimony again.

They also played back the testimony from one of the police agents who took the stand, as well as the woman who was in the cab the morning of the murder.

The Crown said that Potter, and a second man who is also set for trial on the matter but cannot be named, "buddied up" to Porter at a bar in Bay Roberts with the intention of killing him.

Porter had disrespected the Vikings Motorcycle Club, of which Potter was a member, as well as made comments to a woman who was with the two men that night, the Crown said.

Porter sustained 17 stab wounds, four cuts, and blunt force injuries to parts of his body, including his neck.

On the stand, Potter was adamant he was not guilty as he claimed he acted in self-defence, and that Porter, too, had a weapon.

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