Saskatchewan

Jury finds 3 men guilty of 1st-degree murder of Reno Lee, sentenced to life in prison

Andrew Bellegarde, Daniel Theodore and Bronson Gordon were charged in connection with Reno Lee’s death and have been found guilty of first-degree murder. The jury delivered its verdict after weeks of graphic testimony at the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina.

Accused pleaded not guilty in 2015 shooting death

Bronson Gordon, Daniel Theodore and Andrew Bellegarde pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and committing an indignity to a body in connection with the death of Reno Lee. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Three men have been found guilty of first-degree murder in connection with Reno Lee's death in Regina.

A jury delivered the verdict for Andrew Bellegarde, Daniel Theodore and Bronson Gordon on Friday after six weeks in court. They also found Bellegarde and Theodore guilty of offering an indignity to a human body.

Lee was bound, confined and fatally shot at a Regina home in April 2015. His body parts were found buried in bags on the Star Blanket First Nation that month.

Gordon, 33, Theodore, 34, and Bellegarde, 24, pleaded not guilty to the charges in connection with the death. Defence lawyers argued for acquittals or convictions on lesser charges, casting doubt on each man's role and level of involvement in the events of the night. 

Justice Catherine Dawson called the circumstances "ruthless and inhumane" and declined to repeat them in her sentencing. 

She sentenced Bellegarde to life without eligibility for parole for 25 years. He received five years for offering an indignity to a human body, to be served concurrently. Theodore received the same sentence.

"I am truly sorry for your loss," Theodore said, adding "that was a waking nightmare for me to experience all of that."

Gordon was sentenced to life without eligibility for parole for 25 years.

"I'll continue to just keep your family in prayer and I'm sorry you guys had to go through this," he told the court.

All three will serve sentences starting from the day of their arrest in 2015.

Before Lee was taken to a home on the 1100 block of Garnet Street, where it is alleged he was killed and dismembered, he had been at Gordon's home on Angus Road to broker a drug partnership, the court heard during trial proceedings.

Instead of a partnership, jurors heard Lee was assaulted, confined and taken to the home in North Central, where he later died from two gunshots to the head.

Dawson delivered hours of instructions spanning three days, before jury members began deliberations on Friday.

Sobs and sniffles could be heard throughout the courtroom after all three men were found guilty, but there were also hugs and smiles that followed outside in the Queen's Bench court halls.

'Weren't the bullets enough?'

Marion Desjarlais, Lee's aunt, read a victim impact statement on behalf of the whole family.

She spoke of the dismemberment and what the family learned and saw in court: "Now I know why we couldn't have an open coffin ... Reno didn't deserve to die like that."

"I keep asking questions: Weren't the bullets enough?" she said.

Lee's father wrote that he "always believed we could get our son out of the rut he was in."

Desjarlais also spoke of what Lee's mother wrote about the day she found out her son died: "That was the beginning of the worst days of my life ... to this day, most days feel like a bad dream."

Travis, Lee's brother, described their relationship as "worst enemy at times, but ultimately your best friend." He says every night has been tear-filled since Lee was killed.

"How anyone can do that to another human being is beyond me," the brother's statement said.

Reno Lee was Regina's third homicide victim of 2015. (Regina Court of Queen's Bench)

Defence lawyers argued on clients' involvement

Gordon's attorney, Marianna Jasper, argued Gordon should be acquitted of murder because he wasn't physically present when the killing and dismemberment happened.

She said he was a "bottom feeder drug dealer" — not a boss who ordered others to kill.

Testifying in his own defence, Gordon told the jury he was a "scapegoat" and that at the time he didn't know what was planned for Lee. He said he sent the men away from his apartment after Lee was attacked, but didn't tell them where to go.

But co-Crown prosecutor Bill Jennings said Gordon was the mastermind of the planned "execution," who lured Lee to his eventual death, and that Gordon remained in constant communication with Theodore the entire night.

Reno Lee was allegedly transported to a home on the 1100 block of Garnet Street in Regina. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Bellegarde's lawyer, Mike Buchinski, said his client was not involved in planning the events of that night and recommended manslaughter. The Crown suggested Bellegarde was in on the plan to confine and kill Lee, and that he acted in concert with his co-accused. Furthermore, the Crown said he made extensive efforts to conceal the crime through the dismemberment, burial and disposal of evidence.

One witness, who can't be named, testified that Bellegarde told her he was the one who shot Lee.

George Combe, Theodore's lawyer, said his client conceded that he participated in the dismemberment, but Combe argued the Crown had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Theodore had a planning and deliberate role in the murder or confinement. He said his client should be convicted of manslaughter or, at worst, second-degree murder. 

The Crown argued Theodore was part of the plan to abduct, confine and kill Lee. Furthermore, it argued that Theodore was in charge of the people and events at the house on Garnet Street where Lee was killed. 

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