Fort Good Hope man testifies in his own defence at murder trial

A man accused of second-degree murder in a small N.W.T. community testified in his own defence in Yellowknife on Wednesday.

Colten McNeely agreed his story has changed, but said he had no choice but to stab man

Colten McNeely as photographed by RCMP after he turned himself in to police hours after the death of Lloyd Edgi. McNeely testified in his own defence Wednesday in N.W.T. Supreme Court. (Public Prosecution Service of Canada)

A man accused in a fatal stabbing in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., said he regarded the victim as a friend, but he had no choice but to stab him to stop him from beating him up.

On Wednesday in N.W.T. Supreme Court in Yellowknife, Colten McNeely testified in his own defence. The 26-year-old is accused of second-degree murder in the death of Lloyd Edgi on Sept. 3, 2017 in Fort Good Hope.

McNeely spent the day in the witness box, staring down into his lap as he answered questions. His voice was so quiet, the judge had to remind him several times to speak louder. 

He said he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed Edgi, but the prosecutor pointed out that McNeely's recollection of what happened has changed significantly over time, and suggested he attacked Edgi in anger.

Both men were intoxicated that night. McNeely estimated he drank 12-15 ounces of vodka and smoked two marijuana joints. He said he gave Edgi a mickey of vodka that evening.

McNeely recounted a one-sided fight outside his grandparents' house, where he lived. He said as he left the house to visit two friends, Edgi was at the bottom of the front steps. McNeely said Edgi asked where his spouse was. He told him she had left.

No other way, McNeely says

McNeely said Edgi came up the stairs, headbutted and punched him and pulled him down the stairs to the driveway.  He said the beating ended after one of two women who were trying to stop Edgi managed to pull him off.

McNeely testified that shortly after the fight, he left to go to his friends' house. On the way, he encountered Edgi on a darkened pathway. He said just before the encounter, he reached for a lighter to have a cigarette and felt a knife he had forgotten he had in his jacket pocket.

McNeely said he and Edgi spoke briefly but then the the much larger man grabbed him and started pulling him by the arm toward an abandoned house known as Norman Pierrot's house. McNeely said he tripped or fell, and Edgi got on top of him and started beating him up again. McNeely said he didn't remember pulling the knife, but Edgi suddenly stopped.

"He said, 'You stabbed me,' or 'I'm stabbed,'" testified McNeely, who said Edgi got up off him, took a few steps, then fell to the ground.

A relative of Edgi's wept in the front row of the courtroom gallery as McNeely recalled Edgi's reaction.

Toward the end of his questioning, McNeely's lawyer, Peter Harte, said, "You've had a chance to think about what took place. Can you think of any other way you could've gotten away from Lloyd behind Norman Pierrot's house?"

"No," replied McNeely.

The interior of Colten McNeely's shack in Fort Good Hope, where people gathered the night before the fatal stabbing. (Public Prosecution Service of Canada Photo)

Significant changes to story

During cross-examination, prosecutor Blair MacPherson played part of a partial re-enactment of what happened — which McNeely allowed police to videotape — a day after the stabbing. In it, McNeely said he retrieved the knife from his shack after getting beaten up.

"I'm going to suggest you knew where Lloyd was and you went after him," said MacPherson. "You had the knife with you and you were prepared to use it on Lloyd."

McNeely said after seeing a police photo of his bedroom long after the re-enactment, and the toolbox he said the knife was in, he recalled he had taken the knife out earlier in the day to open a package.

MacPherson said McNeely was angry because Edgi had humiliated him by beating him up in front of two women and by making a loud scene outside his grandparents' place, where they and McNeely's young son were sleeping.

"I'm not the type of person to get angry," McNeely said. "I'm usually a calm, quiet person."

"In examination this morning, you said you didn't think you'd be able to get away," MacPherson said. "He [Edgi] walked away [after the initial confrontation], he didn't continue to fight … in the pathway it was you who approached Lloyd."

MacPherson said when he spoke to police, McNeely also exaggerated the harm he suffered when Edgi beat him up.

"Would you agree with me he just roughed you up, he didn't beat the sh-t out of you," asked the prosecutor, pointing out that McNeely had only minor scratches after the fight.

"I guess," answered McNeely.