Ottawa

Crown says DNA evidence points to accused in Elisabeth Salm murder trial

DNA evidence found during the investigation of the brutal beating death of Elisabeth Salm links the accused to the crime, according to the Crown’s opening statements.

Tyler Hikoalok has pleaded not guilty of first degree murder in the 2018 death

Elisabeth Salm's husband Lyle Young remembered her as an avid environmentalist who cared about her church, community and family during his testimony Tuesday. (Submitted by family)

DNA evidence found during the investigation of the brutal beating death of Elisabeth Salm links the accused to the crime, the Crown said during opening statements.

Tyler Hikoalok, formerly of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of 59-year-old Salm.

His trial began Tuesday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Elgin Street following jury selection earlier this week. Justice Anne London-Weinstein is presiding over the matter.

Crown attorney Lisa Miles said Salm was found by a co-worker "half-naked, badly beaten and clinging to life" lying on the floor of First Church of Christ, Scientist, reading room on Laurier Avenue on May 24, 2018.

She died of her injuries in hospital the next day, Miles said.

Police tape blocks off the Christian Science Reading Room on Laurier Avenue in Ottawa during the investigation into Salm's assault and eventual death in 2018. (Claudine Richard/Radio-Canada)

Salm worked as a librarian at the reading room and her arrival at work was caught on video just before 9 a.m. that day, Miles said.

A man dressed in dark clothes was also on video entered the building shortly after and leaving around 10:20 a.m., she said.

Her coworker discovered Salm shortly before her shift would've ended at 1 p.m. and immediately called 9-1-1. She saw Salm's face was bleeding, her pants and underwear were around one ankle, Miles told the court. 

Forensic evidence to be called

Miles said police had samples — taken from Salm's body and Hikoalok's clothes — analyzed over the course of the investigation. She said forensic experts will testify that Hikoalok "cannot be excluded as a match" for the semen and other DNA samples taken from Salm's body.

"No other DNA profile was found on the body of Elisabeth Salm," Miles said.

She said Salm's DNA also could not be excluded as a match for blood and DNA samples taken from Hikoalok's leather bracelet and left shoe.

Miles said the forensic pathologist is expected to testify that the cause of Salm's death was blunt-force trauma to the head and outline the injuries she sustained during the brutal beating and sexual assault.

Tyler Hikoalok has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Salm's death. (www.tr1bemusic.com)

Miles said the Crown will also call witnesses who saw Hikoalok after the incident to provide perspective on his behaviour that day.

Hikoalok was 18 at the time of his arrest four years ago. He's represented by defence lawyers Michael Smith and Brook Laforest.

Husband first to testify

Lyle Young, Salm's husband of 28 years, was the first witness called to testify by head Crown attorney Brian Holowka.

Young described his wife as a "very keen environmentalist" who was "incredibly community minded," including being involved in organizing all-candidates debates on environmental issues as well as teaching Sunday school.

"Often, she stayed on a little after her shift. She really poured her heart and soul into that reading room," Young said.

"She loved her family tremendously."

Salm's sister Luc-Anne was present in the courtroom Tuesday along with supporters and members of the Christian Science church. 

Young told court Salm was in excellent health and had no injuries on the morning of May 24, 2018. 

He said he first learned something was wrong when he got a phone call from her colleague, but wasn't able to see Salm before she was taken to the hospital. When he arrived, she was in intensive care and being operated on. 

Court resumes Wednesday and is expecting to hear testimony from the co-worker that discovered Salm had been injured.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Kupfer

CBC Reporter

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at matthew.kupfer@cbc.ca and on Twitter @matthewkupfer

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