Bill PhillipsBlack Press
Teresa Marie Charlie has been found guilty of accessory to murder, after the fact, in the 2012 death of Fribjon Bjornson.
Charlie sat hunched over in the prisoner’s box and appeared, at times, to be sobbing for the entire one-hour ruling delivered by Justice Ron Tindale in Prince George Supreme Court Monday. About a dozen family and friends of Bjornson watched from the gallery.
Fribjon’s severed head was found in a vacant house on Nak’azdli Reserve, bordering Fort St. James, on Feb. 3, 2012. His body has not been found, however a femur and patella were found near a log jam on the Necoslie River and, through DNA, were confirmed to be those of Bjornson. He had arrived at the house in the early hours in late January, looking to buy drugs.
In August, Wesley Dennis Duncan and Jesse Darren Bird pled guilty to second degree murder in the case. They still face charges of indignity to human body. Two others were charged in the case, Teresa Charlie and James David Junior Charlie, who has changed lawyers and whose trial is still pending. In addition to the accessory after the fact charge, Teresa Charlie was also charged with obstruction of justice, which Tindale found her not guilty of.
The charge of accessory to murder, after the fact, hinged on conflicting statements Teresa Charlie gave to police immediately following the discovery of the head and more than a year later during an RCMP Mr. Big sting operation.
Teresa Charlie was questioned in early February 2012 and, at that time, she told police that Duncan was with her the night of the murder, providing him an alibi. During the Mr. Big sting operation, which got underway in June 2013, police were focusing on Bird and Duncan. In October, 2013, Bird brought Teresa Charlie to meet one of the undercover police officers and, at that time, Teresa Charlie admitted that she was there that night, although not when Bjornson was actually killed, and that she, in the days that followed, helped clean up the basement where the murder took place. She told the undercover officer that Duncan showed her Bjornson’s dead body, whose eyes were still open. She said she closed his eyes and cried.
Justice Tindale said Teresa Charlie gave a “detailed, visceral, and raw,” account of events.
“Details such as Fribjon Bjornson’s eyes being open have a ring of truth to them,” said Tindale. “Crown has proven Teresa Charlie was aware that Wesley Duncan was involved.”
Therefore, according to Tindale, Teresa Charlie lied to police when initially interviewed in 2012.
“The Crown has proven that Teresa Charlie knew (that Duncan was involved in the murder) and she lied to police,” said Tindale. “The only inference is that she wanted to Duncan to escape justice.”
He then found her guilty of accessory after the fact. He found her not guilty on a charge of obstruction of justice, which stemmed from her assertion to the undercover police officer that she helped clean up the basement. Tindale said the only proof that she helped clean up was her own statement and he added some of her testimony about cleaning up the basement wasn’t consistent with forensic evidence collected.
Tindale ordered a pre-sentence report, complete with a Gladue component to take into account her First Nations heritage, be completed before sentencing. Teresa Charlie, who has been in custody since October 2013, an time-served equivalent of four-and-a-half years, will remain in custody.
The charge could carry a sentence of life in prison.