Nova Scotia

Harley Lawrence's death stirs painful memories for advocate Amy Graves

When two men pleaded guilty to killing Harley Lawrence, a homeless man in Berwick, Amy Graves sat in her car and cried, overwhelmed with sadness.

Man who killed Lawrence was aquitted in connection with Graves's brother's death

Amy Graves's brother, Joshua, died four years ago from an overdose the night he mixed drugs with alcohol at a house party in Berwick. The man acquitted in her brother's case is the same one who pleaded guilty years later to killing a homeless man in Berwick. (CBC)

When two men pleaded guilty to killing Harley Lawrence, a homeless man in Berwick, Amy Graves sat in her car and cried, overwhelmed with sadness.

"I just felt awful for the Lawrence family, and what it must have been like to sit in that court room and hear the details of their crime," she said.

Daniel Wayne Surette, 27, and Kyle David James Fredericks, 25, admitted to dousing Lawrence with $10 worth of gas and setting the homeless man on fire while he was still alive.

Fredericks is the same man who Graves believes sold her brother Dilaudid in 2011. Joshua Graves died from an overdose the night he mixed those drugs with alcohol at a house party in Berwick.

Fredericks was later charged with criminal negligence causing death, but the judge decided there wasn't enough evidence to warrant a criminal conviction and he was acquitted in February 2013.

The experience prompted Amy Graves to launch a group in the Annapolis Valley called Get Prescription Drugs off the Streets. The Harley Lawrence case is one she has been watching closely.

'An innocent victim'

"Harley was completely an innocent victim, and the circumstances and motivation towards the crime left me feeling a little frustrated seeing as how I've been advocating the community impact of prescription drug trafficking," Graves said Thursday.

Harley Lawrence was found dead inside a burned-out bus shelter on Commercial Street in Berwick on Oct. 23, 2013. (Courtesy of Debbie Saltzman)

"To find out that their motive was related to their drug trafficking and their belief that Harley could have been an undercover police officer or an informant, it was frustrating and very sad to hear."

The pair will be sentenced on April 28. Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, with no chance of parole for between 10 and 25 years.

Graves tries not to imagine what would have happened if Fredericks had been convicted in her brother's death.

"I can't lie and say I never thought, 'What if Kyle Fredericks was found guilty, would he have been off the street and not able to kill Harley Lawrence?' Of course I have that. But I try not to dwell on that too much because what happened has happened," she said.

"I try not to get too deep into the what ifs and just try to think of the silver lining that hopefully these individuals will be taken off the street and the public will protected and some form of rehabilitation will occur."

'Bigger picture of crime'

Graves now lives in Alberta, but she continues to push for change in Nova Scotia when it comes to prescription drug abuse.

"In Berwick, there has been pharmacy robberies, gas station robberies, there's break and enters so it's not just the drug user or the drug seller that is affected when this type of activity is taking place," she said.

"There's the whole bigger picture of crime that stems from that, and in this case even motivation for murder."

She says it's going to take collaboration between government, health officials and police forces to make a difference.

"Doctors need to be more cautious in their prescribing. Prescription monitoring needs to be looking at diversion and letting doctors or enforcement know when they see red flags. Enforcement should be investigating overdose deaths as suspicious, trying to chase these drugs back to their traffickers," she said.

"This is going to be something that I advocate for and that I am a part of until meaningful change occurs. It'll never be perfect. It's never going to go away completely, but we could be doing a lot more."

About the Author

Angela MacIvor is CBC Nova Scotia's investigative reporter. She has been with CBC since 2006 as a reporter and producer in all three Maritime provinces. All news tips welcome. Send an email to cbcnsinvestigates@cbc.ca

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