Nova Scotia

Daniel Surette's friend baffled by Harley Lawrence's murder

A childhood friend of Daniel Surette says she's still trying to understand why he killed Harley Lawrence.

Charla Wagner says she's sickened by what Surette did to Harley Lawrence

Locals say this is the man who died in the Berwick fire Wednesday. This photo was taken Taken Oct. 16, 2013. (Courtesy of Debbie Saltzman)

A childhood friend of Daniel Surette says she's still trying to understand why he killed Harley Lawrence.

Lawrence was sleeping in a bus shelter in Berwick, Nova Scotia, in November of 2013 when he was doused with gasoline and set alight.

Surette and his friend Kyle Fredericks pleaded guilty to second degree murder last month.

Charla Wagner says she never thought Surette was capable of the crime he's admitted to.

Charla Wagner says she never thought Surette was capable of the crime he's admitted to. (CBC)

She met Surette when she moved to Berwick when she was 12. He's two years younger.

They've remained fast friends. Wagner says Surette lived with her and her boyfriend for a few months as a teenager.

She says he was a "neat freak" who stayed on top of the cleaning. Wagner managed his money from a construction job, making sure he paid his bills and had something set aside for the weekend.

She calls him a compassionate, loyal friend.

"I could need anything. Anything. Whether it be a cup of coffee or a babysitter, or anything, and no matter what he was doing he's there. If he can help you, he will do it," she said.

Surette suspected Lawrence was a 'narc' 

Wagner says she's sickened by what Surette did to Lawrence.

She says she's talked to Surette on the phone about the crime since his arrest. Surette suspected Lawrence was a "narc," Wagner says, because he was never given a hard time for loitering. A prosecutor gave a similar explanation following Surette and Fredericks's pleas.

Kyle Fredericks and Daniel Surette, the two men who killed Harley Lawrence, are no strangers to law enforcement. (Facebook)

Wagner remembers Surette was dealing drugs on a small scale before the murder and was paranoid about being busted. She doesn't understand how anyone would imagine police were undertaking a secretive drug investigation in a small town like Berwick.

Wagner says Surette is now despised in his hometown,

"Nobody thinks that he even has the right to live. That it should be, you know, what you did is done to you. They're all hoping that something happens in jail."

Wagner says she feels angry at Surette

"If it was somebody I didn't know I would probably ... If I heard about it in Halifax, that something happened I would probably think, 'What a scumbag.' But I know this person."

Wagner says Surette told her his plea deal is a life sentence without parole for 20 years. She hopes Surette will find help in the federal prison system.

"I hope that there's something, a therapist or something that he chooses to take. And really figure out where he wants to be if the time comes that he gets out. I hope he is someone in the community again. A person. The person I knew."

Fredericks and Surette will be sentenced on April 28.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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